We've spent so many decades hearing about how Richard Nixon (unsuccessfully) tried to sic the IRS on his political opponents, it was almost funny to learn that the "white hat" Obama lead an effort to systematically suppress conservative activists through abusive auditing. You would think anyone with an "R" after their name would know what to do with a scandal like this: righteous anger mixed with a resolve to fight these b**tards to the political death. But that's not what the GOP's moderate elements are doing. Instead, they are working hand-in-glove with the Obama administration to pass immigration reform while harrumphing about "special prosecutors" and generally allowing public anger to diffuse.
As the perfect exemplar of this strain, Sheriff Michael Gerson rode into town on his high horse a couple weeks ago and declared the heated reaction by Tea Partiers to be, erm, unhelpful:
A number of libertarians and conservative populists have found data collection by the National Security Agency(NSA) to be the final confirmation of their worst fears about Barack Obama and modern government. It is an attempt, according to Ron Paul, to “deliberately destroy the Constitution.” To radio talk show host Mark Levin, it reveals “the elements of a police state.” To Rush Limbaugh, it is part of a “coup d’etat” by the Obama “regime.”
Some on the right believe, as they say in the intel business, that they have connected the dots. All the scandals are really part of one big scandal. For Levin, it encompasses abuses by the Internal Revenue Service, the collection of DNA by policemen, Obamacare’s centralization of medical records and the use of domestic drones. “The Transportation Department, people forget, has proposed black boxes in all of our automobiles to track how they function,” Levin adds.
Limbaugh presents a similar list, demonstrating what he calls “the totalitarian nature or the authoritarian nature of this administration,” and homes in on the NSA revelations: “The main question is, why is such a gigantic surveillance operation even necessary? What is really going on here? Who is the enemy? The tea party, we know, is an enemy of the administration. We know that conservative Republicans — and I could give you names — are enemies of this administration.”
Let me stipulate that the IRS targeting of tea party groups is deeply disturbing andEric Holder’s Justice Department is politicized, swaggering and incompetent. Distrust of government is deep in the American DNA, and the Obama administration has often managed to justify it.
But asserting that U.S. intelligence agencies are part of a conspiracy that somehow includes a national gun registry, drone surveillance and Lois Lerner crosses a line.I guess we shouldn't expect any real fight from the man who helped craft the Bush 43 administration's pathetic non-response to the scurrilous attacks the left subjected it to for years. But, come on! Doesn't any of this make Gerson angry? It should. Decent, hard-working Americans of the sort whom the GOP has historically relied on at the polls, were subject to attack and abuse by cold-hearted left-wing activists disguised as bureaucrats. The GOP base was literally being hounded and suppressed - while the left wailed about a bogus "war on women" and a mythical effort to suppress minority voters via voter ID laws! Mr. Gerson, your people were under attack and that doesn't seem to bother you, nor does it bother many of the DC-based GOP leadership. Frankly, that is almost as disturbing as the IRS asking conservative groups about the contents of their prayers.
What's worse is that progressives have been using 501(c)(3)'s and (4)'s as political tools and income streams for years. The NAACP, NARAL, the teachers unions (and every other union), Greenpeace, PETA, and so on are all tax-emept organizations. They are also political through and through. How is that "legal" while some women organizing a Tea Party group around their kitchen tables is untoward?
And, left-wing groups aren't just organizing tools. Rich progressives like the Kennedies use them as tax shelters and as income streams. The grant-writing liberal is not far removed from the conservative businessman going to the bank for a loan, only the liberal is looking to start an activist group and pay herself a salary. And, the non-profit sector is notorious for its prodigious fund-raising and pathetic disbursement rates. Rush Limbaugh has been saying for years that the modern left is funded by tax-payers. He's not far off the mark. Again, Mr. Gerson, doesn't it make you angry that leftists are excluded from the sort of rigorous enforcement to which conservative groups were subject?
That's not to let Tea Partiers totally off the hook. As earnestly as they wanted to comply with IRS rules, it should have been clear to anyone receiving those crazy document demands that quick approvals would not be forthcoming from Cincinnati or Ogden or wherever. As Prof. Reynolds suggests, they should have self-exempted at that point. And, while it's admirable that conservatives wanted to make sure they were crossing all of their T's and dotting their I's re: accepting donations, I have to ask whether, say, the Black Panthers or Mario Savio or the Chicago Seven or other leftist rebels ever went through the bother of complying with IRS rules. Maybe they did and there was a Black Panther 501(c)(3), but I have no idea and anyway I doubt it. They just went out and started taking care of business, committing real crimes along the way. The left's funding has always been murky with an unknown but significant portion coming from Moscow and Beijing back in the good ol' days. Somehow the Tea Party hasn't managed to figure out that successful political activism is probably inversely proportional to compliance with the rules created by the political class.
And, finally, while the right has a compelling case that its vote was suppressed in 2012, it was hardly a case of involuntary suppression. People just stayed home and didn't vote. Excuse me? That's pathetic! You don't like Romney, or are being inundated with insane IRS correspondence, or are getting Obama robo-calls, and your response is to stay home? Voting in America is still one of the easiest public duties a citizen has available to him. Obama richly deserved to lose, whether that loss came at the hands of Mitt Romney or Rick Perry or John Huntsman should have been beside the point.
I had no illusions about Mitt Romney, no one should have. The man was a technocrat, not an activist. All those promises about repealing Obamacare, etc. would have wilted at the first sign of leftist counter-attack. But, that would still be better than what we've got now.
To bring it all back to Michael Gerson's plaintive whining about unhelpful right-wing rhetoric, there's a reason why the Bush/Romney/Dole/McCain/Ford/Dewey branch of the party has so much trouble winning elections. They have no fight in them, and worse, don't realize they are in a fight at all. And, if they manage to win an election, they don't fight back. They don't protect themselves, and they don't protect their voters and most active supporters. Pathetic.