August 24, 2005

The Wisdom of Grover

I don't know all that much about Grover Norquist, so the long profile of the guy in the New Yorker awhile back, which I finally got around to reading yesterday, was all pretty new to me. Can't say the guy lacks for interesting political insights. For instance, here's Grover on the importance of incremental progress:
As long as George W. Bush was in the White House and the Republicans controlled Congress, he assured me, every year would bring a new tax cut and further conservative legislation. "That is how the Democrats built the New Deal and the Great Society," Norquist said. "Every year more spending, every year more programs."
Grover on how to form a political coalition in three easy steps:
On the way back to Washington, he talked about how to build a broad coalition. "If you want the votes of people who are good on guns, good on taxes, and good on faith issues, that is a very small intersection of voters," he said. "But if you say, Give me the votes of anybody who agrees with you on any of these issues, that's a much bigger section of the population." To illustrate what he meant, Norquist drew three intersecting circles on a piece of paper. In the first one he wrote "guns," in the second he wrote "taxes," in the third he wrote "faith." There was a small area where the three circles intersected. "With that group, you can take over the country, if you start with the airports and the radio stations," he said. "But with all of the three circles that's sixty per cent of the population, and you can win politically. And if you add more things, like property rights and home-schooling, you can do even better."
Grover on how the Gingrich revolution actually succeeded:
The standard history of the subsequent two years [after the Republican takeover in 1994] is that Gingrich over-reached and ended up setting back the conservative cause. Norquist has a different interpretation. Although Gingrich was ultimately forced to resign as Speaker, in 1998, his reforms achieved a great deal, Norquist insists, especially the introduction of six-year term limits for committee chairs in the House. "It was the equivalent of what Louis XVI did to the barons," Norquist said. "It neutered people who used to have power. You can't run a coherent and unified movement with thirteen independent power bases." Once term limits were introduced, right-wing Republicans were able to banish the remaining moderates and take over. "The national power base for a governing conservative coalition in this country is the House," Norquist said. "You can govern from the House."
Grover on sending a message to Republicans who get out of line:
Norquist said that the biggest challenge was Virginia, where nineteen Republican legislators who supported a tax increase are up for reelection this fall, and where he is trying to defeat some of them in the Republican primary. "We only need to win one or two races to send a message," he said. "People say we need to win all of them, but that's not right."
Grover on running a good right-wing conspiracy:
Norquist paused and lowered his voice. "Mind you," he went on, "in all good conspiracies there is not necessarily any overt communication. A properly run movement operates the way the U.S. Navy communicates with its submarines. It bangs the rock core of the earth. The vibrations go all around, but only the guys in our subs know what they mean."
Grover on why Tom DeLay's scandals may not take hold:
"I say to reporters, 'Can you give me the one-sentence description of what DeLay did wrong?' Jim Wright took cash from the Teamsters with phony book sales. Rostenkowski"-the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in the nineteen-eighties and early nineties-"took cash in return for phony stamp sales. These things are wrong. They are clear. What is it that DeLay did? They can stick DeLay and my old friend Jack Abramoff in the same sentence, or the same paragraph, but what is the point? O.K., DeLay goes on a lot of trips. But it is not criminal or dishonest."
Grover on keeping the big tent happy:
"When you are the governing coalition, you are going to have conflicts-it's inevitable," he said when I asked him about fissures within the Republican coalition. "These guys don't have to sleep together. They don't have to have dinner together. They don't even have to live in the same neighborhoods. They just have to show up on the same day and vote for the same party."
Obviously I don't endorse everything he says, but he certainly knows a fair bit about running Washington...
-- Brad Plumer 2:04 PM || ||