The Republicans have been victims of Stockholm Syndrome; held captive by the grizzly-chinned anti-tax zealot, Grover Norquist, for so long – and with such seductive dictates – that they’ve lost all sense of their emotional imprisonment to actually embrace the man who’s been their captor.
In the current climate of political upheaval, at a time when the GOP has lost their finger-on-the-pulse of the electorate; in an economic era when wiser minds will survive only if they shuck off old thinking, Grover Norquist has become…old thinking.
In a surprise move this past week, Saxby Chambliss, the Republican Senator from Georgia long known as one of the fiercest champions of the Norquist anti-tax pledge and a deep conservative in a red-red state, has stepped forward to signal his break with Norquist.
Speaking to Kenny Burgamy at 13 WMAZ TV in Georgia, Chambliss was frank in his new assessment of the situation:
“I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” Chambliss says. ”If we do it his way then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that.”
Now Chambliss says he wants to do what it takes to right the U.S. fiscal ship, even if that means findings ways to raise revenue, which Norquist strongly opposes.
Does Chambliss think Norquist will hold the anti-tax pledge against him during his next re-election bid in 2014? Yes.
“But I don’t worry about that because I care too much about my country. I care a lot more about it than I do Grover Norquist,” Chambliss says
To see the full interview, see video below:
The shock value of Chambliss’ declaration is based both on the longevity of the pledged solidarity between Norquist and the GOP, as well as the stunning turnaround in opinion that’s emerged since the election. It seems clear, despite the fact that many in the GOP continue to dig their heels in on the notion of tax increases, that a growing number are coming to the reluctant conclusion that it cannot be kept off the table. According to the Huffington Post:
Chambliss, a member of the new “Gang of Eight” seeking a bipartisan framework for deficit reduction and a signatory of Norquist’s pledge — of which he’s spoken unfavorably in the past — said Wednesday that he wasn’t concerned about potential backlash over his criticism.
“Norquist has no plan to pay this debt down. His plan says you continue to add to the debt, and I just have a fundamental disagreement about that.” […]
Although Norquist and his pledge have held sway among congressional Republicans for many years, his coalition appears to be weakening in the wake of the recent elections. Some in the GOP, including newly elected lawmakers, have come out arguing against the type of anti-tax rigidity promoted by his pledge, especially amidst an effort to patch the federal deficit and avoid the looming budget cuts required by sequestration.
By Mr. Norquist’s count, 219 House members — enough for a majority — and 39 senators have committed to the pledge. […]
Mr. Norquist contends that every few years, several noisy Republicans say their support is squishy. Yet every time, he says proudly, the outcome is the same.
“It’s been 22 years since a Republican voted for a tax increase in this town,” he said in a recent interview. “This is not my first rodeo.”
Ask Republicans in Congress today what they think of the pledge, and many of them say that while they still subscribe to a low-tax view of government, they resent being hamstrung by a piece of paper they signed well before they were elected. Some of them are even saying they want out.
It seems the tide is turning on this issue and Norquist may just have to accept that, like his GOP counterparts who so clearly misjudged the voters in the most recent election, he may be 22 years past his prime in terms of holding Republicans to his outdated pledge.
As the current talks with President Obama continue and the Gang of Eight puts their bipartisanship on the line to find equitable solutions for the burgeoning debt, Norquist may discover his approach is as antiquated as the dinosaurs and, as they did, he will slowly disappear from the landscape as more evolved thinkers take the country in a new direction. Until then, he will at least have to accept that some he’s held under his thumb are coming to their senses, to see him for the economic and political captor he really is. Stockholm Syndrome, no more.