by Jules Witcover
As President Obama and Republicans in
The president made keeping the Bush tax cuts for the middle class a centerpiece of his campaign, along with eliminating them for the wealthiest 2 percent. The voters have spoken on the matter, the Democrats insist, and that their will should be done.
But another factor in the election equation may well be the damage the
Time and again in the campaign, Obama reminded audiences of the debate during the Republican primaries in which all the candidates were asked whether they would accept
That moment was a crowning jewel in the decades-long campaign of the party's Mr. No -- tax foe Grover Norquist. His Americans for Tax Reform was his vehicle for putting a wrestler's hammerlock on congressional Republicans. He could bask in the knowledge that they, and all the
Undertaken by Norquist in 1986 and eventually including 95 percent of all Republicans in
But in 1990, faced with a severe budget crisis, Bush yielded to the entreaties of key advisers and broke that pledge, confirming to party conservatives their long suspicion that he was not one of them,. It was a major factor in his re-election loss in 1992; the no-new-taxes pledge proved its political potency among the
Since then, Norquist's pledge has endured as a firewall of Republican obstruction against Democratic efforts to extend federal government growth, particularly through the entitlement programs like
Obama's re-election has produced much Republican rhetoric about the willingness now to compromise on deficit reduction, paired with new revenue required to maintain the social safety net. At the same time, however, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have signaled their intent to hold the line against raising taxes on the wealthiest to offset the costs of continuing the middle-class tax cuts.
For the first time, there appears to be a breach developing in that firewall of the Norquist pledge. Such leading Republicans as Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee have challenged the efficacy of the pledge in the face of the approach of the fiscal cliff.
In pure political terms, the operative question now is whether the
A realization appears to be shaping within the party that its tea-party component is headed lemming-like over the cliff, all too willing to take its more moderate composition into the abyss with it. In 2010, after the sweeping Republican victory in the midterm congressional elections, the
Republicans: The Party of No | Politics
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