Gets His Wish
By Mike Hickerson
It starts innocently, as all mornings do, fresh like the
new dawn that precedes it. But this Wednesday is different.
As he has been doing for several years, Grover Norquist Jr.
leads the Wednesday morning confab of conservative advisors,
journalists and pundits who basically plan out the united
front talking points of the republican political machine.
This Wednesday in 1997 noted conservative prostitute Laura
Ingraham is not present. She has been disinvited by Norquist,
who while publicly scolding Ingraham uttered a phrase that
later was written into modern lexicon of American thought
by GW Bush: "You're either with us or against us." It was
at a conservative event known as Dark Ages Weekend and Ingraham
had committed the cardinal sin of suggesting Senator Dan Burton
(R, Indiana) resign from his post. Here was a man that the
Justice Department was after for shaking down a lobbyist,
a man who denounced Fidel Castro as a "tyrant" while receiving
contributions from a lobbyist for African kleptocrat Mobutu
Sese Seko. But he was a staunch loyalist to Grover Norquist
Fast forward to Sacramento, California July 24, 2003. Secretary
of State Kevin Shelley announces he has certified enough petition
signatures to allow the Recall of Gov. Gray Davis to go forward.
It's the culmination of concerted attacks upon California
by the Bush Administration that began in January of 2000.
Grover Norquist has essentially, gotten his wish. The "Uniter
not Divider" rhetoric of the Bush White House has worn transparently
thin. The Federal Government under Bush has, via tax cuts
and mandates (unfunded) and myriad cuts in Federal programs
of assistance to states, created an intentional fiscal crisis
of confidence in the most populous states leadership. It is
no coincidence that the most populous states are Blue ones.
Speaking in an interview in the Denver Post, Norquist proudly
stated his parties' intent, displaying the hubris the right
wing in power has become known for. "We are trying to change
the tones in the state capitals -- and turn them toward bitter
nastiness and partisanship," he tells
the Denver Post. "Bipartisanship is another name for
A couple of timely quotes from recent news articles makes
the "California strategy" apparent:
"As it pushes to reopen parts of California to drilling,
however, the Bush administration recently announced plans
to protect Florida's coast by spending $120 million to
buy oil and gas rights in the Everglades and $115 million
to pay oil companies to stop drilling plans in the Gulf
of Mexico. The administration has rejected requests from
California Gov. Gray Davis to extend the same protections
to the Golden State, prompting Davis to pledge Monday
to use the courts to fight efforts to build the first
new oil platforms off California's coast since 1994."
Sacramento Bee, 4/2003
"Obviously, the electoral victory is what you're after,
but there are frankly strategic victories short of that,"
said Rob Stutzman, spokesman for the state Republican
Party. Contra Costa Times, 8/11/02
Yet, to give you an idea of the narrowness of Norquist's
appeal, one need only look within his own party's media talking
heads for opinion:
"a small-minded Harvard squeak-by who preys on minorities,
gays and anyone else who doesn't fit into your delusional,
power hungry world." Jeff Koopersmith in American Politics
"...Norquist is a mean-spirited, humorless, dishonest
little creep. But in my experience, there aren't many
Grovers in positions of prominence on the Right, and virtually
none in conservative journalism. Which is why I wrote
a piece about him in the first place, because he's an
embarrassing anomaly, the leering, drunken uncle everyone
else wishes would stay home. Norquist is repulsive, granted,
but there aren't nearly enough of him to start a purge
trial." -- Tucker Carlson in Slate
These pundits have become strangely silent on the subject
of Norquist of late.
At Harvard, Norquist was a powermonger. One of his MBA papers
outlined a plan for the National College Republicans to switch
from a social club to an ideological, grassroots organization.
It was here he met Ralph Reed. Together they implemented his
plan and went on to crusade for moral majorities, Pat Robertson,
and Ronald Reagan. Norquist founded "Americans for Tax Reform"
in 1985 to push what would become the 1986 tax simplification
plan. It also proved an excellent money laundry for Republican
donor squishy money, notably doing mailers with republican
talking points days before an election, in violation of the
groups non profit status.
