Five panels to grill FBI on Clinton... I understand why Matt Yglesias writes this:
Furious congressional Republicans are launching a multipronged attack against the FBI and Hillary Clinton.
A total of five congressional committees will either hold hearings with high-profile law enforcement officials over the next week or have already begun inquiries to the FBI about its investigation of the former secretary of State.
Republicans always go too farYes, but you have to remember what happened after Bill Clinton was impeached. Did Republicans lose a few seats in the 1998 midterms? Sure. Did they lose control of Congress? No. And what happened next? An underqualified Republican goofball got close enough in the following presidential election to steal a victory, even though he was running against Clinton's vice president and Clinton continued to have very high approval ratings. Republicans held the House and Senate as well. The GOP scored big wins again in 2002, after that goofball escaped blame following the worst intelligence failure in living memory, and he was reelected in 2004 even as he was botching two wars.
... Instead of banking the hit to Clinton’s standing that [FBI director James] Comey already inflicted as a win and moving on to other arguments, Republican overreach shifts the terms of debate to terrain that’s objectively much less favorable. Now they’re wasting time and money on a witch hunt that’s already been thoroughly investigated, playing partisan politics with crucial briefings, and smearing dedicated public servants whose only crime is refusal to play along with their shenanigans.
It seems insane, but this is the party that managed to turn a presidential sex scandal into an unprecedented midterm election defeat in 1998 through exactly the same mix of hubris and overreach.
If the Republicans took a lesson from 1998, it wasn't "don't overreach," it was "don't try to impeach anyone." Overreach works for them. Impeaching doesn't. That's why they haven't made a serious effort to impeach Barack Obama (or, in the Obama years, Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch or John Koskinen or ...).
Why does overreach work for the Republicans? Because the great base-unifying idea on the right is: All of our political opponents are maximally evil and corrupt. They will deliberately destroy Western civilization if not immediately crushed. Because this is a shared certainty, no amount of demonization of those political opponents is too great. It all sustains the base's belief in the overarching idea. More is more.
This is what gets the base out to vote. As long as it's kept short of impeachment -- which gets the Democratic base out to vote -- it's going to work for Republicans in the long run, even if it doesn't work in the presidential race. The payoff will really come after November, when Hillary Clinton, in all likelihood, enters the White House with multiple clouds over her head, then is further battered and battled by the Republicans. The goal is a big win in 2018 congressional election, and maybe even downballot. (You know they vote Republican all the way down to the local level in deep-red states because they're exposed to so much demonization of national Democrats in conservative media.) A 2020 presidential victory would be the icing on the cake -- but even if that never happens, overreach is a loyalty-builder in other elections. The Republicans won't stop doing it until it starts failing for them in the long term, in every election.