Whether it’s tapping into journalists e-mail accounts and phone lines, coverups in Benghazi, or shaking down insurance companies to force contributions to Obamacare, this administration has certainly run into a fair share of damaging scandals over the last several weeks.
But there is one scandal in particular that will have a devastating impact on the Democrat party as a brand, and will negatively impact their party’s performance in 2014 – the IRS investigations.
Here are five reasons why…
Example of Out of Control Government
Perhaps there is no bigger demonstration of a government agency so out of control that they no longer adhere to fundamental democratic values, than in the following clip involving former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman.
The clip shows Ohio Republican Mike Turner repeatedly asking Shulman if he agrees that targeting groups based on their political beliefs fails to “represent our democratic values”.
Shulman, despite Turner’s best efforts and multiple attempts, is unable to answer the question.
Mr. Shulman is unable or unwilling to admit that asking a group what books they are reading, what their members were thinking, or the content of their member’s prayers, and subsequently making tax decisions based on that line of questioning, is wholly un-Democratic.
Who else finds this overreach of government, perhaps reflected in the IRS scandal itself, to be out of control? Pretty much everybody.
A recent Fox News poll indicates that over two-thirds of voters feel that the government is uncontrollable and threatening their civil liberties. The political breakdown includes a wide spectrum of respondents, and not just the usual suspects. Nearly a full 50% of Democrats agree with that sentiment, meaning half of Democrat voters are in tune with the very basic premise of the Tea Party itself – that the government has become too big, and too powerful, to properly adhere to and maintain Democratic values.
So if a plurality of Americans believe that targeting conservatives because of their political beliefs is an example of sprawling government, who exactly thought this would be a good idea?
Democrat Senators Requested Tea Party Investigations
Shortly after the scandal had been revealed, the Daily Caller reported that a group of Democratic senators led by New York’s Chuck Schumer, had urged the IRS to target the Tea Party in 2012.
… many prominent Democrats — including Montana Sen. Max Baucus, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the New York Times editorial board — had been publicly calling for tighter restrictions on 501(c)(4) groups affiliated with the tea party and conservatives.
Last year, Schumer, along with Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeff Merkley, Tom Udall, Jeanne Shaheen and Al Franken, penned a letter calling on the agency to cap the amount of the political spending by groups masquerading as “social welfare organizations.”
Of those senators, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Al Franken of Minnesota are all up for reelection in 2014. With the exception of Udall, many of these senators endured a tight campaign in 2008, and have aligned themselves on the wrong side of an issue that two-thirds of Americans disagree with.
Additionally, some Democrats seem to understand that they are on the wrong side of this issue, distancing themselves from any mention of the White House, drilling the IRS on the perceived incompetency of low-level agency employees, and criticizing their Republican colleagues for fabricating links to the White House.
Not to mention, they’re partaking in active investigations into the scandal. Of particular note is Max Baucus, the man who specifically asked the IRS to crack down on Tea Party organizations, who is now heading an investigation as to why they might have done so.
Democrats realize they’re on the wrong side of this issue politically, but do they realize they’re on the wrong side of the American public in general?
All Sides Relate
It’s the IRS for crying out loud. It’s death and taxes, the audit, a feared entity to the average American. Or as Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly explains, they are the monster under the bed.
“I have a grandson who’s afraid to get out of bed at night because he thinks there’s someone under the bed that’s going to grab him. And I think most Americans feel that way about the IRS.”
That speech earned Kelly a standing ovation, but it underscores a very underrated fallout from the IRS scandal – that people relate.
Not just Tea Party conservatives, but Republicans, Democrats, Independents, or even people who share little interest in politics. Everyone can relate to being hounded by a government organization such as the IRS, and the fear it elicits.
This scandal has done something that didn’t seem possible just a few short weeks ago. It has created sympathy for the Tea Party, sympathy that threatens to tear down the media and Democrat narrative that has marginalized the group since their powerful impact on the 2010 elections.
Resurgence of the Tea Party
Very recent polling shows that favorability ratings for the victimized Tea Party have increased sharply, up 14 percentage points since January. With 44% of respondents viewing the Tea Party in a positive light, the group enjoys numbers only 7 percentage points below their peak in April of 2009, when they had their greatest impact.
Perhaps more importantly, these conservative groups are seeing an uptick in support from Republicans, from 61 to 80%. Meaning, nearly 20% of Republican voters look at the freedom loving group less as Wacko birds, and more as a legitimate brand.
And with legitimacy and favorability comes…
This is actually a two-pronged consequence of the scandal.
While Democrats have tried to distance themselves from the issue, they will no doubt have to answer for the over $700,000 that their campaigns have taken in from the IRS.
As the NRCC reports, numerous Democrats and their PACs have received campaign contributions from the National Treasury Employees Union which represents IRS employees. This fact prompted NRCC Spokeswoman Andrea Bozek to quip, “No wonder Democrats want higher taxes – their campaigns are funded by the IRS.”
The group has since demanded that House Democrats “give back their tainted IRS cash”.
Aside from possibly (and by possibly, I mean fat chance) having to return IRS contributions, Tea Party organizations have seen sympathy for their plight turn into monetary treasure.
This, from NewsMax:
Tea-party groups are also seeing an increase in donations and support since the IRS scandal broke, Fox News reports.
“We’re definitely seeing a spike in both interest and contributions,” said Sal Russo, co-founder of the California-based Tea Party Express.
Russo added that tea party members are feeling vindicated and energized by IRS scandal.
This is quite the reversal of fortune from what Rush Limbaugh described as a scare tactic designed to “literally frighten people into not donating to Republican or conservative causes”.
All of the above factors have an immediately negative impact for proponents of big government. But, will the stain of the IRS scandal seep into Democrat campaigns in 2014?
Political analyst Stu Rothenberg writes, “… it is undeniable that recent events have altered, at least for now, the trajectory of the 2014 elections.”
He adds, “… the new political narrative increases the risk for Democratic candidates in red states, where Democrats must win independent and, in many cases, Republican voters to be successful.”
Additionally, a senior Democrat strategist recently opined:
“I really do believe that one of the most important factors that caused Republicans to lose the House in 2006 was Hurricane Katrina. It played into what voters felt about Republicans — that they don’t care and that they don’t care about government.”
The IRS scandal “plays into what people think about Democrats, that we like big government. … It makes it harder to play in Republican districts.”
For now, Republicans, Independents, and Democrats all seem to agree that targeting the Tea Party was an example of big government corruption gone wild.
But will any of them remember by 2014?