Updated: September 29, 2013 6:10AM
Liberals find many dark chapters in U.S. history, and one of them was the “Red scare” era of the late 1940s and ’50s. That was the epoch of the Hollywood 10, the blacklist against artists with suspected far-left-wing leanings and people hauled before Congress to answer the question: “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” These days, conservatives wonder whether they are becoming prey to a nascent 21st century version of that kind of witch hunt to delegitimize their politics.
No, I’m not suggesting that there is anything near the level of intolerance for unorthodox political thought that existed in the days of the House Un-American Activities Committee. And voices on the right have not been silenced. But conservatives increasingly see their political dissent in the cross hairs of powerful forces in government and its liberal allies.
Given the HUAC history, conservatives are amazed by the ho-hum attitude of the left and the mainstream media toward the Internal Revenue Service abuse of Tea Party groups.
Most media see it as a “phony scandal.” The American Civil Liberties Union took note of it by citing a charge against the George W. Bush administration, condemned any “selective enforcement” of tax law and pretty much accepted the assertion that the targeting of conservatives “may very well have been the result of overwork and a lack of supervision.” It even praised IRS senior official Lois Lerner for apologizing. As far as I can tell from its website, the ACLU has been silent on her subsequent refusal to testify to Congress and invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination, evidence of her bias against right-wing groups, and the Democratic political leanings of IRS staff and their union.
More recently, Dick Durbin, one of the most powerful members of the U.S. Senate, has set his sights on the American Legislative Exchange Council. The ALEC focuses on fiscal issues in state legislatures but did support stand-your-ground laws that have been adopted by many states.
Such laws have been the focus of much controversy after the Trayvon Martin case, although Florida’s statue was not a factor in the trial. Durbin wrote 300 companies and organizations that donate to ALEC asking their position on the laws. Durbin tried to frame this as a “transparency” issue, saying the donors may not be aware of ALEC’s support of the laws. Why didn’t he just tell the donors of ALEC’s position instead of asking for their views?
Conservatives understandably see Durbin using the racial undertones of the Martin case to intimidate controversy-averse corporations and groups from donating to the ALEC, which has been effective in promoting free-market principles in state capitals. Confirming that suspicion is Durbin’s declaration that he will make the donor responses public in the record of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing. In a chilling evocation of another era, Durbin asks, Do you now or have you ever supported stand-your-ground laws?
All this dovetails with the invidious campaign of President Barack Obama’s acolytes in the media to smear conservative opposition to him as racist. It’s based on the preposterous notion that if a white Democrat were president, conservatives would embrace, say, KerryCare. Or they would have no objections to Bidenphones. Or that a Hillary Clinton mega-expansion of food stamps and gutting of welfare reform would be OK. By the way, has everyone forgotten the battle over HillaryCare?
Conservatives have reason to see a growing campaign of intolerance by Washington and liberals aimed at demonizing dissent on the right.