Breaking: Grover has won! Like Frank Bruni, we happen to know Grover Norquist a small tiny tad.
Like Bruni, we happen to like Grover Norquist, although we think his policy ideas are patently nuts.
That said, Norquist has been a powerful player over the past twenty years. He remains a powerful player today, although Bruni doesn’t seem to recognize this fact.
How can we tell that Grover rules? The force of his narrative is evident in Bruni’s new column, even as its author celebrates Grover’s demise.
Some Republicans have announced that they are no longer bound by Norquist’s famous anti-tax pledge. Bruni says that’s a wonderful thing—but as he does, he quickly repeats the talking points that spring from Norquistism:
BRUNI (11/27/12): All three Republican lawmakers were echoing previous comments of their own and of a small but significant cluster of colleagues, whose numbers continued to grow on Monday, when Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, appearing on CBS’s “This Morning,” pronounced himself “not obligated on the pledge.” It’s as if some spell has at long last been broken, and the formerly bewitched villagers are rising up to defy their evil overlord and insist on the possibility of life and even mirth without a deduction for corporate jets.Even as he “celebrates” Grover’s demise, he starts reciting Grover’s points! We shouldn’t focus too much on tax increases! The main thing we should focus on is cuts to entitlement programs!
I celebrate this not because I think tax increases are some budget panacea. They’re not even close. In fact there’s a serious risk of focusing too much on them and too little on entitlement reform and other potential savings, and one of the real values of the Republican Party has been its insistence, in theory if not always in practice, on careful attention to expenditures.
(Before long, Bruni was hitting another mark, saying that “Lincoln” helps us see that we have to come to a compromise concerning the fiscal cliff right now. Already, this standard conclusion is sacred writ within the guild.)
Norquistism rules our discourse in every conceivable way. Its basic tenets are all around us. We are surrounded by Grover’s tenets as fish are surrounded by water.
We’ll take a wild guess: In our major newspapers, Frank Bruni has never so much as seen an account of what would happen if we approached our deficit problem through an emphasis on higher taxes.
One example: He has never even seen an account of what would happen if we simply returned to all the Clinton-era tax rates. In his own New York Times, has he ever seen a front-page discussion of the crazy tax breaks the Masters of the Universe get?
In our current circumstance, could tax increases turn out to be “some budget panacea?” It’s against the law to consider such a notion! That helps us see that Grover rules. He and his allies won this game a very long time ago.
Yesterday morning, Paul Krugman said “the deficit-scold movement has lost some of its clout.” If he meant its political clout, we’d have to say that he was dreaming, although he was right on the substance.
This morning, Bruni helped drive home our point. He celebrated Grover’s demise, then started reciting Grover’s points! We have to focus on entitlement cuts, he quickly averred.
Translation: Grover has won!
A second miscalculation: We’d say that Bruni miscalculates a second time in his next paragraph:
BRUNI (continuing directly): But over recent years the party lost much of its credibility in this discussion, by dint of the lavish spending and escalating debt under George W. Bush and because of a sophomoric, gimmicky purity that’s incarnate in Norquist, who has done his party real damage. He might as well have been onstage during that infamous Republican debate in August 2011 when all eight candidates for the party’s presidential nomination said that they wouldn’t accept even one dollar in tax increases for $10 in spending reductions. They had devolved into dummies, and Norquist was their ventriloquist.Has Norquist done the GOP real damage? Maybe, although we wouldn’t feel real certain. But he has produced tremendous return to the wealthy interests which invest in his enterprise.
As far as we know, Grover Norquist is sincere in his approach to budget matters. But the power of his message has made zillions of dollars for the nation’s conquering swells, who will experience little push-back from Bruni's mush-mouthed columns.
Bruni isn’t going to say that. Under the rules of Norquistism, such bad thoughts aren’t allowed. (Bruni's role: He writes columns about gay issues. This gives us liberals the impression that we have a seat at the NYT table.)
All around you in recent years, you have seen the mass agreement within the mainstream press—Norquistism can’t be challenged. That’s why you saw no discussion of Romney’s proposal to eliminate the estate tax. It’s why you saw no attempt in 2009 to explain why our health costs are so high.
(Where is all that money going? You aren't encouraged to ask.)
It’s why you saw so little discussion of Romney’s ludicrous tax pseudo-proposal. Long ago, major interests agreed that such topics can’t be explored.
Grover won a long time ago. Bruni types in his thrall.