Talking Points

Impeaching Clarence Thomas is a great idea. Don't do it.

Impeaching Justice Clarence Thomas would be a waste of time and effort by Democrats. They might try anyway.

Progressives in the House of Representatives, lead by Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), are talking up impeachment in the wake of revelations that Thomas' wife, Ginni, sent text messages to Donald Trump's chief of staff around the time of the Jan. 6 insurrection, urging the then-president to "stand firm" in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. The Supreme Court justice later opposed his colleagues' decision to order the release of documents to the House committee investigating the insurrection.

Progressives say that's a conflict of interest for Thomas — one of many involving his wife.

"Clarence Thomas should resign," Ocasio-Cortez wrote Tuesday morning on Twitter. "If not, his failure to disclose income from right-wing organizations, recuse himself from matters involving his wife, and his vote to block the Jan. 6 commission from key information must be investigated and could serve as grounds for impeachment."

It's a fine idea. But it won't work. 

The main problem is math. There weren't enough Democratic votes in the Senate to convict Donald Trump during his two impeachments, and there aren't enough votes now. Even if a few Republicans agreed that Thomas behaved badly — a big if — they're still likely to circle the wagons for the justice and his wife. Most Republicans wouldn't vote to convict Trump even after he unleashed an insurrection that threatened their own safety. Are they really going to take down Thomas for getting fuzzy on conflict-of-interest rules? Please.

That leads to the political problem. As noted, since winning the House majority in 2018, Democrats impeached Trump twice. Doing the same to Thomas would make three major impeachments by the House in just four years — and with nothing at all to show for it except an abundance of outrage on all sides. Dems are probably going to lose their majority in November, but it's going to hurt more if it looks to voters like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her caucus have spent a lot more time trying to chase conservatives out of Washington than, say, working to bring down inflation.

There are no real upsides.

It's understandable why Dems would talk about impeaching Thomas. At this point, they're desperate for somebody — anybody — to be held accountable for Trump's efforts to overturn the election. The Trump impeachment failed. Members of the Jan. 6 committee have started griping at Attorney General Merrick Garland to "do your job" because he hasn't brought criminal cases against uncooperative witnesses. Trump and his cronies are, as ever, impervious to punishment for wrongdoing. It's outrageous. 

Taking aim at Thomas, though, is a dumb thing to do if failure is inevitable. And it is.