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Diane Mufson: Can Republicans escape Norquist's clutch?

Dec. 04, 2012 @ 10:50 PM

Every so often we hear about intelligent adults who are totally dominated by others. Observing such situations raises the question as to why bright or mature individuals acquiesce to such control.

Such domination at least can be understood when people are caught by a political coup, such as Castro's hold on Cuba, or when a nation's cultural or religious values relegate women to second-class status.

Yet, most Americans believe that such behavior could never happen here. Wrong. Grover Norquist's hold on Republican lawmakers rivals that of any dictator. Intelligent Republicans need to show they can think independently and are not Mr. Norquist's puppets.

For at least two decades, Norquist, a conservative Republican and leader of Americans for Tax Reform, has demanded that all Republican candidates sign a life-long pledge that they will never support tax increases. Since when do our elected officials pledge allegiance to an individual who did not elect them? Apparently since Grover Norquist conquered the Republican Party.

Most of us hate paying taxes; we seek to keep as much of our money as possible. In a country that lacks consensus on many issues, low taxes are easily agreed on.

The trouble is governments cost money and, like our own personal budgets, when we spend more than we have, a deficit develops. Our nation's deficit is now astounding.

This deficit came about courtesy of both political parties. Republicans thought tax cuts would be good about the same time they started two wars and Democrats saw the need for expansion of entitlement programs. We got into this fiscal mess together; that is how we will get out of it.

Now, back to Mr. Norquist, a man who apparently has never been elected to political office, but has such domination over the Republican Party that intelligent and mature legislators have difficulty thinking about or advocating anything that would displease him.

But there is hope and possibly a light just before the end of the fiscal cliff. Some elected Republicans are saying things that Mr. Norquist must consider blasphemy. A Yahoo site notes that Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., in regard to Norquist's pledge, has said, "The only pledge he will keep is his oath of office."

Asked on Fox News whether some Republicans were not following through with the pledge, Norquist indicated that no one would do that, but he indicated he "Would turn on lawmakers who defy him, starting with Corker..."

But Corker is not alone in starting to think for himself. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the House majority leader, appeared on "Morning Joe" on MSNBC saying, "When I go to the constituents that re-elected me, it is not about that pledge; it is really about trying to solve problems."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was quoted in the New York Times saying he "Would break the pledge if Democrats agree to cuts in entitlement programs." Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., has indicated he does not feel bound by the pledge indefinitely.

Other Republicans are coming forth to say that they believe there is a way they can work with Democrats to solve the problems of raising revenue and cutting expenses. Finally, some reasonable conversation among the people we Americans have gone to the polls to elect.

The never-elected Grover Norquist still insists that his pledge for no new taxes must be maintained indefinitely. Let's hope that we have elected enough intelligent and mature Republicans who can escape from demagogue Norquist's clutch.

Diane W. Mufson is a licensed psychologist. She is a former citizen member of The Herald-Dispatch editorial board and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page. Her email is dwmufson@comcast.net.

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