Why is there so much cynicism about politics? Take this example from Grover Norquist, the lobbyist who holds too much power over too many Republican members of Congress because he convinced them to sign a pledge to never raise taxes. On the right, that pledge supersedes the oath of office, in which they pledged to uphold the Constitution, etc.

After the House voted on the night of January 1st for the fiscal cliff deal that the Senate had passed the previous evening — the bill that returns the top tax rate to the Clinton-era 39.6% on income over $400,000 — you’d think there would be no way for Republican representatives to deny that they had voted for a tax increase. But you’d be wrong, as Norquist proved with this tweet:

Bush tax cuts lapsed at midnight last night. Every R voting for Senate bill is cutting taxes and keeping his/her pledge.

Like Mitt Romney’s claim that his signature Massachusetts health care legislation forced people to pay a penalty — not a tax — or John Kerry voting against a bill before he voted for it, or Bill Clinton parsing the word “is,” Norquist is playing semantic games to make losing seem like winning. This is merely inside-the-beltway artifice, but it becomes an obstacle to leadership when our representatives are more answerable to a weaselly DC lobbyist than the public at large.

This is the same House that, on the night of the fiscal cliff legislation vote, was supposed to pass a bipartisan bill for $60 billion in funds for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. But Speaker John Boehner postponed that tally, worried about how it would look for members to vote first for a tax increase and then for increased spending on the same night. He knew that they’d vote for the relief bill eventually, probably later in the same week, but chose to make political appearances a higher priority than the needs of Americans whose neighborhoods are still devastated from a natural disaster.

Congress doesn’t meet on Capitol Hill any more. For too long now, it has met in the Capitol Pit Of Despair.