In Defense of Grover Norquist, Idealistic Advocate of Bad Ideas

The new Grover-the-Terrible narrative is wrong in just about every way.

  • Share
  • Read Later
Larry Downing / Reuters

The Beltway elite has suddenly decided that Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist is a dangerous bully. Somehow, he’s intimidated most Republican politicians into signing his Taxpayer Protection Pledge to oppose all tax increases under all circumstances. But times are changing! Grover’s reign of terror is ending! With the fiscal cliff looming, brave GOP politicians are defying him! “I answer to my constituents, not to a pledge,” declared congresswoman Diane White.

Give me a break. I rarely agree with Norquist on policy—although it happens — and I think his pledge is a destructive force in American politics. But the new Grover-the-Terrible narrative is wrong in just about every way.

Let’s start with those courageous Republican pledge-breakers. Sorry, congresswoman, but you didn’t make a pledge to Grover; you made a pledge to those constituents you say you answer to. It began: “I, Diane White, pledge to the taxpayers of the 6th district of the state of Tennessee…” Nobody forced you to pledge allegiance to absolutist anti-tax orthodoxy. That was your call, and I bet it came in handy when you wanted to become a Republican congresswoman.

The fact that Republican primary voters reward politicians who make irresponsible and extreme tax promises does not make Norquist a bully. It makes him a remarkably effective lobbyist. And unlike most lobbyists in Washington, he’s lobbying for an idea, not a special interest. I happen to think it’s an awful idea, because unlike Norquist, I don’t want to drown government in a bathtub. I think government does a lot of important things, and taxes are how we pay for them. I think a truly courageous Republican wouldn’t sign the pledge in the first place. But give Norquist credit: He’s provided a mechanism for GOP politicians who love talking about how much they hate taxes to prove that they’re not just talkers.

I hope that Republicans do violate their misguided pledges, but Norquist is correct that the voters who elected them with those pledges in mind would have every right to feel lied to and betrayed. Norquist is also correct that so far, Republicans like White have only revealed “impure thoughts” about the pledge. I’d be very surprised if many Republicans do end up violating it, not just because they’ll feel foolish, but because they’ll face primaries. Some of the pledge-takers are anti-tax true believers like Norquist; others just signed to suck up to their party’s right wing. But any of them who break their promise would be asking for trouble at the polls. It’s odd that there’s no equivalent to Norquist on the left, pushing politicians to swear to oppose any cuts to Social Security (which would actually be good policy) and Medicare (which wouldn’t, but would pack a real political punch.)

The popularity of the pledge does not mean that Grover is a marionette controlling the Republican Party. It means that the Republican Party and its base tends to share Grover’s monomaniacal loathing for taxes and government. That ideological monomania makes it extremely difficult to cut a deal with Republican politicians, something the Beltway elites should have noticed when the GOP was threatening to shut down the government and even force the U.S. into default in 2011. It’s weird how Norquist only became an unusually malign force–and his ideas became grist for the Beltway mockery mill–when Republicans dared to question him.

I am glad to hear Republicans sounding a bit more responsible this time around, and rhetorically distancing themselves from Norquist. But they haven’t made any commitments to support new taxes. For now, they’re still bound by their irresponsible commitments to oppose any new taxes. And their irresponsibility was their own. Grover was just smart enough to collect their signatures.

177 comments
GoodsportsFanshop
GoodsportsFanshop

Michael... whatever you're smokin' ... stop it! You're making an elephant of yourself!!

GoodsportsFanshop
GoodsportsFanshop

To say that Grover Norquist's tax pledge idea is that of an idealist is pure crap! This guy is not motivated by ideals... he's motivated by money and power. He's the absolute enemy of the Constitution and all fair politics.  I'll bet his kids hate him!!

