The use of the IRS to target conservative groups should be the least surprising development in years. Not only does that sort of thing date back to Clinton and JFK, both of whom unleashed the IRS on their enemies, not to mention Nixon who never managed to pull off the things that JFK grinned, did and got away with, but there was no reason for not to do it.
The two reasons not to sic the IRS on your enemies are decency and the law. Is there anything in Obama's career, including his treatment of fellow Democrats, to suggest that he cares for either one?
The man in the White House clawed his way to power by stabbing his mentor in the back, leaking the divorce records of his political opponents and throwing out the votes of Democrats in Florida and Michigan to claim the nomination.
And he was just getting started.
In the last election, Obama urged voters to punish our "enemies". It was a window into the mindset of a man who moans and groans about partisan politics, but talks like Huey Long when he gets in front of the right audience.
But these days the description is fairly apt. Who was the last president that both sides could agree was an okay sort of guy or something less than the devil incarnate? The answer might be George H. W. Bush, who was pilloried for being an out of touch rich guy, but really not all that bad when you think about it. And that means we have to go back two decades to find a president that the other side didn't think should be put on an ice floe and pushed out to sea.
And before Bush I, we would have to go back all the way to the Eisenhower or Truman era. Politics was never nice. It was often very nasty indeed. But this isn't the petty infighting of the political class anymore. We're not talking about Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr shooting it out or Eleanor Roosevelt driving a car with a teapot on its roof behind Theodore Roosevelt Jr to keep him away from the job that would eventually go to her husband. This is a partisan politics born out of ideology.
The old politics sought a status quo that could be tweaked to favor one side or interest. The new ideological politics seek a fundamental transformation that will entirely destroy the status quo and eventually tear out every element, overturn every trace of what was and replace it with what should be. Ideological partisanship of this stripe is not concerned with the stability of the system. It is not worried about burning bridges because it believes all the bridges will have to be burned anyway.
There is a limit to what any political movement can do out of greed or personal vendettas in a democracy, but there is no limit to what it can do when it combines these with a political ideology whose ends justify all means. There is nothing that it will not do because it is unconcerned with the long term consequences of its actions, only with the short term results. It has no long term investment in the existing system which it intends to destroy.
Corrupt ideologies treat men with no decency as valuable assets. Their lack of scruples proves their willingness to put ideology over all mores and norms. The more extreme the ideology, the fewer limits it accepts on its freedom of action against its enemies and the more such actions come to seem natural. And then why not punish your enemies by using the full force of government against them?
The practical reason for not using government agencies to repress your opposition in a democracy was that they might do the same thing to you. But the mobilization of the bureaucracy as an arm of the left has made that fear largely irrelevant. Using the IRS to target Democrats would be dangerous business for a Republican. And the same would go for every other Federal agency whose appointees may be loosely conservative, but oversee organizations stuffed full of liberals and union members.
There is no such deterrent on the other side. And the only remaining deterrent, the fear of public exposure was largely nullified by the media. The impression was that Obama Inc. could do anything it pleased and get away with it. And so it did.
A system of checks and balances only works if the participants are bound by some higher code than ideology. Ethics is no longer a defining code. Neither is Americanism or democracy or any of the other things that politicians made speeches about back in the 19th and 20th. The infrastructure of the left has eclipsed all other bonds and connections. It has collective goals and a power structure that runs through public and private organizations mobilized for a common purpose.
That renders the old rules mostly meaningless. Suggestions to be considered, if the various organs, the oversight groups, the bureaucracies and the media are in the mood. And if they are, then they may pay a little attention to the latest abuse of power. If they're not, they won't.
It's easy to compare Obama to Nixon, but the comparison is wrong. Nixon had lost faith in the entire idea of rules. He had floundered in a corrupt system for so long that he had to sacrifice everything he believed in to get ahead only to still be hemmed in on all sides. Obama never believed in rules and never compromised on anything except on a temporary basis. Nixon was angry, but Obama is blithe.
It's not a post-rules world. But it's a world where force determines which rules apply to whom.
Obama will illegally and unilaterally impose rules and laws on others, but he won't follow any rules or laws, even those in the Constitution. It's tyranny, but handled with a post-everything flair as if abuse of power is a dot com thing like not having a business model. Using the IRS to suppress rival political organizations is treated like one of those new data management techniques. Just another clever out-of-the-box tool in a game of everything goes.
And why shouldn't everything go?
Government isn't really an institution anymore, it's a toolset. If you break the tools, they can be replaced. Fire some people, hire consultants to rebrand or rename an entire agency and then you're back in business. History doesn't matter. Neither does the public trust. Everything exists only to fulfill the goals of the moment.
In the old politics, maintaining the institutions of government was the greater goal. In the new politics, government is a means to an end. The end may still be government, but it isn't a thing of institutions, but of ideologues. It doesn't matter whether it's 200 years or 200 minutes old. The 200 minutes old one is more likely to be up on the latest trends in nudging people into the right corners.
Technocrat ideologues don't value existing institutions and the left justifies its existence by destroying whatever exists in the name of reform.
Forward! means that are constantly moving ahead without looking back, except when it comes time to blame some current shortcoming on George W. Bush and his evil regime. It means that we are constantly destroying in the name of building. Everything must go so it can be remade in the more perfect image of the Harvard professors who know just how to do everything even if they have never done a thing in their life.
Obama is not a creature of the old partisan politics of a balance of power. He prefers imbalances. He chooses chaos. By exercising power he destroys and in his ideological sphere, that destruction is creative. Destroying health care will usher in national health care. Destroying public trust in government will usher in an even more oppressive government.
There is nothing American about the new partisan politics. They are purely Post-American, a breath of hot air from the coming system that will have no rules except power and no law except force. And this game is one in which the lack of a binding ideology is fatal.
To assume that your opponents have any decency, as the Republicans habitually do, is to be left behind in Politics 1.0. In Politics 2.0, the utter lack of decency is proof of integrity. To truly believe, you must have no ethics. To truly care about people, the environment, little children in the ghetto, polar bears, recycled rubber shoes, corporate welfare and LGBT workplaces, you must not have any standards when it comes to what you do.
In Partisan Nation, you would use the IRS against your enemies because it's there. And what else is it good for except reminding you that the taxpayers don't have enough money to cover a new light rail system across the country or free bikes for all? In Partisan Nation, trust doesn't matter because the default assumption is that everyone can be lied to non-stop or barraged with so much propaganda that they will do what they are supposed to. In Partisan Nation, America doesn't matter, winning does.