At long last, Republicans—a few influential ones, anyway—are freeing themselves from the yoke of Grover Norquist. Remarkably, after more than a quarter-century of kowtowing, a handful of prominent GOP renegades, such as Sens. Lindsey Graham and Saxby Chambliss and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, are saying they are willing to break their sacred no-tax (not now, not ever) pledge with Norquist.
Indeed, the walls are cracking. The sweet smell of mutiny is in the air. The deserting dummies may soon need a new ventriloquist. Last week, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni offered this provocative assessment: "Someday someone will write a dark history—a farce, really—of how [Norquist] managed to bring nearly all of the Republican Party to heel, compelling legislator upon legislator to lash themselves to his no-new-taxes pledge. Until then we'll have to content ourselves with his misfortune over the last few days. No sooner had a nation digested its turkey than his goose began to be cooked. The spreading rebellion in the Republican ranks was manifest on the post-Thanksgiving Sunday talk shows."
A shameless self-promoter, the 56-year-old president of Americans for Tax Reform began his pledge drive in 1986, conning so many Republican lawmakers that the antitax oath became a veritable GOP rite of passage. But now that Norquist's stranglehold on the Republican Party appears to have loosened, we wondered what Washington state's most prolific anti-tax crusader, Tim Eyman, must be thinking.
"He didn't put a gun to their heads, that resonates with me," Eyman said of Norquist. "I commiserate with him. I mean, he's an activist, and I think it's pretty pathetic that a bunch of politicians who broke their promise are attacking an activist." Eyman added that peer pressure, the desire to please, is a key factor of the desertion in the ranks, "and it is amazing to me how they are getting pats on the back for breaking their promise not to raise taxes."
Fresh from his victory on I-1185, in which Washington voters decided by a landslide to continue to require the state legislature to get a two-thirds majority vote to raise taxes, Eyman said he's not at all worried about any potential local fallout from Norquist's fall from grace. "My wife told me a long time ago to stress over things you have control over," mused Eyman. "And I have zero control over what is going on in Washington, D.C. That's just a spectator sport there. Here it's a participatory sport—and I think the electorate is really solid on holding down taxes.
"I'm not worried."