By Ben Cohen: Libertarian high priest Grover Norquist heads up a movement called ‘Americans for Tax Reform’ – an organization dedicated to slashing taxes and radically reducing the role of government. Norquist is the perfect leader for such a movement – cold, blunt and ruthless – and his acolytes worship everything he says. Norquist’s vision for America is not for the faint of heart. He appeals directly to radical individualists who hate government in all its guises. “My ideal citizen is the self-employed, homeschooling, IRA-owning guy with a concealed-carry permit,” he says. “Because that person doesn’t need the goddamn government for anything.”
As one would imagine, group meetings aren’t exactly filled with joy and laughter. As Ralph Nader, an occasional Norquist collaborator and attendee once stated: “It’s the most powerful, nihilistic movement in Washington today. It is such a cold-blooded atmosphere it would sustain icicles.”
Norquist’s cold blooded reputation is well deserved as he has spent a lifetime undermining the Left in America with ideological obsession. As the Americans for Tax Reform states “The ATR opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle”. For Norquist, getting rid of government is not just a belief, it is a way of life.
In a typically unsentimental op-ed piece, Norquist laid out what every liberal secretly fears about the recent recall election in Wisconsin: That the Republican victory spelled final doom for organized labor in America. His reasoning is compelling, and regardless of whether you like him or not, it’s hard not to take his argument very, very seriously.
Writing in the Guardian (no doubt to gloat over its liberal readers) Norquist explains exactly why Scott Walker’s radical assault on unions was so effective in aiding a Republican victory:
The Walker law has changed the demographics and correlation of forces in Wisconsin politics. Membership in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – the state’s second-largest public-sector union after the National Education Association, which represents teachers – fell to 28,745 in February, from 62,818 in March 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported. If dues averaged $500, that is a loss to the coffers of the Democrat party’s key ally of $17m a year for that one union.
Correspondingly, the greater flexibility for local government has saved Wisconsin towns, cities and school districts $1,052,555,404 in the first year.
According to Norquist, those savings can be used as a marketing tool for other Right leaning states to follow suit and convince their electorate that labor rights and collective bargaining must go in order to balance budgets:
This budget-saving reform will now move rapidly through the 23 states that like Wisconsin have a Republican governor and legislature. They can calculate how much money local property tax payers will save. They can calculate how much campaign cash the Democrat-aligned unions will lose each and every year. And they know that in a Democratic-leaning state with the national resources of the modern union movement, the unions have shown themselves to be, not a paper tiger, but certainly not up to exacting certain revenge.
Watch Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Arizona to enact similar laws when legislatures reconvene next January. And some Democratic mayors and governors will borrow arrows from Walker’s quiver, because they need to save their cities and states from bankruptcy – even as they realize it defunds the Democratic party in the long run. We saw this on Tuesday when the mayor of San Jose, California won a referendum 70-30 to reduce union pensions and benefits.
The logic is chilling, and sadly very realistic. Given Norquist’s influence in the Republican Party, he will no doubt be working to follow through on a possible domino effect that could crush organized labor to the point of no return. Norquist has no qualms about kicking a man when he’s down, and Americans should expect an all out assault from the self proclaimed priest of free markets on what’s left of the country’s unions.
However, it is worth bearing in mind that Norquist’s brutalist view of society and its required submissiveness to free market capitalism isn’t exactly the final word on the human condition. While unions may be in serious trouble in the short term, there is no action without reaction, and the blowback from the actions of the far Right in America is long overdue.
People like Grover Norquist will never accurately be able to predict cultural movements or the behavior of human society because, quite bluntly, they are emotionally stunted psychopaths with little ability to connect with other people. You just need to watch Norquist in action to see how utterly unlikeable he is. No feeling person would want to live in a society based on the warped vision inside of Grover Norquists mind, and that is why his analysis is fundamentally flawed. In Norquist’s head, government is the basis of all evil and markets function perfectly. This isn’t based on any evidence, but a structural flaw in Norquist’s brain chemistry that demands patterns and certainty – two things he needs to feel secure within himself. Unfortunately for Norquist, human society is inherently unpredictable. Cultural and political movements spring up from nowhere and have the power to overthrow governments in the blink of an eye. Despite the overwhelming odds against working people in America, there should be no cause for despair. If blacks in South Africa could topple the apartheid regime through public protests, and Arabs could overthrow brutal dictators with virtually no weapons, there is no reason why working Americans cannot fight for the right to decent wages, health care and collective bargaining rights. It has been done before, and whether Grover Norquist likes it, it will be done again.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.