The impending so-called "fiscal cliff" has not been kind to Grover Norquist.
As political junkies are well aware, the conservative lobbyist who founded Americans for Tax Reform is best known for pressuring Republican politicians to sign his Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which puts signatories on the record as vowing to never support marginal income tax increases, as well as refrain from reducing or eliminating deductions or credits without matching tax rate reductions. Although Norquist has been successful in getting prominent conservatives to sign his pledge for more than two decades — indeed, only 10 of the nearly 300Republicans currently serving in Congress have dared refuse to affix their names to the document — the threat of economic calamity has caused many legislators to renege, from Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham in the Senate to Steve LaTourette and Peter King in the House. While this trickle has yet to become a flood, it is a welcome enough sign that I think it's time for...
THE TOP FIVE REASONS TO CELEBRATE THE POSSIBLE DOWNFALL OF GROVER NORQUIST
5. It could usher in an end to the era of government by temper tantrum.
From Newt Gingrich's government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996 to the debt ceiling fiasco last year, conservatives have spent the past two decades trying to force Democratic presidents to accept their policies by threatening real harm to the country if they don't get their way. The nation never wins when they do this, so it's refreshing to see a possible change in attitude.
4. It would be a welcome sign of graciousness in the post-election season.
This is related to the previous point but nevertheless deserves to be mentioned separately. After Mitt Romney's appallingly bitter rant blamed the president's re-election on "gifts" Barack Obama allegedly gave to young and minority voters, the Republican Party desperately needs to show that it can accept the mandate of the American people with grace and class. While distancing itself from Romney's remarks is a good start (as party leaders like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Congressman Paul Ryan have admirably done), working with the White House on avoiding the fiscal cliff would be a far more substantive gesture.
3. It would be a victory for democracy.
For all of his rhetoric on "liberty" and American ideals, Norquist's actions show a shockingly blatant disregard for the will of the people. Despite having never been elected by the people themselves, both Norquist and the wealthy backers of Americans for Tax Reform have no qualms about using their abundant financial resources into bullying legislators into following their will. If any lobbyist needs to be taken down a few notches, it's Norquist.
2. It would pressure liberals to make compromises as well.
Whether the left wants to admit it or not, entitlement and other social welfare spending is growing at an alarmingly unsustainable rate. If we are to avoid a truly devastating fiscal catastrophe in the future, it is imperative that we find a way of deflating this balloon now, even as we guarantee that the most vulnerable Americans aren't harmed in the process. This will require us to be open to tricky compromises and tough sacrifices — and none of that will happen if Republicans remain intransigent about raising taxes on the wealthy. The unavoidable reality is that if they want us to budge, they need to show a willingness to be flexible themselves. Norquist's pledge makes such flexibility impossible.
1. It would save America's economy.
This is the most obvious point, but it can't be stressed enough. If the automatic tax increases and spending cuts mandated by the debt ceiling compromise of 2011 take effect, it is quite likely that they will undermine our already-fragile economic recovery. Saxby Chambliss put it best:
“I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge. If we do it his way, then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that.”