The IRS Targeting Scandal Was Hugely Important, and Not a Scandal

The real scandal is this logo. By United States Department of the Treasury [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Today we learned definitively that the “scandal” involving the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups was never really a partisan scandal at all. The IRS used similar methodology in establishing criteria that resulted in the flagging of both liberal-leaning and conservative-leaning groups for extra scrutiny. It was poorly designed oversight policy applied equally to all groups. The policies should have been changed, and they were, and the people responsible for them should have been held accountable, and they were.

It sounds boring (it is), but if you haven’t been following this story closely it’s difficult to explain just how important this “scandal” has been in Republican politics. It has supplied much of the outrage energy necessary for a political coalition based on little but cultural and racial grievances.

Scandals that weren’t actual scandals were really all Republicans had during Barack Obama’s presidency. Republican framing of issues like “death panels,” “IRS-targeting,” and Benghazi were incoherent nonsense and transparently so. This should have been clear to anyone not irredeemably lost to the Fox News bubble, but Republicans were very effective at weaponizing their bullshit. By using these “scandals” to stoke the prejudices and grievances of its base of white people, the Republican Party was able to continue winning elections off this angry energy without developing a policy agenda (beyond taking away a woman’s right to choose her own health care).

I don’t know what we can do to prevent this stuff in the future. Maybe it’s a good first step to expose this nonsense and put reasonable people on notice that many of what Republicans push as “scandals”  are nothing more than lies, disingenuous interpretations of events, or the banality of complexity in government administration.



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