It’s convenient for members of the media, who want each story to have a protagonist and an antagonist, and for the power brokers in Washington, who want to hasten the transfer of resources from America to Washington, to personalize policy decisions. It’s much easier to defeat a rational policy decision if it is portrayed as the evil machinations of one man to gain power. That’s why we now hear a daily drumbeat asking why one unelected citizen should have so much power over the elected representatives of the American people — why one man should be able to stand in the way of a deal.
“The Republicans cannot negotiate in good faith, and cannot compromise,” we are told, because “their hands are tied by the pledge they made to Grover Norquist.” The next step is obvious: make Grover the image of evil, and tie the taxpayer protection pledge to him. “The Republicans cannot bargain with President Obama or Congressional Democrats, because they sold their souls to the devil (who looks a lot like Grover Norquist).”
But they didn’t sell their souls — they made a public commitment based on principles they putatively believe. They promised to protect their constituents from rapacious demands of powerful interests who want more taxpayer dollars. Making that pledge is the essence of public service, and they should be proud of it.
It isn’t about Grover — it’s about keeping a pledge to taxpayers to be wise stewards of the money they send to Washington. Calling it “Grover’s pledge” is a way to trivialize it and turn it upside down — to portray it as harming, rather than defending, the interests of the taxpayers. The principles haven’t changed, however, and the signers of that pledge will be held accountable by those to whom they made the promise: their constituents.
Bart Marcois was a career Foreign Service Officer, serving in four Middle Eastern countries. He was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs.