Donald Trump and other embattled Republican candidates are resorting to a particularly bizarre and dangerous tactic in the closing days of the campaign — warning that they may well seek to impeach Hillary Clinton if she wins, or, short of that, tie her up with endless investigations and other delaying tactics.
Of all the arguments advanced by the Trump forces, this has to be among the most preposterous. In effect, what they’re saying is, Mrs. Clinton won’t be able to govern, because we won’t let her. So don’t waste your vote on her. Vote for us.
In a rational world — you know, one that values comity and progress in the national interest — this line of argument would be seen as incendiary at worst and hopelessly wacky at best. Not so in Trumpland, where the candidate himself warns (as he did in Miami on Wednesday) that a Clinton victory would “create an unprecedented and protracted constitutional crisis,” raising the specter that government would be severely hobbled by congressional Republicans’ open-ended investigations and a determination to impeach Mrs. Clinton. All this even if she was fairly elected by a majority of American voters.
“Haven’t we just been through a lot with the Clintons?” Mr. Trump asked. “The work of government would grind to a halt if she were ever elected.”
Rudy Giuliani, one of Mr. Trump’s most zealous acolytes, echoed this cry to carry the battle forward into a Clinton administration. “I guarantee you in one year she’ll be impeached and indicted,” Mr. Giuliani promised Iowa voters this week. “It’s just going to happen. We’re going to sort of vote for a Watergate.”The tactic is a rejection of the nation’s need of a functioning government and a tacit concession that Mr. Trump may be losing and that he can be saved only by more scare tactics. Other Republican candidates in tight races have picked up this theme. The G.O.P. phrase du jour is “constitutional crisis,” depicting a hog-tied executive and a Republican Congress obsessed with perpetuating their demonization of Mrs. Clinton. Senator Richard Burr, campaigning for re-election in North Carolina, took the Trump fantasy one step further, telling supporters: “Could she pardon herself? And the answer is yes.”
As nonsensical as this strategy appears, these threats could cause real damage by encouraging Republicans in the next Congress to effectively take the government hostage, exacting revenge by making sure that nothing Mrs. Clinton proposes ever comes to pass. President Obama put it well in underlining the dangers. “Right now, because a lot of them think that Trump will lose, they’re already promising even more unprecedented dysfunction in Washington,” he told North Carolina voters this week. “How does our democracy function like that?”
That is not a question remotely of interest to Mr. Trump, in his kamikaze politicking. Yet in recalling the tumultuous impeachment of President Bill Clinton, Mr. Trump neglects to note that he was opposed to it, writing in 2000 that he “got a chuckle out of all the moralists in Congress and in the media.” Mr. Giuliani, before his servile devotion to Mr. Trump, also opposed Mr. Clinton’s impeachment.
Beyond simple hypocrisy, the Republicans’ impeachment threat demonstrates their gathering disrespect for democracy. If they can’t gain control of government fairly, they’ll simply undermine it. It is the clearest warning yet that voters must deliver a firm rejection of the politics of division that Mr. Trump represents.