Daniel Ellsberg and Rush Limbaugh come at the Obama administration’s actions from different perspectives but they ultimately agree: The Obama government has staged or is staging a form of coup against the American people. Ellsberg believes the evidence for such a coup rests in the Edward Snowden leak of the NSA’s PRISM program. Limbaugh began to arrive at the conclusion that we’ve suffered a coup after the IRS abuse scandal broke, and PRISM locked him in:
We got the IRS starting in 2010 taking action to suppress the political involvement and ultimately votes of Tea Party people and conservative Republicans. This regime, this government, on the orders of the highest level. In fact, that investigation is ongoing. We have Fast and Furious. We have Obamacare. The evidence of the totalitarian nature or the authoritarian nature of this administration is on display undeniably every day and yet in the midst of this, “Well, don’t go off half cocked on this, Rush. Be very levelheaded. Nothing really to see,” as though there’s no context here.
There may be another way of looking at what’s happening. “Coup” implies a hostile takeover. Obama was already president when he took the actions that Ellsberg and Limbaugh describe as a “coup.” Whatever can be said of Obama’s election and re-election, he obtained the majority of the votes. The question is, how did he get them, and are all of them even legitimate votes? Relatedly, did he or his government take any action to suppress his legitimate opposition?
Hackers may or may not take over systems they hack, and may or may not have ill intent. Some hackers claim to be “white hats,” and only do what they do to point out to computer and software makers that their systems have holes that need to be plugged. Other “black hat” hackers hack systems to use them for illicit purposes. Gray hats like Anonymous seem to straddle both sides at times. Whatever their individual methods and purposes may be, hackers all have one thing in common. They identify and exploit their target system’s vulnerabilities. Some hacking is good, such as the Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. But what if someone turned a Stuxnet-style full spectrum hack against the American people?
Let’s look back at how Barack Obama may have exploited our constitutional system’s vulnerabilities.
ObamaCare never had popular support. It was passed along sharply partisan lines against the majority’s wishes, and stirred so much opposition that it cost the Democrats significant losses at the state and federal level in the 2010 mid-terms. It delivered a “shellacking,” in the president’s own words. That defeat changed the balance of power, but left ObamaCare intact, and ended up giving Obama a freer hand to continue to hack the system.
ObamaCare became part of the means by which he would exploit low-information voters and turn them out to vote for him in 2012. To many low-information voters, ObamaCare is free health care. It’s also free contraception and other free services, targeted to maximize its political benefit to Democrats. Rational people know that nothing is free, but not all people are rational. Some are perfectly rational but are fine with accepting benefits and services paid for by others, especially if those others are richer. Millions of Americans have been conditioned to envy and despise the rich. Democrats have played on race and class warfare for generations. When some people see the word “subsidy,” they don’t make the connection that someone else is paying for that, or if they do, it doesn’t bother them. They simply think it’s free for them, that they deserve and are entitled to the “free” benefit, and will vote for whoever is giving them the subsidy, and whoever is sticking it to those who are paying for the subsidy. As a community organizer, Obama’s early career was built on exploiting race and class warfare. He’s a trained expert on the subject. ObamaCare’s divisive effect on our politics was no accident. It was part of the plan.
Likewise the “Obama phone” and the sharp rise in welfare in the Obama era. Welfare use exploded to unprecedented levels in Obama’s first term. The USDA even advertised it to middle-class families who own their cars and homes and have jobs. The use of “Obama phones” doubled in just one year in one swing state, Ohio. Most Americans pay for their own cell phone service, but there are enough “Obama phone” users in Ohio alone — one million and counting — to hand that state to whoever guarantees that the “free” phone service keeps going. Republicans campaigning on even modest budget cuts become a threat to those million Ohioans, while Democrats consistently fight to spend more and more. Whom are the “Obama phone” customers most likely to vote for? Many of them had probably never voted before in their lives. Obama’s data-driven campaign not only found them, it got them to register and got some number of them out to vote purely to keep their “free” phones.
This is using government largesse to exploit voters and get them to turn out for an election they otherwise probably would not have cared about. Obama knew based on the polls that he needed to replace a large number of his 2008 voters who had become disillusioned or apathetic. So he bought new voters.
While we’re looking at Ohio, we should look at two additional things. After Republicans took control of several state legislatures in 2010, they set about passing voter ID laws. These laws were intended to address a vulnerability in our election system, namely, voter fraud. The Obama government’s reaction was to sue states to stop voter ID, claiming that such laws were racist. The vulnerability exploited here is the very real racist past across America, that came in the form of slavery and then poll taxes and Jim Crow. It mattered not at all that about 80% across all demographics support voter ID. What mattered was stopping an attempt to patch a hole in our election system. In 2012, one in five voter registrations in Ohio alone were bogus. Several precincts saw turnout exceed 100% of registration. The same thing happened in Pennsylvania, another swing state. Apart from essentially hacking the system by keeping a vulnerability open, how does this happen?
Now, let’s look at the IRS abuse. Democrats passed ObamaCare on March 21, 2010. Beginning within days of passing ObamaCare, the IRS began to target conservative, Tea Party, Christian, and Jewish groups for heavy scrutiny. That targeting began on April 1, 2010. During the entire period of abuse, liberal groups filing for tax-exempt status saw their applications sail through while hundreds of conservative groups were tied up by the bureaucrats. The targeting was systematic and invasive, and amounted to a political data collection and mining operation. The targeting itself had several effects. It suppressed these groups’ ability to fund-raise and spread their message. It kept some of the president’s opponents from organizing at all. Several have said that when the IRS faced them with the prospect of either divulging massive personal information or squaring off against the most feared civilian agency in the United States, they simply gave up. It tied up some of these groups’ funds and leaders in dealing with the IRS pestering rather than being focused on their actual purpose. It also helped the government build data on individuals and members in these groups. That in turn may have provided information used to hammer individuals like Catherine Engelbrecht with heavy inquiries from multiple federal executive branch agencies.
Look at these two effects side by side. On the one hand, Obama identifies and buys new voters and gets some of them to turn out for him in order to keep their “free” stuff. On the other hand, Obama benefits from the scramble that the IRS is creating among his opponents. The IRS abuse suppresses his opponents’ ability to challenge him. In a close election in which he had already bought enough new voters to replace those he lost from 2008, the two effects were enough to make the difference. So it’s less a coup than a hacking — turning a system’s vulnerabilities into opportunities.
The “shellacking” in the 2010 mid-terms, as I’ve mentioned, changed the balance of power but ultimately left Obama a freer hand to misbehave. The divided Congress became a system vulnerability that Obama could exploit, and he exploited it. He could and did focus on attacking the Republican-controlled House of Representatives relentlessly, making them the villains in every issue. The fact that they passed bill after bill and budget after budget while the Senate did nothing did not matter. The low-information voter pays very little attention to the daily political tussles in Washington. They generally trust whatever the president says. If he lies, they tend to believe him. The fact that half of the “do-nothing Congress” was in Democrat hands made no difference to millions of low-information voters.
At the same time, Obama could take any action he deemed beneficial to himself, secure because the Senate remained in Democrat hands. It takes both houses of Congress to take any meaningful action against a sitting president. No action would be taken against anything Obama does as long as Harry Reid controls the U.S. Senate. When Obama changed immigration law with the stroke of a pen in the months before the 2012 election, he knew he would benefit by exploiting some voters’ attitudes toward anything cast as immigration “reform,” while he knew that the divided Congress would not stop him. He is pushing Schumer-Rubio’s sham of an immigration reform bill now to change the political landscape in his and the Democrats’ favor for generations to come. Passing that bill into law might be Obama’s final act in hacking the system.