Note: This is one in a series of profiles of UL contributors and friends and how they became involved in the “liberty movement.” Share your story on Twitter using the hashtag #IAmUnitedLiberty.
Grover Norquist is one of the most well-known figures in conservative politics. Americans for Tax Reform, the organization he founded in 1985, has become a powerhouse in politics, driving the conversation on taxes, labor policy, and regulation.
United Liberty caught up with Norquist last weekend at FreedomFest in Las Vegas and asked him how he got involved in politics and the conservative movement as well as where he thinks the movement is headed over the next few years.
“I was active early on in politics. Back in [the 1970s], I worked on the Nixon campaign because I was concerned about the Soviet Union, and I just stayed involved in politics. If you decide to get involved early, it just kind of stays with you,” Norquist told United Liberty.” It’s kind of like learning to play tennis. Once you’ve learned, whenever there’s a tennis game, you join. If you’re involved in politics, every time there’s an election or a fight, you get in.”
Norquist explained that the central issue he’s working on at the moment is reducing the size and scope of government, especially at the state-level where there are plenty of opportunities due to the fact that Republicans control nearly half of the state legislatures.
“We’re opportunistic right now. Nothing is moving at the federal-level because you have gridlock between a Democratic president and a Republican House, and neither is going to let the other team do anything, either useful or evil,” said Norquist. “But in the 50 states, there are 24 states with united Republican control, so there’s the opportunity there to do pension reform, tax cuts, [and] concealed carry. In the 13 blue states, there they’re raising taxes rather than fix the pension system.”
“So, there’s a real set of issues within the states, where one party has 24 states and they’re drifting right, one party is drifting left, with 13 states,” he said, adding that he believes the situation will continue for the next several years because of redistricting.
Americans for Tax Reform is, of course, known for the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a promise that state and federal lawmakers take to never vote for any measure that raises their constituents’ taxes. Norquist said that the Pledge is doing well in this cycle, noting that Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) took it for the first time.
“One, he was an appropriator and, two, he didn’t need to talk to anybody to get elected, which is why he almost didn’t get elected this time, because he hadn’t been campaigning,” said Norquist. “These people who think they’re immortal because nobody has ever shot at them have a more difficult time running in races. So, he decided to take the Pledge to make that commitment, and I appreciate that.”
More importantly, Norquist explained, is that most of the new candidates poised to win in November have signed the Pledge and that, come January, a majority of the House and, quite possibly a majority of the Senate will be “Pledge-takers.”
Norquist expressed optimism that Millennials — young people between the ages of 18 and 34 — are more open to limited government ideas, much like they were during the Reagan-era, as a result of the colossal failures of Barack Obama’s presidency.
“There was a concern that had Obama been viewed as a successful president that that could lock down a generation of young people for Obama” said Norquist. ”He’s not been seen as a particularly successful president on foreign policy, domestic policy, [and] taxes. And, so, that hasn’t happened. Millennials are still up for grabs.”
“The Republicans do some things to irritate them and some things to attract them,” he continued, “and they need to focus more on speaking to them.”
When asked about the recent Reason-Rupe poll finding that 53 percent of Millennials would vote for a socially liberal and fiscally conservative candidate, Norquist said that although there aren’t many people running for office on such a platform, it may encourage them to do so in the future.