Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The power of an idea

Ideas, especially simple ideas, can be tremendously powerful.

Such is the case with Grover Norquist's pledge.

Since time immoral, politicians, Democrat and Republican, "conservative" and liberal, black and white, male and female, have declared they were "against big government," and "for low taxes," and yet voted year after year for higher taxes, and ever more irresponsible spending.

Thus, how in this environment do we the voters turn back the juggernaut of big -- and ever bigger -- government.

In came Americans for Tax Reform and Grover Norquist.  He made one single document a short paragraph in length -- the pledge against raising taxes -- the litmus test for voters look to in deciding for whom to vote.  That one document has been the margin of victory in hundreds of races, across the nation -- and has influenced dozens of others.

As a result politicians of all stripes have taken the pledge, even politicians (especially politicians) who would otherwise vote to raise taxes.  As a result, they are obligated, or at least persuaded, to refrain from raising taxes having made that promise.

This is, of course, how it's supposed to work.  Either (a) politicians are so principled that they will do what they think is the right thing regardless of the electoral consequences or (b) they properly fear an informed electorate.  Since there are so few of the former (and they would not be concerned about the pledge anyway), then we require the latter.  A healthy fear of the electorate is a very good thing. 

Thus in one short, sweet, powerful document, Grover Norquist distilled all of the prevarication and equivocation down to a black or white choice -- either you think you can fix our nation's, our state's, problems without higher taxes, or you cannot.

We were reminded of this this evening with the NYT's headline: Democrats Propose Plan to Sidestep G.O.P. Tax Pledge.  They are still trying to do a workaround of Grover's pledge.  We expect he will prevent that from happening.

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