The IRS scandal has spawned a new round of partisan “what ifs?” from Republicans and conservative commentators, the gist of them being that President Obama’s election in the 2012 contest was the result of cheating, and the IRS’s successful efforts to stifle Tea Party organization efforts. Surely the less than 2% difference between Mitt Romney and the President might have been bridged had the kind of conservative enthusiasm that marked the 2010 Congressional election not been unethically and illegally stifled! Wall Street Journal blogger James Taranto has dubbed Obama “President Asterisk.” A research paper from the American Enterprise Institute suggests that the post 2010 targeting of conservative and Tea Party groups seeking tax exempt status may have cost Mitt Romney the Presidency.
Such retrospective efforts to delegitimize elections and presidencies do no good, plenty of harm, and are national exercises in dangerous self-abuse. President Obama won the election. There was not a single reason he won, but many, and just as many factors that could have easily changed the result, as in all relatively close elections. Marking Obama as a President who “stole” the office constitutes a dastardly effort to polarize the nation even more than it already is, and to undermine the respect due to any President, as well as a facile way for Republicans to avoid accountability for their own defeat, and especially their failure to support their party’s candidate. The tea parties, foolishly, stubbornly, never accepted Mitt Romney, who is, despite the successful efforts by Democrats to paint him as some kind of right wing robber baron, a moderate pragmatist. Every citizen had an opportunity to vote; less than 50% cared enough to bother, and Republicans cared less than Democrats. Obama’s IRS didn’t cost Mitt Romney the election; Republicans and Romney did. Obama won fair and square, if sleazily.
It is true that Democrats and the Left embraced and perfected the horrible, un-American and destructive tactic of delegitimizing presidential elections in this century. Claiming the the 2000 election was stolen from Al Gore (it was not) formed the foundation of the left’s attack on George W. Bush’s presidency through both of his terms. Incredibly, just this month, Joe Biden told a crowd that Gore won—but then, he’s an idiot. I do find it hard to feel too much sympathy for the party now being hoisted by its own petard, but it isn’t Democrats or even Barack Obama who are primarily harmed by specious claims that Obama used the IRS to steal the election. The nation is.
Trust, as I have written here repeatedly, is essential in a democracy, where the public must believe in the good intentions, integrity and values of our institutions and fellow citizens. Trust in the government has fallen to a dangerously low-level—both political parties and the last three administrations are largely at fault for that— and any political group that seeks to increase cynicism and distrust for political gain has announced its willingness to destroy the nation in order to govern it.
Such a group is itself unworthy not only of trust, but of respect as well.