13 August 2012

Will We be Reading Norquist's Obituary in November?

Grover Norquist may have killed the Republican Party. That's unfortunate because every country needs a good, conservative option.

With Romney's choice of Ryan, one could say that Norquist's position has won. Ryan is a fiscal hawk who wants to eliminate capital gains tax. (Romney's tax bill under Ryan's plan would have been zero in recent years, which may be one reason that Romney is so fond of Ryan.) But deficit reduction through only reductions in government spending strikes most Americans as extreme. Norquist and now the Republicans as  a whole are putting two things at risk: votes and the economic recovery.

There are two things that define the conservatives in the US. One is a distrust of social invention, whether it comes in the form of gay marriage or letting women vote or abolishing religion and private property.

As it turns out, there is a genetic difference between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives are more likely to interpret something novel as a threat while liberals are more likely to be seduced by it. It would be disastrous to live in a community where those two impulses weren't mitigated by dialogue of some sort. Running after the rainbow of unproven novelty would ruin you as quickly as crossing your arms and just saying no to new, unproven ideas.

The other thing that distinguishes conservatives is their reliance on individual initiative over coordinated effort, more interested in what individuals do with tax refunds than what the government can do with more revenue. Again, not to have conservatives betting on the individual over the community is to steer too far to the left to keep on any course.

In comes Norquist, who has decided that it is too hard to calculate reasonable tax rates in different scenario or from different starting points. Norquist is one of these people who simply does not trust judgment. So, he puts in place a rule that Republicans ought to never, under any circumstances, raise taxes. This when taxes as a percentage of GDP are at a 50 year low. Because of Norquist, Republicans refused to raise taxes by one dollar even with the offer of $10 of cuts in return. The Republicans have become ideologues, substituting an idea for analysis and reason.

Obama is vulnerable but still favored in the November election. If Republicans hadn't chosen to fall in line with Norquist, it could have easily been Romney who was favored. If we're lucky, the Republicans will lose badly enough in November that they'll turn away from Norquist and back to the American people. They may eventually become a viable option again, and that will be good for everyone, even liberals.

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