Thanks a Bunch, IRS. Now We Gotta Respect the Tea Party -- a Little Bit.
Wow. I take it all back, Tea Party. You cool. In fact, I'm jealous. Targeted by the IRS. There was a time when that would have been my dream come true.
I remember back in the day when my hippie friends started getting their FBI files under the Freedom of Information Act. I was always afraid to ask for mine, because I knew there wouldn't be one. How would I have faced my friends? Better not to know.
Yeah, well I have spent a certain amount of time here, I admit, denigrating and dismissing the Tea Party as a bunch of white geezers in costumes pissed off because Obama is black. I think I may even have used the phrase "tea party type" to convey a person who would rather not see the country survive if it means people of color get to survive, too.
But this week's revelations that the IRS targeted Tea Party groups for special investigation amounting to harassment have forced me to reconsider. If you can get the IRS to take you seriously as a political threat, you're serious.
On the other hand, maybe the IRS had its reasons.
This is grudging respect I pay. I do grudge. I still laugh at your costumes, but, man, I try not to even look at pictures of my own ilk and our costumes back in those times. Costumes may not stand the test of time, but government harassment does.
Look back. Whenever we fold back the pages of history to see what the feds were really doing and lying about, we find a wonderfully accurate negative image of what was important at the time. FBI agents sneaking around planting bugs on Martin Luther King Jr. so they could listen in on his sexual relations: What more emblematic evidence could there be of King's significance, of the threat he posed to an evil status quo or of the psychological mess that was the white mind of the time? It was all right there in the pattern of official oppression.
And, please, let's do look at the pattern. The trick, in fact, is in not getting hoodooed by the government's technical excuses. A certain drumbeat is already building to the effect that, well, you know, the Tea Party groups may have been trying to win a special status they didn't quite deserve and so the IRS was justified under the law ... blah, blah, blah. Yeah, bullshit. Look at the pattern.
In spite of numerous attempts to get them to do so, the IRS has not launched a similar campaign of investigation or challenge against huge money-machine political organizations like Crossroads GPS founded by Karl Rove or Priorities USA ("If Romney wins, we lose") with close ties to President Obama. I'm still waiting to see the list of small grassroots liberal clubs and organizations that were told to cough up their donor lists the way the Tea Party groups were.
Yes, the IRS will be able to cover its loins in some kind of legalistic fashion, but the truth is in the pattern. Why didn't the same logic work to propel them into battle against the huge politically wired moneybags groups or against small liberal organizations?
One story I read offered the excuse that the Tea Party groups were low hanging fruit. The IRS didn't want to go up against the Karl Rove/Obama-sized entities because those groups would be lawyered up and hard to fight. Bullshit again. Are you telling me the only low-hanging fruit in this country is consistently conservative?
Here's what really worries me when I look back at the history of these things. Back when presidents were still dumb enough to create audiotapes of Oval Office conversations, it always turned out when those tapes finally went public that it was just as the little people had suspected: The bugging and burglarizing of politically vulnerable groups was initiated at the very top.
Think about it. You're career IRS. You have a steady climb ahead up the GS ranks and a solid retirement to look forward to, as long as you don't screw up. Absent some kind of signal from above, how much incentive do you really have to launch a risky rogue adventure into politics? It tends to come from above.
So, like I say, Teapers, you are cooler than I thought. Respect. Truly. You must have been doing something good. I mean bad. I wanted to be bad back in the day. I got all excited once when I found out the Ann Arbor police department was looking for me, but it turned out to be about parking tickets. Hey, it was a LOT of parking tickets. But ... sigh ... obviously it was nothing even close to IRS harassment. Wow.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.
- The Cowboys' 5 Biggest Thanksgiving Turkeys
- Live From London: Your Holiday Weekend Weather Apocaforecast
- Oak Lawn Protesters Pick Fight With Philip Kingston