For Republicans in Wisconsin: ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, impeach ‘em”
Judge Janet Protasiewicz | Morry Gash/AP

MADISON, Wis.–“If you can’t beat ’em, impeach ’em.” As in Washington, D.C., so in Wisconsin.

Republican U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s peerless leader, Donald Trump, couldn’t beat Democrat Joe Biden at the polls in 2020, which gave control of the executive branch to the Democrats.

So now McCarthy wants to impeach Biden because of shaky business dealings and failure to pay taxes by Biden’s son, Hunter.

Wisconsin Republicans couldn’t beat Democrat Janet Protasiewicz at the polls this year for an open swing state Supreme Court seat, giving control of the vital body to the Democrats for the first time in more than a decade.

That was just in time to seat her on a bench where Protasiewicz would be part of a four-justice bloc batting away Republican  schemes to steal the state for Trump next year.

So now the Wisconsin Republicans want to impeach Protasiewicz. Even if they fail, just impeaching her automatically bars Protasiewicz from ruling on anything–including elections, abortion and the powers of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. It also leaves the state’s High Court in a 3-3 political tie.

See a pattern here? This is definitely not what the founders had in mind when they wrote impeachment into the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Even 81 years later, when the so-called Radical Republicans impeached President Andrew Johnson, they tied it to “a violation of a federal statute or common law,” a leading legal reference book, The American Constitution, Its Origins And Development, says.

But following in the footsteps of a former House Republican leader—we’ll tell you who and why at the end because of the irony—impeachment is what McCarthy wants to do to Biden, strictly to curry favor with the rabid dogs of the House Freedom Caucus. They have the power to oust him from the Speaker’s chair at any moment.

And impeaching Biden, even on no evidence, as at least one Freedom Caucus leader has admitted, is part of that political price McCarthy must pay.

Meanwhile, out in the Badger State, Republicans have tight control of both houses of the heavily GOP-gerrymandered state legislature. They’ve been scheming on how to ensure that in 2024, Wisconsin’s electoral votes go to Trump, or a Trump clone—regardless of who wins the popular vote.

Right now, that would be Biden, the latest non-partisan polls show. Marquette University surveys on June 8-14 give Biden a 52%-43% lead over Trump and a 49%-47% edge over the fading second-place Republican, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

If Biden wins, Republicans would challenge the vote at the High Court, and there’s  Protasiewicz, plus three other progressive justices on the seven-jurist body, to swat it away. Impeach Protasiewicz and she can’t vote on anything until impeachment runs its course in the state Capitol building in Madison. That creates a tie and Trump or a clone gets Wisconsin by default.

Endless impeachments

Remove her, and even if Evers names a replacement Democrat, as he has the right to do, Republicans could impeach that justice, too.  Meanwhile, Protasiewicz could sue to get her seat back. All this would take years—and let the tied-up court fail to stop a legislature-declared Trump/clone win in 2024.

But presidential politics isn’t the only reason the Wisconsin Republicans want to unseat Protasiewicz.

In her Supreme Court campaign, Protasiewicz firmly favored a constitutional right to abortion,  overturning the state’s circa-1848 complete ban on it. And Protasiewicz promised to consider if the deep-red gerrymanders that produced those big Republican state legislative majorities are constitutional. The GOP controls the House 63-36 though Democrats won 54%,of the popular votes in legislative races.

“Horrors!” says the state GOP of Protasiewicz in response. “Impeach her now!” The state’s Democrats launched a $4 million advertising campaign to convince voters to pressure lawmakers to protect her.

So what does all this have to do with impeaching Joe Biden in the narrowly Republican U.S. House in Washington, D.C.? Plenty. As it was in the 2020 balloting, Wisconsin is already marked as a key swing state in next year’s presidential race.

Tie up Biden with a phony impeachment–and the president has already set up a war room in the White House in anticipation of that–and you hobble his re-election campaign, against Trump or anyone else.

Charges? Facts? Evidence of “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors?” as the U.S. Constitution demands? “Who cares?” is the attitude of McCarthy’s minions, especially the Freedom Caucus, the 40-member tail that wags the Republican dog. At least one caucus member, so far, admits there’s no evidence for impeachment. So does skeptical non-Caucus member, Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.

But McCarthy,  the Freedom Caucus and the Trumpites follow the not-so-hallowed footsteps of then-Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford, R-Mich., who tried to impeach then-U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, a veteran Democrat and liberal lion, in 1970.

Yes, that Gerald Ford. The same man who as vice president took over the White House after Congress was on the verge of impeaching and convicting Richard Nixon four years later

Asked why he’d impeach Douglas, Ford came up with no evidence. Republicans were angry over some Douglas pro-civil liberties rulings as part of the progressive majority on the (Earl) Warren Court. Straight-arrow Ford may also have been irked that Douglas was on his fourth, and final, wife.

Instead, Ford’s response to the “why” demand: “Impeachment is whatever a majority of the U.S. House says it is.”

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.