Republicans Begin to Break Ties with Grover Norquist: Calculated Political Strategy or a Changing GOP?
The reports of Republican members of congress either denouncing Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge or declaring that they would seriously consider breaking it has been the biggest political story of the moment, with many reporters and analysts focused on what that means for the fiscal cliff negotiations. Although this is a big story, and it means that one obstacle on the path to compromise has been removed, Democrats and Republicans still remain bitterly divided on how to deal with the nation’s fiscal issues.
Grover Norquist has defended his cause and his tax pledge when asked about the defectors by pointing out that the majority of those who have signed it have continued to support it, although he refers to the pledge as a promise made to the voters, instead of a petty and obstructive ideological pact between a lobbyist and an elected official. The liberal critics of Norquist and his pledge have often claimed that his influence is one of the largest reasons why the GOP has refused to compromise with Democrats. The liberal consensus that Norquist is a puppet master and that he is the only true obstacle toward achieving fiscal responsibility and compromise might be partially true, but seems to willfully ignore the entitlement reform that must happen if Democrats are serious about deficit reduction.
The more important question is whether this is the beginning of the GOP shifting away from the ideological fiscal conservatism of the tea party, to the more practical fiscal conservatism of President Reagan. Some fiscal conservatives argue that Grover Norquist and his anti-tax pledge are exactly what Washington needs after a decade of unrestrained bi-partisan fiscal irresponsibility. The problem with this argument is that Norquist and the Republicans are also the party of fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets. After President George W. Bush presided over skyrocketing budget deficits, the sudden dash to once again become the party of small government, low taxes, and balanced budgets has forced the GOP into a corner. The average American does not want the budget balanced by radically shrinking the size of the nonmilitary government, but they also do not want to allow Democrats to raise taxes and refuse to discuss reforming entitlement programs. The fact that the GOP did not beat the Democrats in 2012 despite a landslide in 2010, a money advantage, and an anemic economic recovery, proves that the GOP will have to moderate its message to become the majority party again.