Should the GOP break the anti-tax pledge?

By Ken Feltman
Writing about people I know is never easy and, in effect, that is what Politico is asking when they ask me to write about whether Republicans should break their anti-tax pledge. Grover Norquist has had an enormous impact on the budget process. He has a range of influential friends across the country. As first Senator Chambliss and then Senator Graham and Rep. King backed away from “the pledge,” articles appeared saying that Norquist’s power was being tested and broken. No, Norquist is agile and realistic. He will not fall on his sword. He has battles yet to fight. He will be as good a leader in adjusting goals as he has been in building his formidable organization.
So, too, will Chambliss, Graham and King survive. In fact, they may be called wise by pundits who proclaim that they “saved” the country from careening over the cliff. They are the realists who have now challenged the
Democrats to give up something even half as precious as “the pledge.” But they know how far they can go. They will not overstep.
Can the Democrats do it? Not without alienating constituencies that are already running strident ads against compromise on their specific programs. The most vulnerable people and positions in this struggle are those Democrats who cannot take “yes” for an answer. If I had to guess, and it is only a guess, I would say that the Democratic old guard and public employee unions will take a hit for digging in their heels on compromise. They will try to follow Senator Russell Long’s advice:
“Don’t tax you, don’t tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree.” All of us are behind this tree, as Chambliss, Graham and King have pointed out.
Still to be decided is whether the Republican Party leadership misjudges the moment and damages itself further by saying “no” at every turn. That is what the Democrats expect to happen. That is what the media assume will happen. If the GOP Congressional crowd marches off the cliff, they will do so alone. Rank-and-file Republicans across the country will not follow. They won’t even wave goodbye. They will take over the Party and remake it in a dozen varieties. Some will call it the GOP death throes. The wise will call it rebirth. If that happens, expect to see a man named Norquist involved.
(A version of this article will appear in Politico)

About Radnor Reports

Ken Feltman is past-president of the International Association of Political Consultants and the American League of Lobbyists. He is retired chairman of Radnor Inc., an international political consulting and government relations firm in Washington, D.C. Known as a coalition builder, he has participated in election campaigns and legislative efforts in the United States and several other countries.
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