Norquist, in his deferential "simple way" invented a one-page
statement for legislators promising they'd never vote to increase
marginal tax rates and never vote to eliminate tax loopholes
without simultaneously supporting equivalent reductions in
marginal tax rates. This "Offer not to be refused" reminiscent
of the Godfather's contracts, was signed while Norquist or
an "Americans for Tax Reform" staffer witnesses every signature,
and once a politician takes the pledge, that person is bound
for life per the terms of the "agreement" LIFE!
In early 2000 he claimed in the American Spectator magazine
that Muslims were responsible for President Bush's election
victory. He has made the conversion of the Muslim vote, if
you will, to a Republican vote one of his top priority issues.
He's already founding director of what's called the Islamic
Institute, which you won't be surprised to learn has received
funds from a Saudi charity that was raided by the FBI earlier
this year. Grover has also ushered into the White House a
passel of anti-Israel groups, including the Council on American
Islamic Affairs, The American Muslim Council, the Muslim Public
Affairs Council and others. (Mark Krikorian, CIS, 2001) It
is quite possible these cozy relationships and their ultimate
leaderships are among the blacked out portions of the just
released 9-11 report.
For Norquist's hard-right Republicans, killing off government
to make way for corporate rule is truly at the core of the
so-called "conservative agenda." "I don't want to abolish
government," Norquist told National Public Radio's Mara Liasson
in a May 25, 2001 Morning Edition interview. "I simply want
to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom
and drown it in the bathtub."
Nowhere is this more evident than in California, where recall
movement sponsors are openly purchasing this attempt to overturn
the election of 2002, using paid out of state professional
signature gatherers. Norquist points out what the true agenda
of such radical leadership actually means to the state. It's
an echo of the Bush Department of the Interior's stated policy
of "privatizing" public lands.
In an Interview with Bill Moyers, Norquist stated "At the
state level what they really have to do is take a long run
view and limit the growth of spending, put limits on how much
you spend. And then California, the state owns a whole bunch
of land and other things that it could sell off it doesn't
need, and it needs to figure out which of those government
jobs need to be in government, and what can be privatized
or contracted out." A whole bunch of land and things
it doesn't need. One has to ask, who, or what company,
Moyers then asked "What the states are saying, though, is
that since they get no direct aid, the conservative philosophy
in government is actually pushing them over the cliff now."
Norquist's reply laid it all out for those willing to see:
"I would argue if you look at those states
that have conservative governments, and there are only a
few: Colorado, Florida --you're looking at states that are
in fairly good shape. We have Reagan-ized the Republican
Party at the national level over the last 20 years. It has
not happened at the state level. What happened at the national
level was pre-Reagan we couldn't go to a Republican politician
and say, you should be more...they say I should be more
what? I'm better than the Democrat I beat, what do you want
from me? You should be more like Goldwater, he lost. After
Reagan he was the model for House and Senate people, and
today 95 percent of House Republicans and 80 percent of
Senate Republicans are Reagan Republicans. That does not
yet exist at the state level."
It is important that those fighting the recall movement in
California recognize what we are up against. The genesis of
Norquist's slash and burn scorched earth political strategies
are part and parcel of his beliefs. David Brock, in "Blinded
By the Right" describes Norquist's viewpoint:
"Like his fellow radical conservatives, Norquist believed
politics was an extension of WAR by other means." Far afield
from the "positive attributes of Classical conservatism" as
Brock puts it, "a sense of limits, fair play, Tory civility,
and respect for individual freedom" is replaced with a single
minded focus on power and the wielding of it against your
enemy until they are obliterated. One imagines Norquist burning
the houses and salting the fields of notable liberals were
he given sufficient latitude. This revolutionary zeal is best
derived, Norquist believes, by studying the life of Antonio
Gramsci, who through employment of this philosophy, single
handedly built up the Italian Communist party in the face
of the Fascist movement. While imprisoned by the Fascists,
he began a series of writings that became a blueprint for
political action amongst every left-wing revolutionary movement
on the planet, and additionally the movement of the right
wing in America by Grover Norquist.
So, as you and your friends will discover between now and
"New election Day" 2003 in California, this is far beyond
a local skirmish; it is the first battle against an encroaching
well oiled Borg of anti-people interests whose agenda is to
weaken government until it cannot fight the power of corporations.
The political version of the fire ant, don't expect this gang
to just crawl back under their rocks should they go down to
defeat. They thrive on the struggle, and will not cease until
they stop breathing.
If they win, be on the lookout for another coup attempt at
a statehouse near you.