The standard rules haven’t changed. Sarah Palin, the former half-term governor of Alaska, remains a deeply silly person whose opinions are not to be taken seriously. When news organizations routinely make a fuss about her random missives, they’re lending credence to a former officeholder who doesn’t deserve it.
That said, once in a great while, there’s a broader significance to Palin’s nonsense that adds relevance to her tirades. Take this one, for example.
Former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin called for President Barack Obama’s impeachment in her most direct language yet in a column Tuesday morning. […]The former Alaskan governor accused Obama of deliberately leaving the border open and allowing undocumented immigrants to come in at will, ignoring American laws and driving the country deeper into debt.
Palin’s entire, 516-word piece is online here. It includes a variety of word-salad sentences, awkward mixed metaphors, and genuinely odd policy pronouncements. (She also seems to equate the American electorate with a “battered wife.”)
Not that it matters on a substantive level, but Palin’s case for impeachment, unlike so many of the other Republicans who also want impeachment, seems to rest almost entirely on immigration. She argued, “Opening our borders to a flood of illegal immigrants is deliberate.”
And while that bogus claim adds salience to Palin’s rant, so too does this: “[W]e should vehemently oppose any politician on the left or right who would hesitate in voting for articles of impeachment. The many impeachable offenses of Barack Obama can no longer be ignored. If after all this he’s not impeachable, then no one is.”
Obviously, it’s a ridiculous argument, but that’s not what makes this interesting.
First, for a prominent Republican figure to use immigration as a rationale for presidential impeachment – just four months before the midterm elections – is pretty much the opposite the message the party establishment wants to convey. GOP lawmakers have already killed a popular, bipartisan immigration bill, alienating Latino voters nationwide, and now Sarah Palin is making matters worse, largely because her contempt for the president is unrelated to any kind of sensible electoral strategy.
Second, the more the party’s highest-profile personalities raise the volume on impeachment talk, the more it motivates the Democratic base to actually get in the game this fall (look up “1998, midterm elections”). Put it this way: who do you think is more excited about talking up Palin’s harangue this afternoon, the RNC or the DNC? I’m guessing the latter.
And finally, Palin’s rant takes that important step of saying the far-right should “vehemently oppose any politician” who “hesitates” on the need for impeachment. As Aaron Blake noted, this necessarily puts Republican lawmakers and congressional candidates in the “unenviable position” of choosing between three options:
1) Oppose impeachment and risk making yourself a target in the 2016 primary2) Try to offer a non-response that doesn’t really support or oppose impeachment3) Support impeachment and, while likely saving your own hide from becoming a target, exacerbate the problem with the larger Republican Party.
Indeed, Palin may want to get congressional Republicans on the record when it comes to impeachment, but here’s the funny thing: so do Democrats. For Dems eager to divide the GOP against itself, it’s a treat to see Palin lending a hand.
GOP leaders may want all this garbage to just go away, but right-wing voices won’t accept that. In turn, Palin, whether she knows or cares, is creating yet another mess for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Boehner almost certainly doesn’t want to take impeachment talk seriously, but let’s not forget that House Republican leaders, including Boehner, have been pushed into doing things they did not want to do many times. The Speaker didn’t want to create a debt-ceiling crisis, but the far-right insisted and Boehner went along. The Speaker didn’t want a government shutdown, but the far-right insisted and Boehner went along. The Speaker didn’t want to hold several dozen “repeal Obamacare” votes, but the far-right insisted and Boehner went along. The Speaker didn’t want to kill immigration reform, but the far-right insisted and Boehner went along.
Now the far-right wants presidential impeachment for reasons that don’t make any sense at all and the chatter from within the Republican Party is growing louder. Party leaders may want to nip this in the bud, but they can’t – if they try to tell their unhinged factions to quiet down, it puts their careers in jeopardy.
And so, with 118 days to go before the midterms, Republicans are increasingly positioning themselves as the anti-immigrant, anti-contraception, pro-impeachment party that shut down the government last year for no reason. The GOP, in other words, is practically begging the Democratic base to wake up, show up, and get engaged.