Monday, November 26, 2012

Grover's ugly twin

There are two famous Grover's out there in the world. One is the lovable puppet who resides on Sesame Street. The other is the conservative school-yard bully that has, until recently, been strong-arming our Republican party into adopting his no-tax pledge. This would be Grover Norquist, and he's been a very interesting force in our politics for the last twenty years or so.

In general, the no-tax pledge is an abysmal idea. What it does is forces an entire branch of our political spectrum to disregard 50% of the balanced budget equation. Without tax increases, the only way to balance the budget is to cut, which means a slow (or sometimes quick) dwindling of our social programs, education, health care, and retirement. The other part of Norquist's pledge is that, whenever there is a budget surplus, it must be turned into further tax breaks. Sound familiar? That's exactly what Bush II did in the early 2000's, eliminating a budget surplus in order to slash taxes on the rich.

If anyone has ever doubted Norquist's ability to manipulate Republicans, they would have to look no further than Bush I's second term campaign. The first Bush was elected on the promise that he would follow Norquist's pledge to the letter. When push came to shove, though, Bush did the sensible thing and raised taxes. Norquist and his organization strung Bush up on that, and it cost him the election (some believe).

That kind of influence leaves an impression, and since then, Norquist has been the man behind the curtain, silently forcing his pledge onto hopeful young Republicans, giving them a leg up when they agree and shutting them down when they don't.

But Grover Norquist's time may be coming to an end with the latest batch of Congressional Republicans. While many of them have signed the pledge, there have been recent discussions where many of them question the pledge and whether it's the right course for the GOP.

Of course, Norquist's legacy won't die out thanks to the rumblings of a couple of freshman congressman. He's been an institution in Washington since the 80's. That's why it's also important to note that congressman such as John McCain are also denouncing Norquist's pledge.

While this doesn't necessarily mean a change is in the works for the GOP, it shows that there may yet be hope for the Right to come back to the center a bit, and compromise our way out of a financial crisis.

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