What Democrats Can Learn About Impeachment From the Civil War

tags: Civil War, impeachment

Jamelle Bouie is an Opinion Columnist at the New York Times.


Impeachment is so rare in American history that it’s difficult to draw broad conclusions about its political impact, but congressional investigations are common and there’s no evidence of this backlash effect. The belief that says otherwise suggests a risk aversion that may prove counterproductive.

I have been revisiting a few popular histories of the Civil War, both for personal interest and future work. It’s almost impossible to count all of the connections to make between that period, Reconstruction and present-day political life. But there’s one event, or series of events, that stands out as a potentially useful analogy for thinking about the Democratic Party’s decision-making as it prepares, again, to face Trump in a presidential election.

In January 1862, after weeks of prodding from President Abraham Lincoln, Gen. George B. McClellan — at that point the commanding general of the United States Army as well as commander of the Army of the Potomac — submitted plans for a spring offensive against the Confederate garrison at Manassas, Va.

McClellan was a talented organizer but an infamously cautious battlefield leader. He believed Confederates held the tactical advantage at Manassas, with their strong fortifications and an army of nearly equal size. Instead of direct engagement with the rebels, he planned to send his force of 100,000 men down the Chesapeake Bay to the mouth of the Rappahannock River, placing Union forces between the Confederate garrison and Richmond, Va. The rebel general, Joseph E. Johnston, would have to head south, an 80-mile march from Manassas. By then, McClellan believed, the Army of the Potomac would have either captured the Confederate capital or forced Johnston into a battle on ground of McClellan’s choosing...

Read entire article at NY Times

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