RoccoJohnson
RoccoJohnson

Your argumentum ad passiones is overly simplistic in its lack of factual detail and context. I must admit here that when I spoke about the "unparalleled prosperity" for the Bush presidency I should've given the broader perspective, which is that in the broadest terms America experienced 26 years of unequaled economic prosperity following the end of the recession of the 70s, and beginning about midway through Reagan's first term of office. Certainly there were blips during the intervening years, such as the downturn during GHWB's term, and the Dot.com crisis. There were missteps too, such as Bush senior proposing NAFTA, and Clinton signing into law. Incidentally, you must have been reading someone else's post because I never blamed any of the nation's current problems on Clinton. I will say, however, you giving Clinton a pass because he only reluctantly signed the repeal of Glass-Steagall, does not negate the fact that he did indeed sign a law he could have vetoed. 

Your emotional tirade against the "private sector construction" and the "credit boom" has much deeper roots than you're suggesting. The "credit boom" was actually a vestige of the Carter presidency, as the deregulation of savings and loans were begun during his term, although in all fairness, Reagan completed the process. Additionally the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 opened the door to lenders making riskier loans to people of dubious ability to repay them. In 2000, Fannie Mae eased credit regulations even further, which effectively forced lenders to issue risky loans to people who could not easily afford them. The regulations were eased in response to liberals crying "racism" when lenders were reticent to give loans in poor neighborhoods and districts. Further, that same year, Fannie Mae was required by HUD to make 50% of its loans to moderate to low income borrowers—this amount was raised to 56% during GWB's term, incidentally. Then, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 made it legal for financial and insurance institutions to trade credit default swaps, the underpinnings of repackaged sub-prime loans. The things I listed here are just the very surface of the multi-tentacled reasons for today's recession.

For the sake of brevity I'm not going to go into the sins of the Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton or the rest of GWB's presidency, and there were many. My point is not to defend Bush, but lend balance and context to many of your vacuous conclusions. Just because you believe something so strongly does not necessarily make it true. 

And I disagree with your negative indictments of centrism. The sanity of centrism is exactly what this country needs right now. The much talked about fiscal cliff is the perfect example of why we need leaders who will set aside ideology and sit down in a room together and solve this mess with compromise. If you refuse to accept this you're part of the problem that's destroying America today. There has arguably never been a time in nation's history where there was a more feckless, divided and ineffective Congress—all because of extreme partisanship.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

I have a good idea for the resident troll. Get your own blog, so you can post your made up nonsense and links instead of hijacking this one. Then you can build up an audience just like you of fellow Fox viewers, Rush listeners, Glenn Beck devotees and those who are under-endowed to at least one standard deviation.

Who knows, you could be the next Drudge.

fitty_three
fitty_three

Looks like paulejb has slipped into a state of insanity and paranoia.

Oh, wait....

paulejb
paulejb

 Barack Obama: "I will gladly cut spending Tuesday for a tax hike today."

Only the terminally stupid would belief this guff.

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

I do not agree with Grunwald's analysis on this issue. Yes, the Republicans have insane and unsupportable ideas about tax policy. However, the Norquist pledge has created a Cult like following, on this issue, in the base of the Republican party. Consequently, the pledge is no longer a mere ideological position as Grunwald seeks to logically posit in this article. The pledge is now a WRITTEN declaration made (through Norquist) from an increasingly rabid and unthinking base. 

Since failure to comply with the TAX pledge could carry the high price of the loss of one's seat in Congress, Norquist is no MERE holder of signatures, he is an enforcer of the grossly improper technique of the GOP, employed to keep members of Congress welded to this "PURIST" position on taxation. 

The fact that Norquist wields enforcement power, and could effectively end the careers of members of Congress, I respectfully submit, makes him more than a mere collector of signatures. He has obtained a document containing memorialized promises to adhere to this pledge, and breaking it, it would appear, means breaking with the Republican base and losing one's job in Congress. The pledge has FORCE- (in writing with known consequences for non compliance), which mere verbal agreements hitherto, did not possess. So Norquist is MORE than a mere collector of signatures.

