The left’s political methods make Gov. Christie look like Little Bo Peep.

There haven’t been so many reporters chasing a story in Trenton, N.J., since Washington crossed the Delaware. But compared with the methods the Democratic Party is using now to take down its opponents, Chris Christie looks like Little Bo Peep.
Gov. Christie’s hyper-political aides ordered traffic jams in neighborhoods near the perpetually backed-up George Washington Bridge to annoy the mayor of Fort Lee. And they may have canceled meetings with the mayor of Jersey City because he wouldn’t endorse Mr. Christie. Oh my.

Wonder Land columnist Dan Henninger on why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s scandal pales in comparison with Democratic attempts to eliminate political opposition. Photo: Getty Images

The Christie bonfire has burned for a week. In that same week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI found nothing in the IRS’s targeting of conservative political groups that warrants criminal charges.

This conclusion struck lawyers Jay Sekulow and Cleta Mitchell as fairly amazing. Both represent conservative groups targeted by the IRS, and they say the FBI only recently got in touch with a few of their clients.

Thus, two of the most powerful public institutions in the U.S.—the FBI and the IRS—have concluded no harm, no foul, and the memory hole swallows the Obama administration’s successful kneecapping of the GOP’s most active members just as they prepared to participate in the 2012 presidential campaign. Many—ruined or terrified by the IRS probes—shut down. Mr. Obama won.

One may be thankful that corners of the U.S. judiciary remain intact and unintimidated. Late last week, a judge in Wisconsin slowed down what was essentially a Democratic prosecutor’s star-chamber investigation of conservative groups that supported Republican Gov. Scott Walker. A special prosecutor armed with subpoena power had been poring over the groups’ finances, while a gag order stopped the groups from saying they were his targets.

On Friday, a court quashed some of the subpoenas for lack of probable cause. That’s good, but don’t expect to see Friends of Scott Walker going on offense any time soon. Legal pistol-whippings by state prosecutors can have that effect, win or lose.

Worth noting is what the IRS’s political audits and the attempted takedown of the pro-Walker groups have in common: Both took place essentially out of public view.

An event like Chris Christie’s traffic jam is the Internet’s version of bread and circuses. What the Democrats’ left-wing activists have learned is that most of the time the Web’s political media beasts are sleeping. It’s most opportune during those periods of non-attention to use modern media technology not just to hit one’s opponents, but to drive them from politics.

Ask ALEC.

ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-of-center group of state legislators who gather to compare notes on public-policy issues. The group’s ultimate goal is to create templates for bills to enact their policy ideas, such as reforming state public-pension obligations.

Because this process gets laws passed, the left has created organizations whose job is to take down ALEC by frightening its financial supporters.

In December, articles appeared on progressive websites attacking GoogleFacebook and Yelp for participating in ALEC’s annual conference last year. The Web giants wanted to explore various Internet legal issues with the state legislators.

A coalition that included the Sierra Club, RootsAction and the Center for Media and Democracy said it outputted 230,000 petition signatures in a “Don’t Fund Evil” drive to separate Google from “right-wing extremists” at ALEC, whose sin is “climate denial.” The Sierra Club’s site says Kraft, GE and McDonald’s pulled away from ALEC in the past under pressure. To date, none of the Web companies have done so.

The Internal Revenue Service building at the Federal Triangle complex in Washington. Associated Press

In coverage of the effort on a FastCompany website, one activist remarked: “It’s definitely a reputational risk for these forward-looking companies like Google and Facebook and Yelp to keep their membership in ALEC.”

Reputational risk? That’s right.

In 2012, when ALEC got caught up in the controversy over the Trayvon Martin shooting and stand-your-ground laws, progressives saw a chance to brand the legislative group’s corporate supporters as anti-black.

Here’s the audio transcript of a radio ad created by ColorOfChange about CVS pharmacies, which supported ALEC: “CVS, when you hear that name, do you think of the law that protected Trayvon Martin’s killer? Or laws that suppress the black vote.” The ad never ran. But copies of the ad were mailed to CVS, John Deere, HP, WalgreensBest Buy,BP and a dozen others. All disassociated from ALEC.

This is the Democratic left’s modus operandi. In early December, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) sent a letter to the heads of J.P. MorganBank of America,Goldman SachsCitigroupWells Fargo and Morgan Stanley, asking them to reveal any contributions to “private think tanks.” Her goal, she said, was “transparency.”

No, the purpose is to surface any such association so the cadres can move in and use the Web, mass Twitter feeds, shareholder resolutions and media campaigns to drive private companies out of the political arena, leaving politics in the control of public-sector interests—i.e., the state rules.

Threatening companies that participate in politics with reputational destruction is the American left’s version of Maoist shaming sessions. Modern Red Guards don’t hang signs around your neck. Their weapon of choice is modern media. In this league, a political traffic jam is the work of amateurs.

Write to henninger@wsj.com

 

By

DANIEL HENNINGER
 Jan. 15, 2014
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