(Ed. note: Know Thy Enemy is an experimental series profiling particularly prominent political pundits and players. the title is a nod to Sun Tzu. I’ll try to profile more than just conservatives as my liberal bent is wont to do)
Grover Glenn Norquist is a conservative lobbyist and president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a taxpayer advocacy group which he founded in 1985. Born to a well-to-do family in Massachusetts, he has a BA and MBA from Harvard. He is also an author and occasional contributor to The American Spectator. Along with Newt Gingrich he co-authored the Contract With America from 1994. Norquist is well known for expressing his desire to have a dramatically reduced size of government and he is vehemently anti-tax. He is most noted for the quote,
“I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”
He is also noted for declaring that he would like to see the Government cut in half by 2025 and by half again by 2050. Most recently he has been involved with getting conservative Republicans in Congress to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a draconian promise which asks all candidates to federal and state office to oppose (in writing) all tax increases, from now on. So far, in the 112th Congress, 236 House members and 41 Senators have taken the pledge. On the state level, 13 governors and 1249 state legislators have taken the pledge according to the ATR website.
The pledge has come back to bite him as Senate Republicans voted to repeal ethanol subsidies which Norquist views as a tax. Many Republicans are suffering from ‘pledge fatigue’ citing that pledges are limiting to legislation. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander has said the only pledge he takes is to the United States of America.
Democrats have been slow to point out the walk-back harkening back to the days of George H.W. Bush. Norquist was widely credited with coercing Bush into using the “Read my lips: no new taxes” pledge in 1988 which may have contributed in his resultant single term presidency.
It isn’t difficult to understand Norquist’s motives. Raised in affluence, protégé of Ronald Reagan, volunteered for the Nixon campaign when he was fourteen. He has quite literally held his present views for almost his entire life. Reportedly he read Masters of Deceit by J. Edgar Hoover at the age of eleven which cemented his politics.
One has to wonder, if Norquist achieves his panacea of all but eliminating government, what does he envision in its place? Professor Drew Westin of emory University sums it up nicely:
“Grover Norquist and others could not have been more explicit about the conservative position on debt: make it is big as you can when you’re in office, with tax giveaways to all your friends, and you’ll tie the hands of Democrats when they take control, at which point you start the shrill screaming again about fiscal responsibility and “entitlement” spending.”
Despite his run-ins with the GOP, Norquist still wields power as much as a Karl Rove or a Dick Cheney. His influence and dogged determination to strangle the government will likely be around for a long time.
- Why Grover Norquist Is The Most Feared Man In Washington (businessinsider.com)
- Grover Norquist and the Debt Debate (politicalwire.com)
- How Grover Norquist Hypnotized the GOP (Washington Post)
- Grover Norquist Rebuked by GOP (Huffington Post)
- GOP Suffers From Pledge Fatigue (Politico)
- No-tax Pledge Puts Lawmakers in Untenable Position (The Pilot)
- Three Ways the Democrats Could Lose in 2012 (Huffington Post)
- Grover Norquist’s Anti-tax Pledge Looms Large in Spending Showdown (Huffington Post)