The Republican party is now, in many ways, a Cult-- getting rid of moderates and punishing any form of Independent thought. Norquist is Cult leader an enforcer of the tax policies of this cult. He is, in my opinion the leader of the Republicans in Congress. He is a CULT leader and has POWER over the careers of these members of Congress. Because of the Norquist pledge, the promise not to increase taxes is no longer a mere spoken and preferred policy, it is now a written one that has SPECIFIC and IDENTIFIABLE consequences for non compliance.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@Hollywooddeed 

He only does this for the attention; if he made his own crackpot blog he knows not one soul would read it, ergo he has to come here everyday for hours and hours on end copy/pasting his non-talking points for ultra right-wing websites.

paulejb
paulejb

@53_3 

Just because you are paranoid does not mean that they are not out to get you.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@53_3 

Yeah he seems to now be convinced that he needs to start hoarding and move out to an abandoned silo.  I always knew Paul was soft in the head but I never considered that he would be conspiracy-theorist woodsman levels of crazy.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@paulejb 

Only the terminally stupid would make something like that up.  Obama has proposed spending cuts.

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

@paulejb Go to work, Paul. You are posting this manic stuff again. You need something to stimulate your mind in a positive way.

jsfox
jsfox

@paulejb investors,com? Seriously I am not sure which is worse Hot Air or this for playing fast and loose with the truth. I suppose you could link Drudge, The Blaze or The Washington Times if you really wanted solidify the fact that you suffer from an acute case of epistemic closure.

jsfox
jsfox

@paulejb Or to meet the obligations left over from the Bush years. 

fitty_three
fitty_three

e @DonQuixotic

It's the mental equivalent of squeezing a lemon.

The more you squeeze, the more comes out.

paulejb
paulejb

@BenevolentLawyer @paulejb ,

I am contemplating preparations for the coming apocalypse. I wonder if there are any decommissioned missile silos available for occupancy?

paulejb
paulejb

@jsfox @paulejb ,

You must be right, Foxie. Mel Reynolds and Jesse Jackson Jr are certainly sterling citizens and their felonious conduct should be overlooked.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@DonQuixotic

He ignores every one who proves him wrong.

One thing I'll say about LiveFyre is that it is not a venue that paulejb is at home in.  There's some irritating things he can't do.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@53_3 @paulejb 

Passive resistance is no better than what he usually does; ignore me every single time I prove him wrong on everything, or change the subject, or blather on about socialism, or just run away from the topic at hand.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@paulejb

Now he's resorting to passive resistance DQ.  

Do you think paulejb willl be able to  change the outcome of the election?

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@paulejb @DonQuixotic 

Yes I know you're lazy and I have to do everything for you.  Click on each budget item and scroll to the bottom to see the proposed budget differences between 2011, 2012 and 2013 Paul.  Each department has its own proposed cuts or increases.

You can also just read this, assuming you can find the time to actually read something for a change.

paulejb
paulejb

@DonQuixotic @paulejb ,

I couldn't quite make out the total that Obama intends to cut in spending. Could you spell it out for us?

fitty_three
fitty_three

@DonQuixotic

Well, maybe it's because I'm sitting on my weekly allotment of medical bills that my insurance is paying for.  I'm just not seeing any "evisceration".

...unless, of course, you use GOP math.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@paulejb

Maybe you and rusty could wake up that Sleeping White Giant, paulejb.

jsfox
jsfox

@paulejb @BenevolentLawyer Condoms aren't free they are covered under your insurance and since you pay a premiums for insurance this automatically makes them not free. Food stamps are an ongoing government program that has been around since 1961 so how is this Obama doing?

jsfox
jsfox

@paulejb @jsfox  And what exactly did it buy. A list please and the associated costs. If you cannot produce it you might as well just admit you get your info from other folks who like to either make stuff up or make excuses. Like Romney advisors or Fox Noise.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@paulejb @jsfox 

The American public?  Yes Paul, generally when we pay our taxes we expect to get services provided to us in return.