COMMENTARY | Glenn Reynolds, a law professor and the purveyor of Instapundit, has an oped in USA Today that shines a light on how the IRS scandal, in which the tax agency targeted people and groups for their political beliefs, has caused distrust in government.
Reynolds cites polling data that suggests that not only do most Americans agree that government officials broke the law in using the IRS as an instrument against President Obama’s political enemies, but that they will not suffer any consequences because of it.
This belief will not only impact compliance with the tax code, which is, despite IRS auditing, mainly based on voluntary compliance but also the very legitimacy of the Obama presidency. Reynolds quotes the Wall Street Journal’s James Tarento as writing, “We now know that government corruption — namely IRS persecution of dissenters — was a factor in Obama’s re-election.” And then a bone chilling conclusion, “The idea that Obama could not have won without an abusive IRS is entirely plausible.”
Tarento may be stretching a bit, since there were other factors involved in the president winning a second term, including a weak Republican candidate and a masterful get out the vote operation. But if the idea that Obama cheated to get a second term, in effect using an arm of the government to intimidate his opponents, were ever to take hold, then his entire position as a leader would be undermined.
The closest analogy to this was the belief among some that President George W. Bush was “selected not elected” after the 2000 Florida recount fiasco. Media recount efforts later showed that Bush would have won anyway even if the Supreme Court had not put a stop to the constant recounting. Also Bush’s popularity soared to stratospheric heights after the attacks on 9/11, tamping down on the hurt feelings of 2000.
Obama, on the other hand, is in a post reelection slide in popularity, edging into the low 40s in approval ratings. As the economic malaise, wrangling over Obamacare, and a deteriorating situation in the Middle East, continues apace, voters are going to wonder if the country has been saddled with an illegitimate administration that cheated its way back into office and is now incapable of governing. The implications will be deep and widespread.
As Reynolds would say, they told me that if I voted for Romney people would lose faith in their government and conclude that the president is illegitimate – and they were right!