Election 2016

House Democrats Raise a Mint by Fear-Mongering with Right-Wing Fantasies

Never mind that Boehner’s lawsuit and impeachment are going nowhere.

Photo Credit: via youtube

Talk about taking the bait.

Bratty House Republicans are suing Obama and whispering impeachment is next. GOP leaders backtrack when pressed about the I-word on Washington's Sunday TV talk shows.

But House Democrat leaders are sending out fundraising missives, shouting, “OMG-no!” and bringing in more money than ever, even though both GOP ploys aren’t going anywhere: not in federal court nor in the House, which only starts the impeachment process.

The race to the bottom in congressional politics is sinking to new depths, but is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee really this shallow? Are Democrats around the country really this uninformed and gullible? Can’t House Democrats come up with a fundraising pitch based more on hope than fear?

The answers to these questions appear to be yes, yes and no. Let’s start with first. Is the DCCC really raising money and setting fundraising records over Republican Speaker of The House John Boehner’s lawsuit, and dangling the spectre of impeachment—touted by truly threatening GOP stalwarts like Sarah Palin? The answer is yes.

The mainstream media calls this Republican ruse “a blessing in disguise” for Democrats. MSNBC.com put it like this, “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it had its best fundraising day of the year the day after the lawsuit was announced, raking in $584,000. This week [mid-July] the DCCC announced it outraised its Republican counterpart $4.5 million to $883,000 in small donations during the month of June, thanks ‘in large part to the Republican lawsuit against the president.’”

To say that Boehner’s lawsuit is baseless is charitable. First, the facts.

“Obama has actually issued fewer executive orders than his predecessors,” MSNBC said. “The president issues such orders, on average, every 11 days, according to the Brookings Institution. In comparison, President George W. Bush issued an executive order, on average, every 10 days. President Ronald Reagan issued them about once every seven days, and President Jimmy Carter issued more than one every five days, according to the think tank. In fact, Obama’s rate is the slowest since President Grover Cleveland’s administration. Even if the lawsuit does go forward, it could take years to go through the federal courts, and is unlikely to shake Obama’s short-term agenda.”

These facts haven’t stopped the DCCC from raising tons of money—and Democrats from donating, even though this is using anger and fear about an imaginary threat.

The prospects for impeachment are even more unlikey, the Washington Post has reported. Nevermind that Boehner is supposedly against it. Let’s recall that the process only starts in the House, where, as the WaPo notes, there are enough Republicans who see it as too disruptive and won’t vote for it. Think this through even further. Should the House vote to impeach, the Senate has to hold a trial, where again, there aren’t enough votes to oust a sitting president.

Still, these realities haven’t stopped the fundraising barrage—just look at your e-mail this past past weekend. “Democratic headquarters is at full red alert,” a DCCC e-mail said on Saturday, citing a quote from a White House official who said that it was possible. That’s the same tactic as Vice President Dick Cheney planting a rumor about Saddam’s nukes with Judith Miller of The New York Times, and then going on a Sunday TV show and quoting Miller’s article as an independent authoritative source to scare people.    

“IT’S OFFICIAL: The White House announced yesterday that Boehner’s lawsuit could lead to the impeachment of President Obama,” the DCCC’s e-mail blared. “Boehner’s lawsuit against the President is more than a political stunt. It’s a full on attack on President Obama’s agenda, his legitimacy, and the Democratic process that elected him twice.”

This is pathetic. On Monday, New York Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow wrote that both the political right and left are being taunted by their parties’ campaign consultants “in dire need of excitement” because the 2014 midterm elections have become a drab exercise. This is political theater, he said, and it is. But it’s a bad act all around.    

There are enough real wars in the world that are getting worse. Yet the DCCC strategy is to fundraise over the threat of imaginary political warfare that hasn’t even begun—and won’t go anywhere? Yup. And Democrats are pulling out their checkbooks in record numbers. Yup. And the DCCC and other pro-Democratic groups (like Democracy for America) see this as rallying their party’s base against the Tea Party. Yup.

The Democratic Party has come a long way from campaigning on hope. Instead, by using Boehner’s lawsuit and impeachment to fill its coffers, it’s actually repeating, reenforcing and raising the profile of those right-wing frames instead of giving them the attention they deserve: which is to ignore and dismiss them as immature nonsense. 

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

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