From left, Representative Terri Sewell, D-AL, Representative John Lewis, D-GA, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Representative Bobby Rush, D-IL, Representative Eliot Engel, D-NY, Representative Luis Gutierrez, D-IL, and other House Democrats leave Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 28, 2012, in protest of a House vote holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Want to see the future? Or, at the least, a version of what might be coming?
Consider the House vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. It was pointless, divisive and crude in its overt intents and covert overtones. And if Barack Obama is re-elected with a Republican Congress, we will see a lot more of it.
Obama continues to lead Mitt Romney in most national polls, and in most polls from the battleground states. He is not a cinch to be elected. But the prospect is real enough. By the same token, the impact of the hyper-partisan redistricting process and influence of Karl Rove’s Citizens United money combine to give Republicans a real chance to win both the House and Senate.
If that happens, nothing will happen—except more theater-of-the-absurd political gimmicky like what was on display with the vote to make Holder the first sitting member of a presidential Cabinet to be held in contempt by Congress.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, the California Republican who combines a decent measure of intellect with an overwhelming measure of ambition, actually admitted on the eve of the vote that he did not have any evidence to suggest that Holder was involved in nefarious activities. But, because Holder and President Obama maintained some basic controls on the circulation of information relating to the ginned-up Fast and Furious “scandal” in particular and national security in general, Issa played out a charade that was unprecedented in American history.
Anyone who thinks that Issa will not do the same in a second Obama term, and that he and other Republican committee chairs won’t take things much further—even to the point of a Clinton-style impeachment gambit—is delusional.
What to do?
Take the 2012 elections seriously—not just the presidential election but elections up and down the ballot. Not just the main event of Democratic versus Republican clashes (which could still yield Democratic gains if he party runs populist and progressive) but the pattern of Republican primaries, where relative moderates are being challenged by the crash-and-burn squad that would turn the Grand Old Party into nothing more than an mangle of birther conspiracies, Ayn Rand fantasies and efforts to make Rush Limbaugh look reasonable. (Remember that, while Issa got his way in the House, two Republicans—including former prosecutor Stephen LaTourette, R-Ohio—voted “no.” In the Senate, there are even more sensisble Republicans who have distanced themselves from Issa’s showboating.)