IRS and politics

15 May

IRS-sizedA good rule of thumb is that a vast majority of alleged political scandals will have less voter impact than most people expect.

There are two main reasons for this:

First, voters look at major issues such as economic performance and the conduct of foreign wars in making their decisions.

That leaves little room for everything else.

Second, the news media may overplay the story, scandalous or otherwise, on any given day, even though it may turn out to be relatively unimportant in the context of a multiyear political cycle.

But the recent admission by the Internal Revenue Service that it targeted conservative organizations with terms like “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names when they applied for tax-exempt status could be an exception.

Remember that the IRS is something that touches everyone, for better or worse.

It is not an admired agency and what’s going on is something that might interest most people.

The so-called scandal reinforces the negative feelings many have about the tax collectors.

It can negatively affect the President depending on how successful the Republicans are at blaming him.

We’re just at the beginning of this so-called scandal.

For now, it’s the standard blah-blah-blah about how we don’t know just what we’ll find.

But we can guess what the political implications will be – and they’re significant.

Let’s explore this:
The primary effect is that for some time to come – probably through next year’s election – it allows main stream Republicans to get on the same page with the Tea Party and what the Tea Party essentially is, which is the ideological base of the Republican party, which is pretty much unchanged for the last 25 years.

Of course, it goes without saying that a scandal on one party’s watch is good politically for the opposition party.

But it goes well beyond that in this case because of the aftermath of the 2012 election.

Gays and immigration have been key ways for Republican’s to connect with the party’s base for years.

Not the only ways but some of the most effective.

But after-2012 those two touch points are largely off-limits – immigration entirely and gay rights to a lesser degree.

This has been a major problem for Republicans.

The main ways they communicate with the base of their party have been largely off-limits.

It’s all made the national GOP constantly wrong footed or like a big ship without a rudder.

The IRS “problem” addresses that quite nicely.

Let’s assume for the moment that it turns out there was a combination of poor judgment and perhaps bias at lower levels of the IRS.

There was no direction from upper management that would implicate the administration or top appointees themselves.

The nature of this scandal – the government, particularly the IRS singling out and persecuting conservatives – appeals to the heart of the right-wing conspiracy-generating crazies.

If you wanted create a scandal to have maximum appeal to GOP base freak-out, this is it.

And it has the additional advantage of not creating the same sort of craziness loved by base Republicans.

It’s not about Obama’s ties to the Muslim brotherhood or where he was born.

It’s about taxes, something everyone has an experience with and understands.

And it’s at least rooted in something that’s true.

Something really did happen.

And it’s not good.
It shouldn’t happen.

mitch-mcconnell-sizedThat’s why we’re seeing Republicans like Mitch McConnell go so full-bore on this.

He’s not particularly well-liked in his state and he’s not particularly well liked by Tea Parties or base Republicans.

But now he can bang the drum on something that appeals deeply to all of them.

That is a very, very big deal to every national Republican elected official.

And again, all of this applies even if we learn that none of this came from political hanky-panky by administration leaders.

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