Where might an enterprising, public-spirited I.R.S. agent get the idea that a Tea Party group deserved more scrutiny from the government than the typical band of activists seeking tax-exempt status? Oh, I don’t know: why, maybe from all the prominent voices who spent the first two years of the Obama era worrying that the Tea Party wasn’t just a typically messy expression of citizen activism, but something much darker — an expression of crypto-fascist, crypto-racist rage, part Timothy McVeigh and part Bull Connor, potentially carrying a wave of terrorist violence in its wings.
You see, the massive spike in white supremacist activity and sovereign citizen groups, the major jump in Secret Service investigations of people making threats against the President, the folks screaming that Obama is the Kenyan Usurper, the Republican party officials sending racist emails about the President and his wife and kids,the accusations that Obama is a Socialist/Communist/Terrorist Muslim plant here to destroy our way of life...that has nothing to do whatsoever with conservatives or the Tea Party movement, because Ross Douthat says so. And you should be ashamed for thinking otherwise.
The historical term for this kind of anxiety is “Brown Scare” — an inordinate fear of a vast far-right conspiracy, which resembles the anti-Communist panics of our past. As the historian Philip Jenkins wrote in 2009, Brown Scares no less than Red Scares recur throughout American history. They fasten on real-enough phenomena, from homegrown fascist sympathizers in the 1930s to the militia movements in the 1990s, but then wildly exaggerate both the danger these extremists pose and their ties to the conservative mainstream.
See, liberals are the conspiracy freaks and nutjobs! You all think there's a concerted effort to criminalize women making medical decisions about their bodies, to roll back voting eligibility among the poor, minorities, and the elderly, to criminalize the enforcement of and to nullify federal gun control laws at the state level, to criminalize LGBTQ Americans as second-class citizens who cannot marry those whom they love, and that the fringe elements that Douthat disavows aren't being completely embraced by potential 2016 presidential candidates in the GOP. All of those things are filthy lies being told to you by the mainstream liberal media, clearly.
But moods and prejudices linger even after panics recede. The I.R.S. and the conservative movement have never been on the best of terms, and perhaps the recent abuses just reflect that longstanding tension. But I suspect it’s more than that, and that this episode will be remembered as one of the last embarrassments produced by our era’s Brown Scare.
Years from now we'll all have a good laugh after these sane, not-insane, not-bigoted, completely average Republican conservatives impeach the President over the events of this week and eventually liberals will learn that they brought this upon themselves by going after white male conservatives, and then everything (and everyone) will be in their rightful place. Just like 2001-2008.
You'll thank Ross for showing you the way. And finally, white male conservatives will know the freedom they've always been entitled to.