The White House and Democrats are rightly eager to want to turn the page on the IRS scandal, that with other scandals has helped derail their second term agenda. But perhaps none has been as damaging as the IRS scandal. Compared to the NSA and Benghazi, scandals that are hard to grasp and split the opposition on privacy vs. security concerns and a “who cares about Libya attitude” the IRS scandal has the potential to impact every American.
The latest information out on the scandal is damning. House Government Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), accused by Democrats of being on a crusade, has consistently held hearings on the scandal. His latest hearing counters the White House and DC IRS Office’s interpretation that a group of rogue IRS agents in the Cincinnati office were responsible for blocking hundreds of Tea Party groups applications to receive non-profit tax status. Progressive groups were given almost instant approval while Tea Party groups were profiled in such a way to make the Trayvon Martin incident look tepid in comparison.
The latest hearing held with several middle level IRS officials says the orders to scrutinize Tea Party groups intensely came from DC. Where in DC is unknown but you can bet it came from somebody with clout in the IRS union apparatus and ties to the White House in some form. Darrell Issa’s “crusade” has made Republicans salivate at the prospect of a weakened White House and made Democrats cringe. The best Democrats can come up with for a defense is having Elijah Cummings, the senior ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, saying he thinks the IRS scandal has been investigated fully. Oh really? With new revelations seeming to drop daily this strikes even the casual observer as dubious.
There is more information on the scandal however. In 2010, when the Republican wave was cresting, Delaware Senate GOP nominee Christine O’Donnell was told by the IRS she had failed to report income for several years. The IRS made her refile. This is not in itself unusual but what the IRS did next is inexcusable. The IRS then gave her tax returns to her later victorious opponent, Chris Coons. This is a violation of privacy at its worst. In the coming weeks it could be found the IRS also leaked numerous other Senate GOP candidates.
The steady drip, drip, drip of revelations on the IRS scandal has to be wearing on Democrats. Notably however, few are calling for an investigation of the situation. This could be for two reasons. First, many endangered incumbents may simply be trying to run away from the issue and hope it disappears. Second, endangered incumbents may be afraid to buck the President publicly, especially when he still commands the base’s support. For Democrats like Hagan in North Carolina, Begich in Alaska and Landrieu in Louisiana it is crucial they get every liberal or Democratic voter out to the polls.
But this strategy could backfire and backfire badly. The President is once again underwater with Independents, especially white Independents and they show up in midterm electorates in red states. The IRS scandal combined with recent policy initiatives by the President also could make angry Republican voters return to the polls in the hope they can at least stymie his agenda with a Republican Senate, or at least a more partisanly balanced Senate. Either way Democrats seem damned whichever path they take.
As for the general public, we are left with the ever fundamental question of whether we can even trust our government? As it gets bigger, people demand it do more, and become a nanny-state the questions about privacy will become ever more moot. To take care of us the government will need more control, more power over our decisions and our lives. It is too early to tell whether the public has yet to realize this but as long as the IRS scandal is front and center for the public to see the opportunity exists for an individual or a political party to point out these fundamental truths.