Conservatives have always belonged to our nation’s least sympathetic group: the unvictimized. The Republican Party is overwhelmingly white, Christian, straight and increasingly Southern. It is, at least in the minds of its critics, the party of the privileged oppressor.
It’s here that the unfolding IRS scandal involving the targeting and abuse of conservative groups has one little bit of a silver lining. For the first time in decades, it can now be proven that conservatives are the victims of government-mandated discrimination at the hands of America’s least popular government agency.
Say it loud and say it proud, conservatives: We are victims now, and damn does it feel good!
Let’s make the most of it. The Victimized, in our culture, enjoy an exalted status. We lend them an almost unimpeachable moral authority, and they can use that authority to make almost any demand. To criticize Victims, according to our accepted rules of debate, is to endorse the circumstances in which they were victimized, and therefore a tacit endorsement of oppression. “Victim” is America’s word for Holy, and their advocates are our saints, imbued with the power of determining the limits of public discourse and starting “national conversations” in which only one side is allowed to speak.
America’s cultural obsession with Victimhood has, up to now, existed for the sole benefit of the left. But it’s not like the right hasn’t made bids for Victim status before. Right-wing activists have, on occasion, tried to say that they are Victims of “reverse discrimination” via Affirmative Action or institutionalized liberal bias. Much of the Tea Party tried to define itself as a Victimized class of patriotic, hard-working, God-fearing Americans who had been taxed to near-extinction by big government.
Their rhetoric deliberately imitated the left’s and, although conservatives were able to ape their opponents’ shrill proclamations of outrage, the media still proved unwilling to view a movement dominated by white, middle-class Republicans as authentic Victims.
Thanks to the IRS, those same tea partiers can make a convincing case that they have been discriminated against, and it’s clear the left hasn’t quite figured out how to deal with this. Liberal journalists have the unenviable task of either defending a much-despised agency that has admitted wrongdoing or acknowledge that, yes, conservatives have been victimized en masse. Already conservatives are taking advantage of their new Victim status through a fundraising kick and questions about whether the 2012 election was even legitimate.
“Romney would’ve won,” some now tell themselves, “if only we hadn’t been disfranchised by that damn IRS.” This is the language of Victimhood, which is to say the language of rejecting responsibility.
But it would be unwise for conservatives to get used to this strange new sympathy from the media. The press is angry at Obama. They’re tired of the water-carrying and constant credulity that this White House demands of them. They’re tired of a president and Attorney General who clearly despise them. And although in the short term they will allow conservatives to claim the mantle of victimhood, eventually they’ll get tired of the right’s whining and remember which team they play for.
So enjoy it while it lasts, conservatives. Our national conversation about IRS abuses will end soon enough.