While Democrats debate the fine points of how to engineer social change through legislation, Republicans have been waging a total electoral war to retake power. They just opened a new front — the impeachment of President BidenJoe BidenFighter jet escorts aircraft that entered restricted airspace during UN gathering Julian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy FBI investigating alleged assault on Fort Bliss soldier at Afghan refugee camp MORE. Politics, as the saying goes, “ain’t beanbag,” and not all Republicans play by total war rules, which are no rules at all. But the Republican strategy, looked at in its totality, takes political warfare to a level suitable for military metaphors.
Like in many shooting wars, the first casualty in the Republican war is truth, as in many Republicans’ belief that “the 2020 election was stolen.” Falsely claiming voter fraud or the risk of fraud, Republican state legislatures enacted ballot restrictions to weaponize election laws and oversight against Democrats. Arizona Republicans are running a deception operation in the form of an audit of the state’s 2020 election results that is akin to a Super Bowl loser asking one of its fans to review the referee calls on the game tape and declare the real winner.
Now, a remarkably broad range of Republicans, from extreme right wing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to the party’s authoritative foreign policy figure, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R- S.C.), are turning the Constitution’s impeachment clause into a negative branding howitzer aimed at the White House.
Under total war rules, it’s irrelevant that Biden did not commit an impeachable offense, unlike Trump, who committed two, first by pressuring a foreign ally to intervene in his favor in the 2020 election and then, when he lost, by inciting an insurrection to block confirmation of his opponent’s victory. Biden stands accused by Republican impeachment-mongers not of undermining the Constitution but of mismanaging a military engagement.
By that standard, quite a few Republican presidents should have been impeached. Ronald Reagan lost the lives of 241 U.S. Marines, Navy sailors and Army soldiers to a truck bomber by sending them on an ill-considered peacekeeping mission to Lebanon in 1983, the worst single-day toll for the Marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima. On the basis of egregiously flawed intelligence (some say it was outright misrepresented), George W. Bush sent an American army into Iraq in 2003, which suffered tens of thousands of casualties. Even Abraham Lincoln should have been impeached after the Union defeats at the First Battle of Bull Run, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville since he had obviously been derelict in his choice of generals.
Fighting a total war may be liberating for Republicans, especially when their only value is victory. If they retake the House of Representatives, distractions like constitutional impeachment standards and American history will be easily ignored in favor of appeasing the MAGA base by impeaching Biden. Having set their base in motion with “Impeach Joe Biden” demands, Republicans may have created an unstoppable dynamic. Republican congressional offices are already besieged with demands for a Biden impeachment. By next spring, Republicans in primary fights may be booed off campaign stages unless they pledge to impeach Biden if the House changes hands.
Sure, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWe don't need platinum to solve the debt ceiling crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble House passes standalone bill to provide B for Israel's Iron Dome MORE (R-Ky.) said "there isn’t going to be an impeachment,” but this was the same McConnell who first denounced Trump as having been “practically and morally responsible” for the Jan. 6 insurrection and then pivoted to pledging to “absolutely” supportTrump if he is the 2024 Republican presidential nominee.
More and more, especially with Joe Biden’s plummeting approval ratings, Democrats seem to be back on their heels. Part of their problem is that they do not play by total war rules, which is to their credit. But they probably wouldn’t be very good at it if they tried. The Republicans’ ruthless intensity can be a force multiplier, and Democrats have yet to find their own intensity to match it.
Republicans have stood Clausewitz’s famous dictum – “war is the continuation of politics by other means” – on its head. To them, politics is the continuation of war by other means.
Gregory J. Wallance is a writer in New York City and a federal prosecutor during the Carter and Reagan administrations, where he was a member of the ABSCAM prosecution team that convicted a U.S. senator and six U.S. representatives of bribery. He is a long time human rights activist and the author of the historical novel, “Two Men Before the Storm: Arba Crane’s Recollection of Dred Scott and the Supreme Court Case That Started The Civil War.” Follow him on Twitter @gregorywallance.