The country is drowning in the scandals of the Obama
IRS harassment and sabotage of conservative groups
2. the mysterious
Benghazi failures and lies
treatment as a criminal of the Fox News reporter
snooping into the Associated Press telephone calls
5. the Pigford
Of all these scandals, my guess is that the Benghazi
affair is the one that will provide an impeachable offense, but it is the IRS
scandal that will awaken the American people and consume Obama’s second term.
If you accept the methodology of the study discussed below, the
IRS sabotage of Tea Party groups was a major factor in Obama’s 2012 win over
Romney. This study suggests that over 5
million votes were denied Romney, and in states that would have voted for him.
Yes, IRS Harassment Blunted The Tea Party Ground Game
over the IRS's harassment of conservative groups continues. President Obama's
team continues to blame low-level bureaucrats. Some conservatives suspect a
more sinister explanation: that the levers of government were used to attack an
existential threat to the president's 2012 reelection. The president and his
party dismiss this as a paranoid fantasy. The evidence, however, is enough to
make one believe that targeting Tea Party groups would have been an effective
campaign strategy going into the 2012 election cycle.
It is a
well-known fact that the Tea Party movement dealt the president his famous
"shellacking" in the 2010 mid-term election. Less well-known is the
actual number of votes this new movement delivered-and the continuing effects
these votes could have had in 2012 had the movement not been de-mobilized by
In a new research paper,
Andreas Madestam (from Stockholm University), Daniel Shoag and David
Yanagizawa-Drott (both from the Harvard Kennedy School), and I set out to find
out how much impact the Tea Party had on voter turnout in the 2010 election. We
compared areas with high levels of Tea Party activity to otherwise similar
areas with low levels of Tea Party activity, using data from the Census Bureau,
the FEC, news reports, and a variety of other sources. We found that the effect
was huge: the movement brought the Republican Party some 3-6 million additional
votes in House races. That is an astonishing boost, given that all Republican
House candidates combined received fewer than 45 million votes. It demonstrates
conclusively how important the party's newly energized base was to its
landslide victory in those elections, and how worried Democratic strategists
must have been about the conservative movement's momentum.
The Tea Party
movement's huge success was not the result of a few days of work by an elected
official or two, but involved activists all over the country who spent the year
and a half leading up to the midterm elections volunteering, organizing,
donating, and rallying. Much of these grassroots activities were centered
around 501(c)4s, which according to our research were an important component of
the Tea Party movement and its rise.
The bottom line
is that the Tea Party movement, when properly activated, can generate a huge
number of votes-more votes in 2010, in fact, than the vote advantage Obama held
over Romney in 2012. The data show that had the Tea Party groups continued to
grow at the pace seen in 2009 and 2010, and had their effect on the 2012 vote
been similar to that seen in 2010, they would have brought the Republican Party
as many as 5 - 8.5 million votes compared to Obama's victory margin of 5
Obama's margin of victory in some of the key swing states was fairly small: a
mere 75,000 votes separated the two contenders in Florida, for example.
That is less than 25% of our estimate of what the Tea Party's impact in Florida was in 2010.
Looking forward to 2012 in 2010 undermining the Tea Party's efforts there must
have seemed quite appealing indeed.
for Republicans, the IRS slowed Tea Party growth before the 2012 election. In
March 2010, the IRS decided to single Tea Party groups out for special
treatment when applying for tax-exempt status by flagging organizations with
names containing "Tea Party,"
"patriot," or "9/12." For the next two years,
the IRS approved the applications of only four such groups,
delaying all others while subjecting the applicants to highly intrusive,
intimidating requests for information regarding their activities, membership,
contacts, Facebook posts, and private thoughts.
consequence, the founders, members, and donors of new Tea Party groups found
themselves incapable of exercising their constitutional rights, and the Tea
Party's impact was muted in the 2012 election cycle. As Toby Marie Walker, who
runs the Waco Tea Party, which filed for tax-exempt status in 2010 but didn't
receive approval until two months ago, recounted recently: "Our donors dried up. It
was intimidating and time-consuming." The Richmond Tea Party went through
a similar ordeal, and was only granted tax-exempt status in December, right
after the election--three years after its initial request. Its chairman explained the consequences:
the episode cost the Richmond Tea Party $17,000 in legal fees and swallowed
time the all-volunteer network would have devoted to voter turnout, outreach in
black and Latino neighborhoods and other events to highlight the constitution
and "the concept of liberty."
It might be
purely accidental that the government targeted precisely this biggest threat to
the president. It may just be that a bureaucracy dominated by liberals picked
up on not-so-subtle dog whistles from its political leadership. Or, it might be
that direct orders were given. In any case, it doesn't take a conspiracy
theorist to note that the president's team was competent enough to recognize
the threat from the Tea Party and take it seriously.
The Obama campaign has
made no secret of its efforts to revolutionize turnout models for the most
recent campaign. Its remarkable competence turning out its own voters has been
widely discussed, and it seems quite plausible that efforts to suppress the
Republican vote would have been equally sophisticated.
We may never
know to what exact extent the federal government diverted votes from Governor
Romney and thus, how much it influenced the course of a presidential election
in the world's oldest democracy. At the very least, however, Americans of all
political persuasions can be forgiven for a little cynicism when the president
has the nerve to say, as he did on May 5th in his commencement address to
graduates of the Ohio State University: "You've grown up hearing voices that
incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister
entity that's at the root of all our problems. You should reject these
voices." And that cynicism, that lack of trust in the country's governing
institutions, becomes harmful quite easily: when the people are asked to have
faith in the NSA's efforts to protect the nation from terrorist threats, for
Stan Veuger is
an economist at the American Enterprise Institute.
Labels: Obama, Politics