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Think Tank

Grover Norquist: Hyper Pol in the Age of Hyper-Polarization

What's the Big Idea?

In a post on this blog yesterday Larry Lessig presented why he thinks the U.S. political system is fundamentally broken, along with his plan to fix it, which is centered around the idea of citizen-funded campaigns.

Lessig is optimistic about the potential for citizen activists, driven by a deep love for their country, to bring about change. But that change will not happen tomorrow. In fact, the most likely outcome of the election appears to be a continuation of the status quo, which is divided government. This status quo has become shockingly ineffective at achieving the main objective of government, which is to solve problems. On key issue after issue, Lessig says our policymaking is largely decided by the wishes of a tiny number of moneyed interests, rather than the public interest.

While we don't expect a fundamental change in the way Washington functions, many expect the markets to rally following either a Romney or Obama victory. Why will either outcome be good news? We will at least have one thing that has been lacking for over the last year - certainty. Markets hate uncertainty, but come Tuesday night (or perhaps Wednesday morning) we should have a pretty clear picture about what the government's path forward is on a wide array of fiscal issues. None of those issues looms larger than the fiscal cliff, the combination of spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to take effect at the end of the year.

In the video below, Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook, and Emcee of this year's Nantucket Project, interviews Grover Norquist, a man who exercises enormous leverage on this issue as the President of Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which opposes all tax increases, has been signed by 238 House members and 41 Senators in the current Congress. 

In an age of hyper-polarization, Norquist represents ideological rigidity at its core. So does this make him a hero or a villain? Ashbrook asked Norquist whether he is a manifestation of collective intelligence, or "the kink in the hose" -- the purist and idealogue who, as the Republican Frank Wolf has charged, is "the roadblock to realistically reforming our tax code"? 

Watch the video here:

What's the Significance?

So how will tomorrow's election impact what we do about the fiscal cliff? Norquist says that a Romney win (if we also presume a Republican House and Senate) would mean the Bush era tax cuts will be extended one year. On the spending side, Paul Ryan's plan for "block granting" means-tested welfare programs would be adapted, meaning these programs will be turned over to the states, along with a voucher program for Medicare.  

Norquist says that even if Obama wins, he predicts that Democrats that are up for reelection in 2014 and 2016 will force the President's hand to extend the Bush tax cuts for another two years. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan

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