A great deal of the US’s news coverage is now riveted upon the trifecta of scandals engulfing the Obama Administration, Benghazi, the IRS, and press interference. All agree that these wrongful acts (or crimes) did take place. Everyone seems to have the same burning question: whodunit? One can only hope that justice will prevail; the innocent will be proven innocent, and the guilty will be proven guilty.
At such times, it is extremely important to uphold the basic democratic ideal that all people are innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, one who is presumed innocent is entitled to the full measure of respect he would have otherwise been accorded. This means, that unless shown to have committed a crime, Barack Obama should be spoken and written about in the tone of deference due the holder of his high office. He is the sitting President of the United States.
What happened at the IRS seems the most troubling of the three issues. Using the US’s ostensibly even handed tax enforcement powers to crush politically unfriendly elements is something one would expect from a Third World tin-pan dictatorship – not a democratically elected government. It is a deadly assault on the freedom Americans have always cherished.
Did these IRS actions influence the 2012 election outcome? It depends on how much traction the Tea Party and other Conservative groups would have gained among the American public had they not been harassed by the IRS. This is impossible to know for sure. Recent history however demonstrates that ideologies and movements can catch on and capture the public’s imagination very quickly. Think of the Occupy Wall Street movement. What they were advocating was nothing short of an unlawful Stalinist wealth distribution. Yet, over a period of just several months, they earned a startling measure of mainstream acceptance. Had the Tea Party (which does not advocate lawlessness) similarly rocketed to prominence prior to the 2012 election, it would have no doubt exerted a MAJOR influence upon the electoral results. Whether or not this would have actually happened is impossible to know for sure.
Here’s where Lance Armstrong comes in. Mr. Armstrong won an unheard of seven Tour de France races and was considered the greatest cyclist who ever lived. Then, after it became known that he took performance-enhancing substances, he was retroactively stripped of all his medals, which were then awarded to the second place finisher. Nobody said: “Well, perhaps Lance might have won even without the drugs, so maybe he should keep them.” It just doesn’t work that way. Because he cheated, the victories were automatically nullified. Similarly a boxer found with lead in his gloves would never be considered the winner of a match.
Why shouldn’t this basic principle apply to the 2012 elections? Very few people have thus far been proven complicit in any wrongdoing, and they should therefore be considered innocent. The fact however remains that really “bad stuff” did take place. Tea Party and Conservative groups and even Republican donors were targeted and harassed. If so, the Democratic 2012 election victories should be viewed like Lance Armstrong on steroids finishing first or a knockout punch with a weighted glove.
The election results in overwhelmingly Democratic areas such as Massachusetts would likely not have been affected by a more robust Tea Party. But who can say for sure that a resurgent Conservatism would not have changed the outcome of many elections that were won by less than 10% of the popular vote. I therefore represent that the US should consider retroactively overturning all 2012 Democratic election victories won by a margin of under 10%.
Seemingly, the Democrats should do so voluntarily. The public’s sense of integrity demands that even something so relatively trivial as a bicycle race trophy should not be awarded when there was cheating going on that MIGHT have influenced the outcome. Adhering to this standard should be all the more mandated when it comes to the positions of US leadership that were determined by the 2012 election.
Rabbi D.B. Ganz is the author of Uncommon Sense, a book that applies ancient Jewish thinking and wisdom to many modern political issues. He blogs at rabbiganz.com.