Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

GOP, break Grover Norquist's grip on you

By Donna Brazile, CNN Contributor
updated 1:49 PM EST, Mon December 3, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Grover Norquist's tax pledge calls for no more tax increases ever
  • Donna Brazile: It's seismic that some GOP leaders are willing to defy his pledge
  • She says Norquist's tax pledge has bound most elected Republicans to him for 25 years
  • Brazile: Norquist is the man most responsible for GOP gridlock in Washington

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking with Grease." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.

(CNN) -- Who is Grover Norquist? He's a private citizen, a conservative lobbyist, the author of the Taxpayer's Protection Pledge and president of Americans for Tax Reform. His idea of tax reform is no more tax increases ever again. And no closed loopholes unless matched by cuts in government spending.

In the 113th Congress, the one just elected that will begin in January, 219 of 234 Republicans in the House signed his tax pledge; in the Senate, nine of 41 Republican senators signed it. By contrast, before the 112th Congress, which is still in session, 248 representatives and 41 senators signed it. The drop in support has brought the pledge into the media limelight.

Norquist says the pledge was made to the American people. But Norquist is the sole enforcer of the pledge, which he keeps in a fireproof safe in his office. No one has dared to challenge his self-appointed role as enforcer on behalf of American voters. Until this past week.

Opinion: Who's afraid of Grover Norquist?

Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile

Four Republican senators, among them South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, as well as Rep. Peter King of New York, said they would willingly ditch their pledge, in Lindsey's words, "for the good of the country." In an equally significant move, Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole of the Republican Whip team told House Speaker John Boehner that he thought the Republicans should join President Barack Obama and immediately pass a tax extension for 98% of Americans who earn under $250,000.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



These declarations from Republican leaders are like political dynamite. And like well-placed dynamite, they might begin to break the logjam preventing effective leadership and legislation in Congress.

Norquist, of course, doesn't think so.

His tax pledge has bound most elected Republicans to him for 25 years. When King said that he felt his pledge was only for one Congress, Norquist compared the pledge to marriage vows, hinting King's wife should be worried. (I couldn't find "till death do us part" in the pledge. But then, I'm not a Republican).

Your money: Is Grover's power overrated?

King replied that Norquist was "being a lowlife," words that caused almost an audible gasp among Republicans. You see, Norquist's pledge isn't about money; it's about loyalty.

Is Grover's power overrated?
Who is Grover Norquist?
GOP softening tone on taxes
Grover Norquist defends tax pledge

Next to Mitch McConnell's pledge to defeat Obama in 2012, Grover Norquist is the man most responsible for Republican lockstep voting and gridlock in Washington.

That top Republicans are willing to openly defy Norquist's pledge and that any are willing to buck McConnell and Boehner are seminal events in recent American history. It means some Republican office holders are actually listening to what the voters said in the 2012 elections: Help the middle class, work together, stop the finger-pointing.

But McConnell and his collaborators are proceeding as if the 2012 election never happened. He and other Republican "leaders" apparently intend to extend the Republican campaign, disregarding the election and the people's mandate. They intend to push the Republican agenda that voters overwhelmingly rejected at the voting booth and in post-election polls.

Boehner claims that Congress received its own mandate. But Republicans lost seats in the House and the Senate that they had expected to win. Besides, as Harry Truman used to say, "The president is the only elected official who represents all the people."

Read more: No-tax pledge has survived challenges before

John Podesta, President Bill Clinton's chief of staff, in writing about the fiscal cliff, said, "Obama didn't win just because of demographics: He won on the economy. ... The electorate understood that a vote for Obama was a vote for policies that would help the middle class and the working poor." Furthermore, "the public has joined the majority of leading economists in recognizing that a strong middle class, not ever more generous benefits for the wealthy, as the true engine of economic growth."

The Peter Kings, Lindsey Grahams and Tom Coles of the Republican Party get it. There aren't enough cuts to offset $1 trillion in lost taxes from the excessive tax breaks the wealthy were given. The alternative is to harm our national security, weaken our defenses and cause some Americans to literally go without food. The Republican budget that passed the House, but not the Senate, before the election would cut food stamps as excess spending for unemployed parents.

Extending the lesser tax breaks for 98% of all Americans is, indeed, a first order of business. Or as Cole said, "It's the right thing to do."

There is money for these things. First, though, Republicans must break Norquist's insane hold on their party. More Republicans must put their country before someone else's agenda, and their Pledge of Allegiance before "The Pledge" to Norquist.

It's merely a handful right now, but it looks as if the 75% of voters who approved of Obama's economic approach in exit polls to help the middle class and working poor are getting a voice in Congress.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
updated 1:28 PM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
updated 6:10 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
updated 5:33 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT