Sometimes you have to wonder if, down deep in their craven hearts, Republican members of Congress don’t regret having made that Faustian pact with Grover Norquist and his no-new-taxes pledge. Here they sit in their cushy jobs, big fish in their hometown ponds, and they uncomfortably find themselves in crisis mode, charged with the mission of saving the country for future generations with their hands tied behind their backs.
Their rational side must know that the only solution to our fiscal death-spiral involves a mix of cuts and new revenue, but they run smack up against that old survival instinct. If they choose to do the statesmanlike thing, it follows that they’ll self-destruct with their constituents.
Ironically, it’s that same instinct that put them in this fix. It isn’t as if Grover Norquist is holding the country hostage because he usurped power. It was willingly handed over to him when Congressional districts were intentionally gerrymandered to guarantee that they would remain in a particular party’s hands in perpetuity. As a result, a local party primary has, all too often, turned into the de facto general election vote.
A Republican who might summon the guts to throw the pledge back in Norquist’s face and say, “I’ve decided to fulfill my oath of office, rather than kowtow to doctrinaire radicals,” will surely be defeated in the next primary, since we all know that only rabid ideologues bother to vote in primaries (moderates, by definition, aren’t that involved in the process). The sad thing is that these extremists comprise, by far, the minority of voters in this country.
In other words, Grover Norquist’s power over the functioning of our democracy derives from members of Congress loving their jobs more than the country they serve. You can hardly blame them. Have you seen those salaries, privileges and benefits? They would lay low the stoutest of ethical principles…a bit like kryptonite.