Why Steve Lynch and Other Democrats Are Helping Their Party By Yelling at the IRS

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 22 2013 1:27 PM

Why Steve Lynch and Other Democrats Are Helping Their Party By Yelling at the IRS

Massachusetts Rep. Steve Lynch got one of the first berths at today's House Oversight hearing. He used it to tear bloody chunks out of the IRS. The Republican National Committee actully outpaced Lynch and posted the video first.

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Why did Republicans enjoy the Lynch riff? One reason is pure trolling. Lynch lost a U.S. Senate primary to less-conservative Rep. Ed Markey, as everyone expected; Republicans, who never seriously considered Lynch a greater threat than Markey,* are trying to goad Democrats into thinking they passed over a solid candidate and picked Coakley II.

But Lynch and the Democrats are getting the better of this. Over the past week, they've nudged the IRS story from a "White House scandal" or a "Democratic scandal" back to... well, to an IRS scandal. A week ago they were watching stories like this, local reporters buying into the idea that Democrats had goaded the IRS into investigating Tea Party groups. This was pretty risible. Now it's over. Democrats can join the GOP in pronouncing the scandal the work of some bungling IRS agents.

Some Republicans realize that the story has evolved. "We keep asking whether the president knew or didn't know," said Rep. Raul Labrador at a Wednesday roundtable/luncheon with fellow conservatives. "I'm a conservative because I abhor big government." His point was that tying the scandal to individual Democrats wasn't terribly productive, and Republicans needed to focus on the over-arching outrage that the IRS existed and was accruing more power. That wasn't Lynch's focus.

*Lynch was pro-life and pro-Keystone, and Democrats worried that he'd depress turnout or -- at best -- be an unreliable senator. Early on, the NRSC was attacking Markey, not Lynch, in the hopes that a bruising primary would weaken the frontrunner. It only sort of worked. Since then, Republicans have insisted that Democrats threw away an easy election by picking the reliable liberal. In Massachusetts. I know, I don't get it either.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.