WaPo wonders: Could IRS scandal re-ignite the Tea Party?

posted at 3:21 pm on May 15, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Actually, let’s give the first word on this subject to Politico’s editorial cartoonist Matt Wuerker, who as Joe Wiesenthal pointed out on Twitter is one of the few to capture the irony of the IRS targeting of the Tea Party:

wuerker-irs

Now, er … what was that again at the Washington Post?

The Internal Revenue Service’s decision to single out conservative groups for extra scrutiny has brought a fresh dose of attention to the tea party, a once thriving movement that has waned in the years since the 2010 GOP wave election.

Gee, could the fact that the IRS was actively blocking organizational efforts have anything to do with that “waning”? Don’t forget, the IRS didn’t approve any of those tax-exempt applications for 27 months while approving dozens for progressive groups.  Since most of that took place between February 2010 and the 2012 elections, I’d call that a contributing factor.

Now that Tea Party groups can organize in the same fashion as their opponents, perhaps they’ll wax more than wane.  But the targeting itself may drive some of that, too:

Will the fact that the agency targeted groups with “tea party” and “patriot” in their names reignite the energy of limited-government activists and groups who have warned of the perils of overreach? Republicans both in and outside the movement think it could give them a boost on several fronts.

“I think it stands to galvanize the Tea Party and the conservative base for two reasons. First, it’s not just the ‘Tin Foil Tri-Corn Hat’ brigade: the Federal Government really WAS out to get them,” wrote Florida-based Republican strategist Rick Wilson in an e-mail. “It was egregious, illegal and patently political … and exactly the kind of unconstitutional excess they found so motivating in the first place.”

Yes, that will tend to motivate more activism — when you get proven right about government overreach.   Remember, too, that the big impetus to the formation of the Tea Party was ObamaCare, which was another government overreach that generated a ton of grassroots opposition.  And guess which agency will be enforcing ObamaCare?

Byron York reports that the IRS targeting for tax-exempt applications has people worried about what the IRS will do when they take charge of the health-insurance mandate:

The Internal Revenue Service scandal would be bad enough if the IRS just handled issues like collecting income taxes and granting nonprofit status. But the immensely powerful federal agency is about to become even more powerful with the arrival of national health care, and that makes the still-unfolding scandal even more troubling. …

And now the IRS has been exposed abusing its authority for apparently partisan purposes. At the height of the Tea Party movement, IRS officials applied special scrutiny to organizations with “Tea Party” or words like “patriot” in their names when those groups applied for tax-exempt status.

At his brief news conference Monday, President Obama sought to assure Americans that he will correct the situation. “If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that’s outrageous and there’s no place for it,” Obama said before heading to New York City for a series of fundraisers.

In the next few weeks, the details of the IRS’ apparent misconduct will be spelled out in a series of hastily arranged congressional hearings. Most of the discussion will focus on political nonprofits and the selective treatment they received from the IRS. For millions of Americans, the hearings will do what Charles Grassley noticed at those town meetings in Iowa: reduce their faith that the federal government will treat them fairly.

And that will mean even more anxieties about the coming of Obamacare. “Now every American understands there are elements of the IRS that go off on their own,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told MSNBC Monday morning. “Why would you trust the bureaucracy with your health if you can’t trust the bureaucracy with your politics?”

It’s that kind of mistrust that drove the development of the Tea Party into a major political force.  And it’s the proof that the IRS provided this week that’s likely to raise its profile even further.


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