Watergate! Really?

George Will in “Echoes of WatergateIRS cartoon,” compares the IRS scrutiny of tea party groups to Watergate, a nadir moment for Republicans. Watergate was President Nixon’s attempt to subvert the two-party system—or in essence, our democracy. Personally, it seems odd that Republicans bring up their worst scandal as a way of illustrating potential political wrongdoing in a Democratic administration.

Mr. Will should know from Politics 101 that the bureaucracy is a separate power center for government policy, like Congress, lobbyists, or the military. As part of the bureaucracy, IRS employees make decisions, sometimes bad ones. Yes, the IRS is part of the executive branch of government, but chances that the White House reached down several bureaucratic layers to an IRS office in distant Cincinnati seem far-fetched. Mr. Will offers no proof of a White House-IRS connection, so the echoes of Watergate would appear inaudible.

The tea party and conservative chorus make the echoes of Watergate seem stronger than they are in reality. Frankly, it is in their interest. A negative campaign based on IRS overreach may reward tea party “victims” in elections in 2013 (Virginia governor) and 2014 (House & Senate). We will see if this purported scandal has legs to go the distance. But even though the IRS is a favorite whipping boy and easy target, this negative campaign may not bring the success that Republicans seek.

Musings on the South Carolina 1st District House Race

The special election today between Elizabeth Colbert Busch (Democrat) and Mark Sanford (Republican) should be interesting–in a geopolitical way. In 2011, the 1st district was changed significantly in its extent compared to 2001, and it now reaches south of Charleston rather than north (see maps below). Some new areas added to the 1st district are not as Republican.

Representative Tim Scott won reelection in 2012 in the redrawn 1st district with 62% of the vote (down from 66% in 2010). Yes, still impressive, but down about 4 points. Representative Scott had the advantage of incumbency and money, raising $1.6 million–versus $157,000 for his Democratic opponent. Mr. Sanford does not have the money advantage in this election. The 1st district is considered a safe Republican district, but special elections can produce surprises.

The new geographical extent of the 1st district may produce more votes from minorities and women, especially Republican women (like Jenny Sanford). The district’s largest paper, the Charleston Post and Courier, endorsed Colbert Busch; Sanford was endorsed by Larry Flynt.

I am posting this before the polls close in South Carolina. Media reports indicate a close race. We will see how close.

Websites on Geography

Geography at NVCC: www.nvcc.edu/campuses-and-centers/loudoun/academic-divisions/communication/geoscience/geography

Association of American Geographers, largest professional & academic geographical organization in the United States: http://www.aag.org/

National Geographic Society, the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organization: http://www.nationalgeographic.com

Cartography & Geographic Information Society: http://www.cartogis.org

270 to Win, create your own map predicting the 2012 election–resources include past (2000, 2004, 2008) state votes in presidential elections and current presidential polls by state: http://www.270towin.com