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Opinion Get ready: Republicans are going to impeach Joe Biden

President Biden. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

Among Donald Trump’s lessons for the Republican Party is that subtlety is for chumps. Turn the implicit into the explicit, say the quiet part out loud, put your worst impulses and intentions on proud display, and the party’s base will rejoice and follow you.

Which is why Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) says that if his party takes the House it will impeach President Biden, not for any criminal conduct or reprehensible misdeed but just because it can.

“The Democrats weaponized impeachment,” Cruz said on his podcast. “They used it for partisan purposes to go after Trump because they disagreed with him. … What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” Look what you made us do!

To be fair, Cruz did express a smidgen of regret over this turn of events — while making clear that it’s all Democrats’ fault and Republicans bear no responsibility for their own actions. And Democrats impeached Trump not “because they disagreed with him” but because of two of the most appalling incidents of presidential misconduct in history.

But when Cruz says, “I think there’ll be enormous pressure on a Republican House to begin impeachment proceedings,” he’s probably right.

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Let’s consider the “pressure” of which Cruz speaks, and what it is likely to produce. As any Republican who was around after 2010 will remember, when the opposition party takes control of a house of Congress, it can create a particular kind of frustration.

The party wins a victory by persuading its base to get as angry as possible and promising that if voters turn out then their elected officials will really stick it to the president they all despise. But then it turns out that their ability to do so is limited. Meanwhile, the president continues to wield power and do things the opposition doesn’t like.

That in turn makes base voters even angrier, but now part of that anger is directed at their own party, whom they begin to see as weak and ineffectual. In response, the party’s leaders increasingly feel that they must do something dramatic to show they’re keeping their promises to the base.

We saw it when Barack Obama was president: After a while, the GOP base grew tired of dozens of pointless House votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The result was a series of equally pointless government shutdown and debt ceiling crises, created to show the base that its leaders were committed to fighting Obama.

Today, the Republican base is even more radical and less patient with the processes of democracy than it was then. It will demand immediate action from a Republican House to destroy Biden, not just votes against his policy agenda but something more personal.

They’ll be spurred on by conservative media outlets, which will see in the “Impeach Biden!” crusade a way to focus and heighten the rage they spend every day nurturing. And Trump will mount his own pressure campaign, as he becomes a more noticeable presence in his quest to retake the White House.

As a prelude to the eventual impeachment, House Republicans will mount so many “investigations” of the Biden administration that it will be hard to keep them all straight. That’s what they did under Obama, but they were frustrated by the fact that none of their faux-scandals revealed any meaningful misconduct or came within a hundred miles of the Oval Office.

But in 2023, Republicans will be so desperate to satisfy their base’s bloodlust that they’ll likely impeach Biden over, well, anything. (The best idea Cruz could come up with is that Biden’s border policies are insufficiently Trumpian.) While some Senate Republicans will reluctantly say that they haven’t seen enough to merit the president’s removal, that won’t stop the momentum in the House.

And Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who will likely be speaker, has proved himself to be such a sniveling coward when it comes to standing up to Trump and his party’s rabid base that the chances he would quash an ill-conceived impeachment are approximately zero.

The good news for Democrats is that impeachment is one of the few processes in our politics in which the public has the time and space to truly deliberate on the merits and come to something resembling a reasoned assessment of the facts.

It’s why they completely rejected the Republican impeachment of Bill Clinton. They were split pretty evenly on the first Trump impeachment, while a majority supported the second Trump impeachment. If we assume the impeachment of Biden will be on transparently ludicrous grounds — a pretty safe assumption — it’s a good bet that most Republicans will wind up supporting it, while all Democrats and most independents will reject it.

At which point, Democrats would be able to make the case they successfully made in 1998, leading to one of the only ruling party victories in a midterm election in recent decades: that the GOP is a party so consumed with hate and incapable of governing that it shouldn’t be allowed to hold power.

In fact, they could get a head start by forcing every Republican running in 2022 to say whether they want to impeach Biden. What do you think their answer will be?

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