Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fairy Tales & Hot Air

As we've noted often over the years, if someone has a good tale to tell, we'll be some of the first people to pull up a chair and perk up our ears. We've also mentioned many times how we'd like to see more real compromise in our government, especially when it comes to the idea of taxes and budgets.

There's an interesting story working its way through the national media right now, that encompasses both of those things.

In case you missed the tale, Grover Norquist, the anti-tax lobbyist who has held a growing number of Republican legislators hostage over the last few years, is supposedly being laughed into irrelevance by Republicans eager to strike a tax and budget deal with Democrats before the end of the year. Norquist continues to blow hot air at the media about his own importance, while prominent Republicans keep saying they'll finally stand up to big, bad Grover.

The problem with this tale is that its key points are mostly hot air - and it almost completely misses the most important point of the 2012 elections.

The fact is, other than a few prominent Republicans making loud noises in front of journalists, few GOP Congressmembers appear to actually be willing make any serious compromises in the tax and budget discussions that have been quietly going on since the election.

There's no doubt - there has been a massive show put on by Republicans that they are done bowing and genuflecting to every whim of the unelected lobbyist Norquist. Many pundits and political sources have been cheered to hear Republicans publicly admit what The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky put so clearly yesterday, that "The party that lost the election — lost the presidency, lost Senate seats, and yes, held on to the House, but lost seats there, too — doesn’t get to dictate terms" of any tax and budget deal.

As Tomasky also notes, it's only been a fairy tale though. Sure - ANY appearance of compromise by Republicans is a welcome change from the GOP's usual story of "My way or the highway." That's the problem - the extremism of those like Norquist has made even the fiction of compromise seem like a fairy tale come to life.

The fact is, as both House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell have made clear, the only kind of compromise this group of Congressional Republicans is willing to accept is the same old non-compromise - where everyone else is simply supposed to do what they say.

This tale may still have a happy ending, though.

For one thing, both Boehner and McConnell may be significantly more willing to change their tunes after the first of the year, when the newly elected Congressmembers are sworn in, and Republicans are at an even larger disadvantage.

The other point - the one most of our colleagues seem to have missed - is that Grover Norquist's days as the big bad anti-tax wolf may be over anyway.

If there's one thing the surviving Tea Party Republicans have made clear - especially off the record to some of our contacts in DC - is that no one is going to tell them what they can and cannot do. They may hate taxes - but no one is going to force them to do anything they don't choose to do themselves. Not their own political party's leadership, not their political donors, and surely not some unelected lobbyist with the name of a Muppet.

Though we're certainly glad to see a blowhard like Mr. Norquist is becoming irrelevant, that doesn't mean compromise is automatically coming back to Washington, DC.

If you believe it is, we've got a few more fairy tales we'd like to sell you.

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