Might as well jump

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  February 22, 2010

There's a certain parallel between now and then. That election cycle was just after Newt Gingrich and his team took over the House of Representatives, and decided to use a similar strategy against Clinton as the one being used now by Mitch McConnell and John Boehner against Obama and the Democrats. Gingrich infamously caused the federal government to shut down in 1995, as a political ploy. Regardless of what it did for Republicans (or to Clinton), it surely made it hard for serious people on either side of the aisle to feel like being a part of Congress was worth it.

But when those who are sick of the dirty political games leave, all that remains are those who revel in it. Which is why the huge congressional turnover of 1994 and 1996 led us to the impeachment trial of 1998.

Could we be heading that way again? Of course we could. The GOP's current representation in Washington is far more obstinate and destructive than it was 12 years ago. It will only get worse as the Glenn Beck and Tea Party crowds apply their litmus tests.

At best, the 2010 elections will result in a demented, minority GOP continuing to thwart an increasingly inexperienced and incoherent Democratic majority. If the Republicans do take over one or both chambers, impeachment proceedings are a strong likelihood — a recent poll showed that a plurality of the GOP base thinks Obama should be impeached. Either scenario will only continue to drive people out of politics altogether.

To read the "Talking Politics" blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached at dbernstein@phx.com.

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