Economy & Budget

If Grover Norquist’s star is fading, why is everybody talking about him?

If Grover Norquist's star is fading, why is everybody talking about him?

The growing isolation of Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform and author of the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” has been talked about so often it’s hard to remember how little evidence there is for it.

At the Washington Post, Ed O’Keefe says a “growing chorus of GOP officials willing to part ways with at least part of the anti-tax pledge pushed in recent years by activist Grover Norquist, more evidence that lawmakers appear willing to part ways with party orthodoxy in order to strike a deal averting the ‘fiscal cliff.’”

TPM’s Sahil Kapur seconds that emotion:

Republican lawmakers are increasingly abandoning Grover Norquist’s no-taxes pledge and declaring a willingness to raise tax revenues as part of a deal to avoid the severe austerity measures set to take effect in January.

Time’s Alex Rogers says the pledge is doomed by its simplicity:

The pledge’s simple language on tax rates will be its undoing. Any time there seems to be a crack in its armor, Americans for Tax Reform must prove that the pledge still requires no new increase in income tax rates, and a revenue neutral approach to cuts and taxes. Without such an ironclad statement, politicians may just as well say, “Read my lips: no new taxes.”

While popular support for the pledge falters, the Republican Party must learn how to exist without it.

Fredericksburg.com says Norquist’s ship is going down:

Grover Norquist must be getting lonely. His chums are abandoning ship at a rapid pace. First, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Georgia), then Sen. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Rep. Peter King (New York)–all Republicans, all signers of Mr. Norquist’s no-tax pledge, all now rescinding their acquiescence, all part of an “elections have consequences” wave.

At WNYC.com, Steffen Schmidt says nobody’s even heard of Norquist:

When we discussed this in my American Government class this week, one of my students asked, “Professor Schmidt, who the hell is Grover Norquist?” and several wondered why someone they’ve never heard about would have such enormous power over the entire Republican Party…

The pledge is now 20 years old and polls show that if anything, it is a burden on Republicans as the nation struggles to preserve very, VERY popular programs such as Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid as well as Veterans benefits and programs that are moving into revenue deficits.

Slate’s Josh Vorhees calls the “minimutiny” against Norquist a sign of progress:

Much of [Norquist's] power…is a matter of numbers and momentum; most politicians have little desire to be left standing at a Capitol press conference flanked only by colleagues from the other party. (That type of thing doesn’t exactly play well with the type of voters who decide primary races.) But the inverse of that political reality also holds true: Every Republican lawmaker who casts aside the pledge now makes it that much easier for the next to do the same.

At the Inquisitr blog, Nathan Francis says time has turned the pledge into a non-issue:

Grover Norquist’s tax pledge was once considered a must for Republican members of Congress, but a new fiscal landscape and the re-election of Barack Obama is quickly turning it into a political afterthought, experts say.

Even The Onion has gotten in on the act:

Amid ongoing negotiations in Congress over the looming “fiscal cliff,” Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) told reporters Wednesday he is “completely torn” between his commitment to conservative activist Grover Norquist’s meaningless anti-tax pledge and the general welfare of the entire country. “On the one hand, you have a nonsensical promise to blindly oppose tax increases regardless of circumstances, but on the other, you have the well-being of more than 300 million people and the long-term stability of the entire U.S. economy,” said Reed.

That’s the unkindest cut of all, considering that Norquist early this year played along with an Onion gag in this pretty funny video:

There are just two problems with the saga of Norquist’s irrelevancy. First, there’s not a lot of evidence for the mass defection we keep hearing about. Counting all the legislative Republicans publicly described as distancing themselves from the pledge (and not all have been particularly direct in their rejection of the tax vow), I get seven people: Sens. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Az.) Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.), along with Reps. Peter King (N.Y.) and Eric Cantor (Va.). That’s 2.5 percent of the total number of Republicans in the House and the Senate (after the election, in which the GOP lost seats in both houses). And most of those are in the Senate, where the Republicans are already in the minority.

Second, even if backsliding by pledge takers results in tax hikes of one kind or another, Norquist’s Q rating only seems to be rising. It’s a variation on the old line, “All critics agree this is the most underrated movie of the year.” Norquist is so lonely, so abandoned, such an afterthought, that more people are talking about his pledge than ever before.

 

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