September 25, 2018

Two, three, many Grover Norquists

So Grover Norquist turns out to be a colossus with feet of clay.

Norquist, in case you don't watch too much cable news, is the Washington lobbyist who for years has threatened hundreds of conservative candidates with defeat unless they signed a pledge to never, ever vote to raise taxes. Until now, it worked. The massive transfer of wealth to the top one percent of Americans is arguably a consequence of his purity test, as is the size of the deficit and the gridlock on the Hill. ” target=”_blank”>explicit goal has been ensuring President Obama's failure. He's prevented hundreds of bills from coming to a vote – from even being debated at all – by perverting the filibuster's use. It once was a rarity: Lyndon Johnson faced just one filibuster in his six years as majority leader. But in Harry Reid's six years in the same job, he's faced 386.

Now that Democrats are ” target=”_blank”>is predicting that “the fighting, the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.” It “would poison party relations even more,” he warns, and “would prevent the very possibility of compromise and threaten to make the disputes of the past few years look like pillow fights.” Translation: If Democrats take away my guns, I'm going to get a nuclear bomb. Reality: If Democrats call McConnell's bluff, the country will easily see through his attempt to weasel out of accountability for his own obstructionism.

On the other side of the Hill, House Speaker John Boehner is playing both good cop and bad cop in the budget negotiations. As nice guy, he says he's all about doing what's best for the country. As tough guy, he represents a hundred or so members who say they're willing to see the United States get its credit rating downgraded again, and even default on its debt, rather than compromise on a balance of revenue increases and spending cuts. President Obama nails this for what it is: taking our economy hostage. But Speaker Boehner ” target=”_blank”>Did you see how miserably ineffectual their big money was in the election? There are plenty of Grovers out there. If the Democrats have the spine to do it, this is a ripe moment to reveal the impotence of the bullies in the political playground.

Marty Kaplan is the ” target=”_blank”>USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at