Two figures have held near-dictatorial sway over a majority of members of Congress for several decades: Grover Norquist and Wayne LaPierre. However, both may be losing their grip to some extent at this time, although it is too soon to count them out yet. Both may yet get their ways to some extent despite appearances to the contrary.
Norquist's schtick has been the pledge he has foisted on largely Republican members of Congress never to raise taxes in any way, shape, or form. This effort dates to the Reagan presidency and has only gradually gained the nearly universal submission that it currently has among Republican politicians at both the state and national levels. In the face of the current huge deficit and the oncoming "fiscal cliff" (curb, slope, whatever), some are now making noises about abandoning ship on this. Indeed, this past Thursday saw House Speaker John Boehner proposing to raise income taxes on those earning more than $1 million per year. While this was a cutoff higher than the $400,000 President Obama was demanding (which is in turn higher than the $250,000 he successfully campaigned on this year), it was a significant break for Speaker Boehner. However, in the end he was unable to convince his caucus to support him. The rank and file of Republicans in the House are simply not yet willing to go against their pledges to the will of Norquist. Norquist's clothing may be getting pulled at and a bit messy, but he continues to seem pretty fully dressed.
Wayne LaPierre has not made Congressional members sign a specific pledge, but he has demanded that those the NRA supports do exactly as it requests on pain of facing primary or other opposition backed by strong funding and advertising. Whereas Norquist's group largely focuses just on Republicans, LaPierre has worked his ways on polticians of both parties, although increasingly his focus has been on Republicans as Democrats have begun to thumb their noses at him. This movement has accelerated since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT just over a week ago, and the reaction to LaPierre's speech a week after it calling for armed guards at schools has been ridiculed widely. Nevertheless, despite a lot of discomfiture, at least Republicans continue to appear to be completely obedient with not a single GOP member of Congress expressing support for any movement to control guns in any way. One can expect my own representative, Bob Goodlatte, to prove to be the ultimate blocker of any efforts to change gun laws in his new position as House Judiciary Committee Chairman, as he has strongly stated opposition to any changes in gun laws. So, LaPierre also appears to be keeping most of his clothing on as well for the near term.
A curious details is that this authoritarian pair has a curious mutual connection. Norquist is on the board of the NRA, and both are closely connected to John R. Lott, Jr. Lott has most recently coauthored a book with Norquist, and he has long been the most prominent pro-gun rights advocate in the nation, much relied on and praised by LaPierre. His book, _More Guns, Less Crime_ has been cited repeatedly by those pushing to loosen gun laws in many states and also at the national level, such as when the NRA succeeded in blocking a renewal of the assault weapons ban in 2004. Curiously, Lott's effort to step forward to defend gun rights at this time has brought much focus on his long record of data manipulation and outright fraud, most notoriously in his creating a sock puppet named "Mary Rosh" to praise himself on the internet over a decade ago. His studies have come under strong criticism on multiple grounds by many, such as Mark Duggan in his "More Guns, More Crime," Journal of Political Economy, 2001. His recent claims that mass murders happen only in gun free zones, except for the Gabby Giffords tragedy last year, appear to be false, with at least three this year happening in non-gun free zones: the Clackamas OR shopping mall attack, the Sikh Temple attack in Oak Creek WI, and the Accent Signage attack in Minneapoli, MNs. For more detailed discussions of the various fraudulent activities Lott has engaged in see http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/111063/meet-john-lott-the-man-who-wants-teachers-carry-guns and http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/12/17/who-is-gun-advocate-john-lott/191855 . Ironically, while Norquist and LaPierre may just barely be able to keep their clothes on, it looks like it may end up being Lott, who may finally lose his.