The emerging junta

The IRS scandal is not a standalone issue but comes at a time when the Democratic party is seeking to radically expand the power of the federal government to regulate political speech; we can safely assume that the same people who were using the IRS’s political-speech regulations for political ends will have precisely the same motives and precisely the same opportunity to use other political-speech regulations for precisely the same political ends: to benefit their allies and persecute their enemies. So committed are the Democrats to keeping their critics under the thumb of federal police powers that they have introduced an amendment in the Senate that would effectively repeal the free-speech provisions of the First Amendment, those having proved inconvenient to Democrats in Supreme Court rulings such as McCutcheon and Citizens United, the latter case involving a federal attempt to make it a crime to show a film critical of a political figure under unapproved circumstances.

The most important question that must be answered in this matter does not involve the misbehavior of IRS officials and Democratic officeholders, though those are important. Nor is it the question of free speech, vital and fundamental as that is. The question here is nothing less than the legitimacy of the United States government. When law-enforcement agencies and federal regulators with extraordinary coercive powers are subordinated to political interests rather than their official obligations — to the Party rather than to the law — then the law itself becomes meaningless, and the delicate constitutional order we have enjoyed for more than two centuries is reduced to a brutal might-makes-right proposition. Elected officials and public servants of both parties take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and to faithfully discharge the duties of their office. That oath is now being tested. The IRS investigation is no mere partisan scandal, but a moral challenge for the men and women who compose the government of this country. Whether they are sufficient to meet that challenge is far from obvious, but the evidence so far is not encouraging.