ACORN, which was in many ways the right wing’s Roadrunner during the last election, has finally been brought down, and by the unlikeliest of hunters: a weedy kid with an anti-big-government agenda and his partner*, who used a shoestring budget, a video camera, and possibly the least convincing costumes in history to get ACORN personnel on tape in five different offices across the nation not only offering to help with tax fraud, but to launder a pimp’s incoming funds, and aid and abet child sex slavery of all things. Karl Rove in his wildest dreams would never have imagined that such a thing was actually possible, which is probably why it took two independent activists to do it and why it wasn’t any media organization, left-leaning or right. In terms of political plausibility, it’s as though a random citizen had suddenly emerged with ironclad proof that not only was Barack Obama not a legal US citizen, he had actually attended Muslim Terrorist School until he was eighteen. It’s cartoonish in its extremity, not only in the amateurism of the investigators, but in the degree of corruption they revealed. It’s enough to seem unreal, which is probably why the majority of the media chose to play dead until dragged kicking and screaming into relevancy by Fox and Jon Stewart, of all people.
Saying that this is a gift to the Right is kind of like saying the current President tans more easily than the last one. From Andrew Breitbart, whose career was just effectively rocket-launched, to Michelle Malkin conservatives are absolutely thrilled about this. ACORN seemed impossible to touch just a year ago; no matter how many voter-fraud indictments they garnered, or obviously and ludicrously faked voter registrations they tossed about, nothing seemed to stick to them in any permanent fashion, and it was equally impossible to stick Obama with association with them no matter how he touted his “community organizer” credentials. Now they don’t just have bad publicity, they have publicity as being perfectly fine with child sex slavery. The only way it could get worse is if the ACORN officers had offered to inject the kids with AIDS just for shits and giggles. The House has voted to yank their funding, California is launching a probe after the most embarrassing tape of all was filmed in the San Diego office, and New York has also moved to suspend all contracts. It remains to be seen if ACORN will truly die or even be substantially crippled by this; if they escape either fate they truly will qualify as nearly untouchable. As it is, they’ve rather hampered their efforts at damage control by adopting the “It never happened, this one guy made us do it, we were misrepresented, we’ll clean our own house, you just hate minorities!” defenses all at the same time, which has come off about as credibly as the same approach usually does with small children and ransacked cookie jars.
In the wake of all of this, an interesting mix of reactions has emerged on the left; the most common has been “Something happened with ACORN? Hadn’t heard it”, which the President himself has adopted. A sadly much less common reaction has been disgust and horror. But the really odd and disturbing one has been various ways of defending ACORN, usually with the framing that this is some kind of nefarious right-wing plot to discredit them. The yeah-but tactics I’ve seen so far include:
“ACORN only gets a little federal money anyway”.
I guess aiding and abetting slavery would be laudably entrepreneurial if they didn’t get any, then.
“Lots of groups/politicians the right likes have been caught out in corruption”
Is there a corruption exchange system? Can you trade a tolerated and federally funded amount of sexually harassing young male interns for a tolerated and federally funded amount of slavery and then everything would be cool?
“This is racially motivated.”
Yes, because child sex slavery run by white people is a treasured ethnic expression of diversity that ACORN was targeted for standing up for.
“One of the activist’s father is a conservative Christian on the record as disliking Obama!”**
Well then, both the tapes and ACORN’S reaction are obviously fake if this is true!
“Why are you so eager to persecute an organization that helps poor minorities afford housing?!”
Because they’re also giving them tips on how to store their slaves properly in the houses they’re advising tax fraud to get?
People are tribal animals, and this tends to show especially starkly in political matters, which are generally about one part ideology to three parts tribal affiliation. Politics definitely has its game-like aspects to it in the way that people manipulate public perception and support, both of causes and individuals championed and those opposed; when people talk about the “right-wing noise machine” or the “liberal media”, they’re not really wrong, although they are talking as though either side had a uniform hold on their particular brands, which they generally don’t. Right-wing and left-wing agendas both exist, and both sides spin their own downfalls as well as they can and the other’s as severely as they can. All of this is true.
However, political games aren’t all there is to life, and politics is not some kind of national team sport. When you fuck up, or clearly and consciously do something morally wrong, whether or not being caught at it would benefit your opponents has absolutely no bearing on the rightness or wrongness or fucked-upness of whatever it is that you did. It doesn’t MATTER that Giles and O’Keefe are conservatives, or that they’re amateurs, or that Giles’s father is a hard right Christian pastor. It doesn’t matter if conservatives are right or wrong about the exact amount of federal dollars that ACORN got, and it also doesn’t matter that conservative-favored groups and individuals have also done wrong things and fucked up in various ways. The right didn’t damage ACORN; ACORN did all the damage to itself when it chose to champion its “clients” no matter what, up to and including giving helpful tips on how to hide slavery in your taxes. All Giles, O’Keefe, and Fox News did was shine a light on it. Likewise, the right didn’t damage Democrats by association; the Democratic Party did that when they chose to keep their ties to ACORN no matter how much evidence mounted that ACORN was corrupt. They almost certainly didn’t realize HOW corrupt, but they also showed zero interest in finding out.
Why didn’t the Democrats smell the shit before it got on them in such a public way? Probably they liked ACORN’s get out the vote efforts too much to turn away, even though they were often being cheated themselves by them. (Most of the voter fraud ACORN’s actually been convicted of has been of the “pretend to do work and get paid for it” variety.) Probably they really enjoyed seeing their opponents angry and frustrated and didn’t care to do anything to validate them. Probably they agreed with ACORN that they really were untouchable. Probably they were just arrogant and lazy, but no matter what the reason, ACORN’s corruption behaved like all ignored political problems; it appeared to go away, but that was just because it was getting behind the Democrats for a better angle to bite them hard in the ass. In any case, if the left wants someone to blame for any political damage done to them, that’s where the blame belongs- the right could never in their most orgasmic fantasies invent something as toxic as a prominent leftist organization agreeing to abet child sex slavery on tape. Five times in five different major offices.
Lastly, it doesn’t matter how much good work ACORN has ever done; it mattered that they had so fully embraced the “team sport” of leftists and minorities versus everyone else that they were willing to consider aiding their clients in anything, no matter how morally repugnant. When you do something monstrous, that defines you as a monster, and all the non-monstrous things you’ve ever done cease to be as relevant as the monstrous thing. You’ll hear some conservatives lament about the tragedy that Nixon’s entire career was defined by Watergate, and maybe he wasn’t such a terrible executive, but that’s not what’s most relevant about him; the relevant thing was how far he went to lie, cheat, steal, and cover with the full power of the White House. After that it wouldn’t really matter if he had ended the Cold War personally, he would still be primarily defined in history as a power-mad and criminal executive.
I hate to keep pounding on the word lest it be even further drained of its meaning, but the relative frequency of this reaction means I need to: ACORN was caught out as being systematically willing to endorse and support slavery. Not wage-slavery, real life honest to god ownership of children to be used for sex. If you find yourself defending them or feeling sorry for them in any way, shape, or form, no matter your politics: you need to step the fuck away from the game and live a life entirely divorced from politics for awhile. When you stop being able to politically object in the strongest possible terms to slavery, with no caveats or yeah-buts or but-theys, then you’re already heading down the road as being as soul-dead and corrupt as the ACORN officers.
*Originally I said “girlfriend”. Where I got this idea I’m not sure, except possibly “embarrassingly sexist assumption”.
**Sadly, this one is from the fucking Washington Post, as is the “but they get less money from the government than conservatives claim” defense. Sad, no?