Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
The past few days have seen a flurry of news reports on how Republican congressional representatives are abandoning Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge.” Senators Saxby Chambliss, Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Jeff Sessions, and Representatives John Boehner, Peter King and Eric Cantor have stated, in one form or another, that pragmatism takes precedence over a pledge that they signed to appease an organization whose founder has never held public office. Democrats, who have long envied Norquist’s influence and blame him for the obstinacy of the Republicans on fiscal matters, expressed unalloyed joy at these apparent defections. I, however, propose that not only are the Democrats and liberals delusional but that it would be foolish to discount Norquist’s continuing influence on the conservative movement and the Republican Party.
Grover Norquist is the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), an organization that “opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle.” Most people outside Washington, DC, know ATR and Norquist for their “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”, which “oppose(s) any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and … any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.” Norquist’s other achievements include co-authoring the Contract with America and being a key member of the team that developed the Bush tax cuts. His influence also extends outside Washington as ATR recruits state and local politicians and hosts regular meetings around the country that espouse their conservative policies. Finally, Norquist is a pretty decent public speaker – he once explained his political philosophy as: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
My point is that Norquist is a very smart man whose influence, while not obvious, extends throughout the country. This means that he can call upon his army of conservative warriors to oppose any actions that he feels counter his policies. Secondly, ATR’s pledge has been signed by a majority of Republican congressional representatives so a few folks expressing their concerns about it doesn’t mean much. These protestations, therefore, won’t make any significant difference until these representatives actually sign a legislation that raises taxes. This won’t happen anytime soon since everyone agrees that it’s never a good idea to support higher taxes unless they are accompanied by significant spending reductions. That will not happen without cuts to defense and entitlements and no one (either Democrat or Republican) will reduce both these entities. Since that is unlikely to happen and Republicans will not go on this journey alone – everyone remembers what happened to our 41st president, George H.W. Bush – there is no threat to either Norquist’s pledge or his influence. The protestations of these few Republicans will soon be forgotten as the Republicans attend Norquist’s next weekly meeting on how they can take the country back from the godless Democrats and chow down on some delicious roast beef sandwiches.