Colleen Foster, ‘Doah Assistant Managing Editor
December 5, 2012
An intimidating specter looms over the GOP. And no, it’s not Ann Coultergeist, as they call her, or Bill O’Reilly, though visions of him dancing in my head like sugar plums would probably kill me in my sleep. Nor is it any of the “what’s the big deal about rape” crazies or even the Mitt and Paul duo, who have quietly ridden off into the sunset since Election Day. It’s bearded, bespectacled Grover Norquist, whose anti-tax pledge has held 95 percent of Republicans in Congress hostage since 1986.
To be clear, he’s not even a member of it. He’s a conservative lobbyist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR).
Or, in the words of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) a year ago, he’s just “some random person in America.” But the fact that Republicans have gone since the early ‘90s without voting for a tax increase is not a mere coincidence.
According to a Nov. 27 article in the Washington Post, Norquist keeps the original signed pledges in a fireproof safe. Perhaps next to the stone-etched fine print about sacrificing their firstborn if they break it, which they skimmed while they were rubbing pricked thumbs together in a Tom Sawyer-style blood oath. When they sign on, they vow to never, ever, under any circumstances increase taxes. Period. Not in a box, not with a fox, not in a house, not with a mouse.
It sounds overly simple, because it is. Which is exactly the problem with it. We can’t reduce an incredibly complex issue — er, saving the flailing economy of the United States of America — to one right path and a contrasting wrong one that only idiots would endorse. If the way out was that obvious, we would have solved the problem years ago, and we would all be lounging around about now with cigars and brandy congratulating ourselves (here, here!) on how clever we are at telling black from white.
Compromise is our only hope to coast through the fiscal [insert land formation of your choice] in January; compromise is what this entire country is based on.
At the same sad time, though, I lose an inkling of respect for members of Congress who signed the pledge and are now abandoning it. On the grounds that, yes, it’s an outrageous promise, but it’s one they made, and now they’re compromising their integrity. They’re throwing out yet another reason for the average cynical American to go, “See, politicians are crooks who never keep their word.” As Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and others back down from it, they tell the media that the only oath they’ve taken is their oath of office: but that’s not true. Go check out Norquist’s locker full o’ signatures.
Damned if they do, damned if they don’t… There’s no way to stand by their honor without going down with a rapidly-sinking ship.
Why couldn’t they have just stuck to their guns (you know, the concealed ones they are proud to carry) and not have signed it in the first place?
Because as of now, the GOP as a whole has come to this, pulling a Mean Girls (2004) and telling everyone that they have to wear pink on Wednesdays or they can’t sit with them at lunch. Dialogue has been reduced down to “you’re either with us, or against us.”
This is an example of this GOP ganging-up in the economic realm, but it is just as rampant when it comes to social issues. Look at how Mitt Romney suddenly veered center once he had secured the nomination. Look at how in Virginia you have to be a Ken Cuccinelli to ride a red ticket, or woe to you.
But wait: this year an unspecified but “surprisingly high” number of Republican congressional candidates refused to enter in on Norquist’s pact, thereby not getting entangled in the first place and having to cheapen their word by backing out later.
So there’s hope. Norquist’s autograph collection won’t swell at the same alarming pace, and actual conversation can take the place of bullying.
As of now, though, he’s Queen Bee. Pretty good for some random person in America.