Fiscal-crash blame: Grover Norquist is the GOP Matt Drudge of tax policy

Sometimes a man, a mission and a moment come together. The issue is the deficit. The moment is now. The man is Grover Norquist. The mission is avoiding America falling over the fiscal cliff and possibly taking down the world economy. A failure would be a disaster for Americans and yet another disaster for the Republican Party, which will be blamed for the crash that a failure to agree would cause. Republicans are terrified by the prospect of far-right primaries against them. Grover Norquist, who threatens such primaries, has become the Matt Drudge of tax policy, a man of enormous and powerful influence over Republicans and therefore the national debate.

In the same way that Matt Drudge stands as a colossus of influence over virtually all media, with "Drudge is running it" among the most coveted and feared words in the media, Grover Norquist stands as a colossus of influence over the tax policy of the United States of America, with Grover's words "you will face a primary" pored over by politicians acting like Talmudic scholars to determine "What will Grover accept?”

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Let me offer one warning to pundits. I have been deeply involved in many high-wire negotiations at the highest levels over many years, including the years I worked for Democratic leaders when Speaker Tip O'Neill did major business with President Reagan. I learned long ago to disregard many public statements made by leaders while private negotiations were ongoing beyond public, media and pundit view. This is the case today. Let’s take all public statements with grains of salt.

In the current situation, a fair and likely outcome will be a tax increase for wealthy Americans with annual incomes over $500,000. A similar plan might be adopted for Medicare premiums that would only affect very wealthy Americans, which would give Republicans part of a loaf without affecting poor and middle-income seniors.

But let’s be crystal-clear about thing. On the issue of taxes there were clear differences between the presidential candidates. Barack Obama won. Mitt Romney lost. Paul Krugman won. Grover Norquist lost. There is a mandate regarding taxes and it belongs to President Obama, Democrats and liberals. Not Speaker Boehner, Republicans, conservatives or Grover Norquist.

It is possible that Grover Norquist's influence over Republicans is so dominant, and the GOP fear of rightist primaries is so great, that Republicans will violate the voters’ mandate and common sense, and if they do …

The fiscal cliff will create a crash. The GOP will be severely blamed by a majority of voters for this crash. While Mr. Norquist will be sipping champagne in triumph, his party will be a losing minority party until President Hillary Rodham Clinton concludes her second term in January 2025.