Why isn’t the Kim Davis wing of the GOP field talking about impeachment of Supreme Court justices?

During Wednesday night’s Republican dumpster fire, we heard a lot about the Supreme Court. In the four-person undercard debate, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal competed with each other to see who could draw the kookiest inferences and make the most outlandish analogies regarding the Kim Davis case. In the main event, Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz both complained about judicial tyranny, with Huckabee giving flat-wrong civics lessons about how the Court decided Obergefell v Hodges and Cruz claiming that the Court would have ruled differently had conservatives not settled for appointing John Roberts because it was “easy.”

For Cruz’s part, his claim ignores both that Roberts dissented in the Obergefell ruling and that Cruz was himself one of Roberts’s biggest defenders during his nomination proceedings.

These four candidates — call them the Kim Davis wing of the Republican field — have all made the Supreme Court, same-sex marriage and Christian privilege cornerstones of their campaigns. And they all have ideas about conservative Christians take back the Court, the institution of marriage and their rightful place atop the cultural hierarchy if elected president.

Mike Huckabee, via Wikimedia Commons

Mike Huckabee, via Wikimedia Commons

Their ideas are all either illegal or would require a constitutional amendment to implement, which the Kim Davis wing seems perfectly fine with. Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee think that states, local officials and whoever else feels like making some headlines can simply ignore the Supreme Court if they feel that a decision they’ve made is unjust — on Wednesday night, Santorum compared Kim Davis’s jail time to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s. On top of that, Huckabee has also suggested establishing term limits for Supreme Court justices. Ted Cruz has called for holding judicial retention elections to give the people the power to impeach them. Bobby Jindal wants to get rid of the Court entirely.

Absent from this list of ideas, though, is the one thing that a President Santorum, Jindal, Cruz or Huckabee could legally push for within their current constitutional constraints: impeachment. If they really think the Court’s opinions on marriage equality (and Obamacare) are so bad, they can call for the justices who voted for it to be impeached. Why haven’t they?

It isn’t as if they idea has never occurred to them. In 2014, Mike Huckabee called for the impeachment of the Arkansas judge who overturned the same-sex marriage ban he had signed as governor. When Ted Cruz was making the rounds with his judicial retention elections idea following the Obergefell decision, he dismissed the idea as being somehow more implausible than amending the Constitution to give the voters the power to do something that the Executive and Legislative branches already have the power to do:

It also isn’t as if the idea isn’t popular, or at least viable, in social conservative circles. Sarah Palin and Tony Perkins both called for impeaching any Supreme Court justice who ruled in favor of marriage equality earlier this year (Perkins quickly reversed his position). After the Obergefell ruling, Steve King called for the impeachment of Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Shortly before he announced his run for president, Ben Carson suggested impeaching justices who grant “extra” rights to LGBT people, although his campaign has since walked that suggestion back and acknowledged that the Obergefell ruling is the law of the land.

And while impeaching Supreme Court justices should otherwise be considered politically impossible, as it would require pulling together a two-thirds majority not once but five separate times, winning those kinds of votes is exactly what the Kim Davis wing of the party wants Senate Republicans to do to President Obama’s entire agenda. For his part, Jindal seemed positively unbothered by the necessity of 67 votes in the Senate for defunding Planned Parenthood, nixing the Iran Deal and repealing Obamacare on Wednesday night, over Lindsey Graham’s repeated attempts to explain that such votes simply aren’t in the cards. Ted Cruz is only in this race to begin with because he’s convinced enough Republicans voters that their leaders in the Senate are willfully wasting away their majority — that they really do have the votes necessary to do whatever they want if they’d only “fight harder” and “stand up for what they believe in.”

If that’s true of Planned Parenthood, the Iran Deal and Obamacare, why isn’t that true of the Supreme Court? After all, to hear Cruz tell it, they recently perpetrated one of the “darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history” — on par with Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Surely their sins are egregious enough for a president from the Kim Davis wing of the party to claim that these justices have invoked the “good behavior” clause in Article III of the Constitution, warranting dismissal.

If you hadn’t already guessed, the reason’s pretty clear: votes, and not much else. The reason why these candidates aren’t taking the one Constitutional option they have seriously, and are instead advocating for one part massive resistance and one part constitutional overhaul, is that they know they’ve lost but are stuck with core constituencies that fully expect to win.

