Now that the dust has started to settle, it’s time to assess why the congressional Republicans, in the face of overwhelmingly hostile public opinion, pursue the impeachment of President Clinton to the bitter end. Overwrought idealism was partly responsible, as was the intimidation of more moderate members by the hard-line party leadership, as were the whims of fortune. But one of the dirty secrets of impeachment may be that the Republicans had nothing better to do. By setting their sights on removing an already besmirched Bill Clinton, Republicans unwittingly exposed their party’s intellectual bankruptcy, especially at the national level. And by pursuing impeachment as zealously as they did, they compounded that bankruptcy by alienating millions of voters.
The turnabout is astonishing. For nearly two decades, Republicans and their allied think tanks and policy packaging firms had seemingly swept aside most traces of oppositional thinking. Dependable liberal battle cries—for state- stimulated full employment, advancing racial integration, and more—grew fainter by the year. The very idea of activist government, outside the realm of foreign affairs, became fatal to the touch. Republican panaceas, from the supply-sid...
For just $19.95 a year, get access to new issues and decades' worth of archives on our site.
Print + Online
For $35 a year, get new issues delivered to your door and access to our full online archives.