It’s time to Break It Down!
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Those thirty-one words constitute what we commonly refer to as The Pledge of Allegiance. It has been around in some version since 1892. Twice since its origination, The Pledge of Allegiance has been amended. In 1923, eight words were added:
· “The Flag of the United States of America“
In 1954, two more words were added:
· “under God”
Francis Bellamy, a minister, wrote the original Pledge of Allegiance. At its inception, the Rev. Bellamyenvisioned the Pledge as a tool that could be used by the citizens of any country, hence the generic, non-inclusion of our Country’s name. While that makes for an interesting talking point, an even more notable factoidfor many Americans, especially Right Wing conservatives, is that the good Reverend was a Socialist, Heaven forbid. In fact, when the 1954 change, adding the words, “under God,” Bellamy’s daughter opposed it.
It’s fair to suggest, given the lengths that The Right went to in labeling President Obama a Socialist, they obviously think being a Socialist is some stupendously abhorrent character defect. Armed with this intelligence, by all means, let’s not tell them about the Rev. Bellamy’s awful flaw.
But I digress! While it was important to establish the priority and preeminence of the Pledge of Allegiance, the Pledge to which I will devote the next few paragraphs is the ubiquitous “No Tax Pledge,” or as it’s officially known, the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. This Pledge was conceived and popularized by Grover Norquist in 1986. Mr. Norquist is the head of Americans forTax Reform (ATR). The primary policy goal of ATR is “Reduce the percentage of the GDPconsumed by the government.” The objectives designed to accomplish that goal, as articulated by ATR, are simply framed tenets. They include:
· Oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes
· Oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses
· Oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing taxes
Mr. Norquist was particularly effective at rallying a surging Right to defend, support, and execute the pledge; especially during the 2010midterm elections, as well as during the recent 2012 contests. The orthodoxy appeared perfect and in order. Then a funny thing happened. It was a year when the numbers suggested an embattled President would surely lose, taken down by the millstone of a sluggish economy tied to his neck. Republicans asserted the magic that propelled President Obama in 2008 was a once in a lifetime phenomenon, and now safely locked in a time capsule, buried four years ago.
Alas, the President and his team resurrected the ’08 coalition and won comfortably. But it was not just the President’s victory that shocked the Republican hegemony. The Party had hoped, if not expected, to take over the Senate, and expand its already comfortable majority in the House of Representatives. Instead, Republicans, many of whom not only predicted a win by Governor Romney, but a rout, had to adapt to the reality of having lost the Presidency by 126 Electoral votes,and more than two million popular votes. Moreover, the GOP also absorbed net losses in the Senate and in the House.
The unexpected losses in all three branches of government apparently motivated the GOP to do some searching. The Party has initiated numerous discussions about moderating its position on social issues such as immigration, women’s reproductive rights, and even marriage equality. Such an about face certainly warrants attention, but no change of positions would be more noteworthy than if a sizeable number of GOPstandard bearers were to abandon the more than a quarter century old Tax Pledge.
An internal Battle Royalemay be developing. Several key members of the Republican Leadership have expressed, at least the possibility that, they may forgo their commitment to the Pledge. There are 258members of the current Congress, mostly Republicans, who have signed the Pledge. A few have either signaled their openness to walk away from the oath, or have already flatly renounced it, including:
- South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham
- Tennessee Senator Bob Corker
- New York Representative Peter King
- Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss
- Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn
- Arizona Senator John McCain
- Arizona Representative, and Senator-elect Jeff Flake
- Former Wyoming Senator, and half of the namesakes of the often touted Simpson-Bowles Commission, Alan Simpson
That certainly does not constitute a groundswell. And it definitely does not signal the ceding of any ground by Mr. Norquist. In fact, he labeled the defecting Republicans pawns of the Democrats’ media campaign to raise taxes. Furthermore, he vowed to work to defeat any Republican who drops the Pledge.
It’s early, and there will need to be many more Republican dissenters before there is anything resembling a palpable division of the ranks. However, it is already clear that character, courage, and cojones will be on full display in the coming days as the Presidentand Congress look for ways to avoid the Fiscal Cliff, while Republicans duel Grover Norquist over the contemporaryviability of “That Other Pledge!”
I’m done; holla back!
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