Tony Perkins may genuinely believe that the fight isn’t over, that if social conservatives only work hard enough they can tear up every last one of the marriage licenses that have been issued to same-sex couples– just as God intended. The first and easiest (albeit not at all easy) step in that process is overhauling the Courts. But Cruz knows full well that he can’t reverse Obergefell, and to the extent that he believes he can be president, he doesn’t want the responsibility of doing so once he takes office.

The Kim Davis wing of the GOP field doesn’t think like that. For them, coming up with new, innovative, unconstitutional ways to mess with LGBT people is the mark of a bold conservative leader. But they aren’t playing this game to win the fight against LGBT rights; they’re just playing this game to grab votes from each other.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • intlet9949

    The country is $20 trillion in debt and the GOP is concerned about gay marriage.

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  • Ipo

    Her wing-men aren’t.

  • DGKY

    Kim Davis is a Democrat.

  • Snarki, child of Loki

    It only takes a majority in the House (which the GOP has) to impeach.

    It takes 2/3 in the Senate to convict, so only about a dozen D votes would have to join the GOP majority to convict.

    The problem, for the GOP, with impeachment, is that it could work, easily

    Hey, it’s not like the GOP congress is doing anything else, either.

  • Snarki, child of Loki

    I look forward to the Pope’s address to a joint session of Congress (with the USSC in attendance, I’m sure), when Francis points directly at Scalia, and yells YOU’RE FIRED!

  • Sharon Patterson

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  • JaneE

    If an option is legal and possible the GOP won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. Easier and more profitable for them to generate outrage in their followers, and who knows, they might even induce one to assassinate someone, or go on a rampage and kill a few people, which will win them even more votes and prestige among certain Americans.

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  • Ol’ Hippy

    See my comments above, these people are called the American Taliban in some circles.

  • Ol’ Hippy

    The other night I found myself having a good laugh at a good comedy show that I was watching online while watching PBS too, then I realized to my horror, these people were running for PRESIDENT!!! I mean really, this has got to be alarming to all the sane voters or are they all living in la-la land and I should join the preppers and build an underground shelter to prepare for the “second coming”. This has got to be a real scary time for the sane people in the country or am I not seeing the big picture? I hope I’m wrong but I have to agree with aakalan below the crazies are indeed deluded and scare me to death.

  • aakalan

    Scalia is in the employ of the Vatican.

  • aakalan

    It’s official – of all the morons and crazies running for GOP candidate for the Presidency, Jindal is the craziest. With the zeal of the converted, he’s become one of those Josh Duggar, Mike Schmuckabee, Kim Davis, Mat Staver, Dominionist Christians who sincerely believe that the Constitution and the U. S. Government must be overthrown and replaced with the King James Bible and Christian Sharia Law.

    I suppose the first thing they’d do in office is their very own Inquisition – and torture and kill the unrepentant heretics, particularly the gays. If LGBT people refuse to convert to “straight” and “Christian”, they may well be burned at the stake. As for the Jews and Muslims, they go to re-education camps a la Adolph Hitler. Think I’m crazy? These nutjobs sincerely believe that they must take dominion over the entire earth and cleanse it before Jesus will return. Funny, the Catholics did that in the Middle Ages, and yet, no Second Coming?

    There is not one micron difference between these guys and ISIS, with the exception of people like Cruz, who actually clerked at the Supreme Court and knows damned well what he’s demanding cannot and will not fly – the Constitution will not allow it, and if he pushes too hard, he won’t be fighting to be candidate for President, he’ll be fighting to get his sick, vicious ass out of Federal prison.

    But Jindal? He’s clinically insane. How else to explain the massive destruction he has brought down on Louisiana. Even his Republican legislature is thrilled that he’s running because it keeps him and his craziness out of Baton Rouge, limiting the chaos he caused. How crazy do you have to be turn a $1 billion surplus into a $1.7 billion deficit in his term of office, and then try to bail it out by de-funding the State Higher Education System, including state universities and community colleges?

    Those people onstage the other night are the most dangerous lunatics in America, today, battling to out-hate and out-crazy each other for the handful of mentally unstable right-wing fringe people (like Kim Davis) they can still attract. They have to, because they’ve alienated everyone else. There’s no one left to elect them.

    They have almost destroyed America, particularly in the last GOP Administration and the current congress of NO who prefers to shut down government if they can’t get absolute dictatorial power.

