ACORN has no one to blame but itself for the current round of trouble it's in. The social-service organization—the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now—got caught in the lens of a right-wing activist with its pants down, and now its federal funding is in jeopardy.
Though its shrill critics don't really want you to know this, ACORN has a long history of doing good for poor people across the country. It strives to protect them from forces much bigger and far more powerful. One of the ways it does this is by getting involved in the political process. It works to help elect liberal Democrats to public office, naturally, because conservative Republicans don't give a flying fuck about poor people. The more liberals are elected, the better off poor people are—of course groups like ACORN are political; why wouldn't they be?
Groups like ACORN get their power from sheer numbers, and the number of poor people of color in this country is growing. That's why right-wingers are threatened. And their fear has compelled them during the last few years to demonize ACORN. We saw this during the 2008 presidential election, when critics got a lot of political mileage out of allegations of voter-registration fraud, even though it was ACORN that was being cheated by its own employees, who were submitting phony registration cards to boost their own pay. (Furthermore, ACORN officials argue that the law in many states required them to submit questionable registration cards to local elections offices, and they say they flagged many suspicious cards.)
Now, a couple of young Republicans have used the old hidden-camera trick to catch several ACORN field-office workers dispensing some awfully sketchy advice to some awfully sketchy fictional characters. That recording people without their knowledge is a crime in many states is beside the point; given the hot light of scrutiny shining on ACORN, the group should have been taking more care to be squeaky-freakin' clean.
So, now, ACORN's political allies—the Democrats, including the president—have no choice but to join the call for a sweeping investigation, lest they be portrayed as puppets of a sinister, fraudulent organization using taxpayer money to advance left-wing political causes.
It would be disingenuous for CityBeat to call off the dogs on this one. If this were a right-wing organization collecting taxpayer money, we'd likely support an investigation. So, by all means, let the investigations begin.
You see, CityBeat strives to be consistent, because that's the only way we can expect to have credibility in the marketplace of public opinion. It's too bad ACORN's critics don't feel the same moral and ethical obligation. Take Congressman Darrell Issa, for example. He's waving around a House Oversight Committee report titled “Is ACORN Intentionally Structured as a Criminal Enterprise?” (Note to Darrell: Just because we have the ability to produce a report called “Does Darrell Issa Derive a Perverse Thrill from Wearing Pampers and a Baby Bonnet and Sucking on a Pacifier?” doesn't mean it's true.)
We don't recall Issa appearing on cable news and writing newspaper opinion pieces calling for unfettered investigations to determine the extent to which Dick Cheney manipulated foreign intelligence so that it created a case for invading Iraq and toppling a sovereign government. Republicans are running around with their hair aflame over ACORN getting $53 million in public money over a period of 15 years, but they were aghast when Democrats dared to call for an inquiry into the vice president's role in a series of lies that got us mired in a war that has cost nearly $700 billion, killed more than 4,300 American servicemen and women and caused an escalation of the war in Afghanistan.
Why wasn't Issa calling for a full public accounting of the run-up to war in the face of overwhelming evidence that executive-branch shenanigans were afoot? That's easy. Because the Republicans were in control of the government and an investigation wouldn't have helped the Republican Party. Issa and his ilk don't give a damn about taxpayer money; they care about undercutting liberal groups' ability to help get liberal politicians elected. (And, yes, Democrats are capable of this sort of thing, too, so, please, spare us those letters.)
The ACORN kerfuffle goes hand-in-hand with Republicans' nauseating rhetoric surrounding the healthcare debate. It's not about issues; it's about opposing the president and the Democrats in control of Congress and spinning the news of the day in hopes of winning back some districts in 2010. It never seems to be about sound public policy; it's always about political-party advantage. And it's becoming awfully painful to watch.
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