I realize that lots of activities that occur in an election cycle are suspect as tactics that skirt legality. I also realize that both parties probably engage in these kinds of behavior. To have the losing party, guilty of their own departures from polite governance (gerrymandering, manipulating voter laws), focusing in classic sour grapes fashion on possible “dirty tricks” of the opposite party is normal for a short period of time after an election, but we expect the pouting and posturing to die down after a brief period of venting and we expect proper legislative behavior to ensue.
I also admit that the IRS should not use its prodigious powers of intimidation against any particular group to manipulate political outcomes or as a way to target a political group. This could be used to move a democracy towards tyranny. However, if one political party twists the intent of a tax classification for purposes of moving illegal money into a campaign, since this is a tax classification, it would fall to the IRS to investigate whether there was abuse, in this case of 501(C)(4)’s. Since the Democratic Party did not rely heavily on 501(C)(4) groups, but used a new digital approach it is possible they did not invite the same level of scrutiny as the same tax forms did on the Republican side.
If the President ordered the IRS to make the process of approval as a 501(C)(4) group more difficult, then that would be very wrong, of course. Would it be worse than the strategies employed by the other party? I guess we will answer that question when and if we have to. In the meantime, this still looks like a case where IRS employees used certain “search” terms to zero in on the forms that might be political as opposed to social and therefore ineligible for 501(C)(4) status. And that is what I want to address, those search terms and who they “belong” to.
If you look up patriot online you get this definition:
patriot n. 1. A person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors. 2. An automated surface-to-air missile system designed for early detection and interception of missiles or aircraft.
Or you might get this definition, basically the same without the mention of enemies and detractors:
: one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests
If you type “images of American Patriots” into a search line some inspirational images pop up, but so do a pretty fair number of references to insurgencies and even some rather disturbing images which some people apparently see as satire or commentary. Here are a few of the images I found:
I always think of myself as an American patriot because I love my country and I support its authority and interests. I don’t blindly support everything that is done by every single American, but I am proud that America has shown the way to respect freedom and equality and that so many governments around the world have grown to celebrate similar values.
So when a group of Americans usurps the word Patriots and uses it to set themselves above other Americans and to exclude Americans who don’t agree with them, I feel that I have to remind them (Conservatives) that, contrary to contemporary usage and Fox pundits, the right wing does not own the term Patriot. These people, our neighbors, have a mental weakness that accepts the brainwashing of someone like Glenn Beck who is using them to foment some kind of “patriot” revolution, 1776-style, and to scare the bejeezus out of the rest of us. Nothing has happened in America that necessitates the raising of a militia to defend us from tyranny. The tyranny being discussed has been created to drum up ratings in the entertainment arm of the news business. Any one of us, even the most extreme Liberal, is a proud American Patriot, but perhaps just not as easily hypnotized by hysterical rhetoric.
Therefore it follows that just because the IRS searched for the keyword “patriot”, doesn’t mean that they chose that word to zero in on Conservatives. Maybe the IRS thinks that there can be Liberal Patriots also. The Tea Party does not own the word Patriot either. They don’t really even own the words “tea party”.