In June, Republican uber-activist Grover Norquist organized an event on Capitol Hill, intended as an opportunity to remind congressional Republicans that he expects them to respect his authority. How many of the 242 House Republicans showed up? "At most 20 members."
It was a sign of things to come. Six months later, the activist is looking at a congressional landscape that has less and less use for him.
Fewer incoming members of the House and Senate have signed the pledge against tax increases run by Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, in a reflection not only of the seats that Democrats gained but of the success they've enjoyed in vilifying Norquist.
About a dozen newly elected House Republicans refused to sign the anti-tax pledge during their campaigns, and another handful of returning Republicans have disavowed their allegiance to the written commitment.
With Democrats picking up seven or eight seats, that means the pledge guides fewer than the 218 members needed for a majority. In the Senate, where Republicans lost two seats, just 39 members of the chamber are pledge-signers, according to the group's records. That is a drop from 238 members of the House and 41 senators who committed to the pledge at the start of the 112th Congress.
It's important to realize that Norquist having fewer friends is not necessarily a sign of Republican moderation. In other words, this is not a situation in which candidates are balking at "the pledge" because they're rethinking their party's anti-tax orthodoxy. From a progressive perspective, that'd be great, but it's not what's happening.
Rather, Norquist has been snubbed in part because some lawmakers are open to trading away tax credits, some don't like taking orders from D.C. lobbying groups, and some are just anti-pledge in general.
Whatever the motivation, the more policymakers reject Norquist's artificial, arbitrary constraints, the greater the likelihood of constructive work in Washington.