Grover Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a coalition of taxpayer groups, individuals and businesses opposed to higher taxes at both the federal, state and local levels. ATR organizes the TAXPAYER PROTECTION PLEDGE, which asks all candidates for federal and state office to commit themselves in writing to oppose all tax increases. To date, 172 House members, and 34 Senators have taken the pledge. On the state level, 7 governors and over 1100 state legislators have taken the pledge. A native of Massachusetts, has been one of Washington’s most effective issues management strategists for over two decades.
Mr. Norquist also serves on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association of America, the board of directors of the American Conservative Union, is a Contributing Editor to the American Spectator Magazine, and serves as president of the American Society of Competitiveness. He also the author of Leave Us Alone – Getting the Government’s Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives.
Question: How do you explain the emergent divisions on the right?
Grover Norquist: Well it is a challenge in that it is something that people can focus on. But it has not in 25 years done what some have thought might happen. You say, “Gee. The New York Times back before ’80 said that Reagan is attracting all these people who have jobs and want lower taxes. And all these people go to church and want to be left alone by the secular state. They’re going to fight any minute now.” Well why? What are they going to fight over? In point of fact, there will be many discussions inside of majoritarian movement with 300 million people in the country. If you’re going to deserve the votes of 175 million people, they’re not going to agree on everything. Try and get six people to agree what restaurant to go to for dinner.
So you’re going to have people who disagree on secondary or tertiary issues. But the coalition holds, because even though the guy who’s there and wants to be left alone to practice his faith – if you ask him 20 questions, and you take the guy who wants to be left alone to run his business and you ask them 20 questions, they may have very different answers on questions 7, 8, and 10, but I don’t care. I’m on the board at the National Rifle Association. I can assure you that a lot of people who vote on the Second Amendment have what I consider to be the oddest views on free trade; but they don’t vote on free trade, so on one level I don’t care what they think about free trade.
Topic: Pat Buchanan.
Grover Norquist: Pat Buchanan looked in 2000 and said 70 percent of Republicans think that too many immigrants; 70 percent of Republicans are skeptics on free trade with China. I will run for president as the anti-trade, anti-immigrant candidate and get 70 percent of the vote. What he didn’t ask was not, “What are you willing to talk about on talk radio,” but “What moves your vote?” And in point of fact, there wasn’t a net anti-immigrant, anti-trade vote within the Republican coalition, and he got almost no votes ________ percent of the electorate. So what people are willing to talk about and what they vote on are not the same things necessarily. And so you have to watch and see how people vote. Now you have some guys who are in the coalition and claim to represent large quantities of people.
Pat Robertson would say, “I represent some of the people of faith,” okay? Well he may represent some of them insofar as he says, “We would like to be left alone and not have the state throw prophylactics at our kids at school and not interfere with our ability to transfer our faith.” But if he was to say, “Oh and by the way, I think we should go to San Francisco and _______ gay people,” his voters don’t follow him on that. And they are not willing to cross the street to impose their views on others. I mean if you said, “Do you think everybody should agree with you on everything?” Oh yes, they should. Do you want the state to go make them? If you think everybody would go to heaven better if they were Baptists, are you willing to have the state impose that? There was talk the other day. The head of the Southern Baptist Convention who said, “No, of course not.”
That’s not their view. There are some people who the press will always focus on who have staked out an extreme position, and who fib when they say, “And everybody in my church agrees with me.” Well that’s just not true. You need to be careful about people claiming that they have to have X, Y, and Z to be part of the coalition. The person who is in the coalition because he wants to be left alone to practice his faith and raise his kids is not . . . If you tell him, “Well the state isn’t going to go subsidize your church,” he’s not going to walk out the door and go and join the secular party that does want to interfere with his ability to raise his kid.
There isn’t any there. There’s no alternative political structure to join for somebody who would like to be left alone with their guns, plus they not only want to be left alone. They want gun stamps. You may want gun stamps, but you don’t vote on gun stamps; you vote on being left alone. Would you like 12 other things? Would you like two desserts? Maybe. Okay. Is there some other place to go get two desserts? No. So you are where you are because you want to be left alone. You can ask people all sorts of odd questions and get all sorts of odd answers on a lot of stuff. It doesn’t make it a vote moving issue, although certainly on talk radio, or if you put Jerry Falwell on FOX TV, he can say things that scare people into thinking, “Oh my goodness.
The religious people of faith, they want to do X.” Well I would argue that when you actually look at how the center right coalition movement operates, taxpayers and businessmen don’t want the state to go steal people’s money and give it to them. They want the state to stop stealing their money. People of faith don’t want the state to impose their values. They don’t want their values attacked by the secular state.
Recorded on: September 12, 2007