    If, God forbid, and one of them is elected, it will mark the end of America and the birth of the new Christian ISIS on our shores.

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  • crazymonkeylady

    Clarence Thomas is one dirty judge. So many shady dealings with corporations and billionaires. He needs impeachment big time. Don’t even get me started on Scalia…

  • If they went judicial impeachment all they need is to wait for a Republican President and impeach just one justice and replace with another Scalia. Then they get what they want.

  • The GOP would-be autocrats-in-chief depend heavily on the fact most of their cognitively-impaired supporters are tree-stump ignorant on nearly everything, most especially how the U.S. government actually works.

    For example, SCOTUS is commonly referred to by the name of its current Chief Justice, ergo the ‘Roberts Court’, and furthermore the yahoos can’t conceive of anything other than autocratic systems…therefore each and every decision coming from the Roberts Court must by definition have been approved by him. Or at minimum, they’re certain there must’ve been something John Roberts could’ve done to swing every case vote the way the radical wingnuts wanted, perhaps involving waterboarding.

    And there are more of these no-compromises-EVER mouth-breathers than there were a generation ago due to hate radio, tabloid media, and Faux Noise.

    One of the key strategies in successful long-term rabble rousing is never to propose anything that would actually remove the issue being rabble-roused about.

    Basically, you want that piñata up there, constantly swaying around, but never whacked with the bat to the point where the candy all spills out. Because then the bat-swinging becomes pointless…unless the rubes can be convinced the shattered remains of the piñata still conceals secret stashes of hidden sweets, and that’s a lot harder to accomplish. (Like with ACORN for example… only the stupidest of the stupid still think that’s a thing.)

  • Nobody ever thought a Supreme Court Justice would be so shamefully corrupt, that’s why the confirmation process is supposed to be so thorough. The only thing that keeps Supreme Court Justices from acting like the Borgias is common decency, of which Thomas and Scalia have little.

  • A war will be fought soon over which religion self-righteously declares that it solely speaks for God

  • Could it be that they don’t want to raise the idea of impeaching Justices, especially since both Scalia and Thomas have openly taken bribes and gifts from people with business before the court?

  • Don Chandler

    I think in Iowa, the judges that voted for marriage equality had to face elections. They didn’t all do well in their subsequent elections but Justice David Wiggins won reelection–think he was viewed as a conservative judge in Iowa but Marriage Equality won 7-0 at the Supreme Court in Iowa? [They actually struck down State laws prohibiting same sex marriage.] The thing the Kim Davis crowd forgets is that Marriage Equality wasn’t fought at the supreme court level until the end. The foes of Marriage Equality lost over and over and over in lower Courts. Marriage Equality actually had a lot of support from conservative Judges. The Kim Davis crowd also forgets the 60-40% support Marriage Equality garners among the people. So, before they embark on a quest to impeach 5 justices in Obergefell, one of which was appointed by a Republican president, they better see which way the political winds are blowing. Not a smart strategy. Really, the best way to achieve their goals is to appear as a majority that is being oppressed…which is really really pathetic. And I’m not certain, but there may be a plurality of Christians in support of Marriage Equality–what ever their numbers, they don’t care much for the rabid evangelical types like Kim Davis. So what is another way to achieve their goals?

    Don’t expend their political capital before winning the Presidency. If they win the Presidency, appoint new judges and erode the first amendment through “interpretation” of the Constitution. With the House, Senate and Presidency and some new SCOTUS judges, the GOP could do a lot of damage. It’s actually plausible and scary.

  • gratuitous

    It’s the votes, for sure. A constitutional amendment to satisfy the kooks is an impossibility, but I suspect the Kim Davis candidates know that quite well: “Why, if we could just do this one impossible thing, everything would be as right as rain!” Their gullible voters nod and say, “Yuh huh, yuh huh, just a constitutional amendment.”

    But impeachment? Heck, that doesn’t even take the Kenyan Muslim Usurper in the White House. The Republicans have a majority in both chambers. Why not? Because it’s impossible, too, but it looks quite a bit more doable. And instead of depending on whackadoo legislation that won’t get out of a subcommittee, instituting impeachment proceedings could be done by any House Republican. It wouldn’t go anywhere, just like a constitutional amendment, but it would set down some easily read markers for the shoutycrackers contingent: “Did you vote to impeach the Chief Justice? Well, why the hell not, you fake conservative RINO?!”

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