Even Lauren Boebert knows a phony Biden impeachment will backfire — why the GOP will do it anyway

Newt Gingrich lost his House seat from Clinton's impeachment, but gained a lucrative career grifting conservatives

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published September 14, 2023 6:00AM (EDT)

Lauren Boebert and Joe Biden (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Lauren Boebert and Joe Biden (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Impeaching President Joe Biden on phony charges built on falsified evidence is generally understood, by both the Beltway press and even by Republican leadership, to be bad news for the GOP's political future. And yet, it also seems true that House Republicans, under the, uh, "leadership" of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, are barreling towards impeachment, even as Republican members in competitive districts beg him not to go there. McCarthy has gone as far as to circumvent his own party members who would stop him, by directly ordering an impeachment inquiry without a congressional vote, violating his own previous stance and Justice Department directives

The supposed accusations against Biden aren't really relevant, as everyone involved knows it's made-up nonsense. (Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., admitted as much to the New York Times in March.) It's pure political theater, unmoored from facts. But usually one expects political theater to benefit its producers politically. And yet, like a sentient moth flying knowingly into the flame, McCarthy is forging ahead anyway. 

No doubt part of the reason why is because Donald Trump is pressuring McCarthy, and McCarthy lives to please his orange master. He's also trying to appease the loudest MAGA members of his caucus, who have threatened to make McCarthy's life hell if he doesn't give them this. But at least one of the biggest impeachment cheerleaders in the GOP caucus, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, seems to understand that a kangaroo impeachment is not good for her party's electoral futures, even as she wants it very badly.

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"Boebert is one of Washington's loudest proponents of impeaching Joe Biden," Olivia Beavers of Politico writes. But when speaking to her own constituents, Boebert projects "a different version of herself," mostly avoiding the topic of impeachment and talking up boring issues like water policy. 

Boebert retains her signature shamelessness, telling Beavers, "I have these dual aspects of national and home."


For a few of the most obnoxious trolls in the House — the ones who drag McCarthy around by the nose — this is their moment.

Boebert nearly lost re-election in what used to be a deep-red district in Colorado, mostly due to the perception she's too busy being a MAGA celebrity to look after the needs of her constituents. Her two-faced approach is an attempt to navigate her competing desires. Fame and fortune in the right-wing media ecosystem requires being a bomb-throwing conspiracy theorist. Winning competitive elections, however, means playing the opposite role, of a sober-minded public servant.

Boebert would probably have her seat for decades if she could give up trolling for a life of quietly voting for tax cuts and against environmental regulations. But she also wants to leverage her youth and good looks into a more lucrative career of "triggering" the liberals and raking in donations from Newsmax viewers. What's good for the right-wing bank account, it turns out, may not be so great for getting votes — a conundrum Republicans didn't consider when they dismantled the campaign finance regulatory system. 

We can see how much more lucrative it is to be a MAGA loudmouth than a standard Republican by comparing Boebert's fundraising to the Colorado Republican from her neighboring district, Rep. Ken Buck. Buck, notably, has spoken out against impeachment, repeatedly pointing out there's no facts or evidence to support it. But his unwillingness to be a bug-eyed lunatic has hurt his fundraising numbers. He raised about $1.6 million for his 2022 re-election campaign, compared to the nearly $8 million Boebert raised in the same time period. Of course, he also won with more than 60% of the vote, whereas she barely squeaked in. 

Candidates technically aren't supposed to use campaign funds to line their own pockets, though politicians like Boebert find ways to get their hands in the cookie jar anyway. (We can also see from the private jet trips and fancy dinners enjoyed by Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., that big name candidates get to enjoy expensive luxuries on the donor dime.) But where the big bucks lie is in the post-elected office career. Making a name for yourself as a right-wing superstar while in elected office can means becoming very rich indeed in your post-retirement career, mainly by selling snake oil to the same people gullible enough to vote for you in the first place. 

Look, for instance, at the life of Newt Gingrich. He was the Republican Speaker of the House in the 90s, and grabbed fistfuls of right-wing fame by being a first-rate jackass, really laying out the model for future con artists like Boebert and, of course, Trump. Gingrich's career of camera-hogging and trolling culminated in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, on irrelevant and trumped-up charges related to Clinton's ill-advised but not illegal adultery with a White House employee. 

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Politically, this was a big mistake for Gingrich. He ended up driving up Clinton's approval ratings while hurting his own reputation. Republicans blamed Gingrich for their heavy electoral losses in 1998, and he was forced out of Congress. But Gingrich fell from grace into a huge bucket of money. When he was first elected in 1979, he was flat broke. His theatrical right-wing pandering got him book deals and speaking fees so that he left Congress making a six-digit salary and sitting on $600,000 of assets. 

But it was after Congress that Gingrich became an incredibly wealthy man. By 2011, he had amassed $100 million worth of businesses, largely geared around influence peddling and separating right-wing fools from their money. It's not even a particularly sophisticated grift. For instance, Gingrich runs a commonplace scam on the right: Creating an email list and then spamming subscribers with ads promising "miracle" cancer cures. As Rachel Maddow of MSNBC reported, another Gingrich racket is to create fake "awards" for business owners, promising them a fancy celebration dinner, so long as they pony up thousands of dollars to receive their "award." 

It's a form of affinity fraud, which is where a con artist will exploit a shared identity with their victim — such as religious affiliation — to gain their trust, before shaking them down for cash. It's one reason that Republicans enjoy a great deal of turnover in the ranks of their elected officials, while Democrats stay in office until they're about to fall over dead. For most Democrats, it doesn't get better for them, professionally, than being an elected official. But if a Republican used elected office to get famous with the Fox News audience, they can make a mint once they leave office by convincing their followers to waste their retirement savings on useless supplements and meaningless trophies. 

All of which is a major reason why Biden is likely getting impeached, despite no one actually thinking he did anything wrong. Many Republicans who have no name recognition outside of their districts risk getting screwed by this, as fed-up voters kick them out of office. But for a few of the most obnoxious trolls in the House — the ones who drag McCarthy around by the nose — this is their moment. It's a chance to get on TV more, get seen "triggering" the liberals, and get more social media shares. They will become even bigger celebrities in the eyes of people who have open wallets and no critical thinking skills. Losing a seat in Congress stings a lot less when you're walking right into a media ecosystem optimized to separate fools from their money. And for those from deep-red districts, it's a surefire way to keep the donations flowing, especially when more traditional donors are stingy about wasting money on safe seats. 

Boebert is in a precarious situation. She has made herself one of the most famous House Republicans by sheer bellicosity, but she keeps getting outshone by the even more demented congresswoman from Georgia, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. The two even nearly came to blows in trying to put forward go-nowhere fake impeachment articles against Biden. They understand that the well of money and attention from MAGA morons may be deep, but it isn't unlimited. They're in direct competition for the audience of marks.

Boebert needs more time to build up her name and reputation, and if she loses in 2024, the odds are high she'll be forgotten completely. That's why she's trying to have it both ways: Be the MAGA bullhorn that gets the cash, while also pretending to be the workhorse representative who gets votes. It's a tightrope she may not be able to stay on if this phony impeachment gets more momentum. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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