Grover Norquist, GOP prophet of permanence.
Grover Norquist, GOP prophet of permanence.
Taking stock of people and ideas in the news.
July 7 2003 7:13 PM

Grover Norquist

The Republican Party's prophet of permanence.

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Because of that respect for the state, Norquist sees every election as world-historical. "The 2000 elections will decide the Democrats' future," he wrote in 1999. A year earlier, he fretted that if President Clinton "retakes the House for liberalism, his place in history will be on a par with that of FDR or JFK." Norquist has counterfactual nightmares along the same lines. He told Reason in 1997: "I mean, four more years of Carter, and Central America would have been communist, and South America would have been communist, and they would have rolled up Africa, they would have rolled up Latin America. We could have lost the whole shooting match to what we now know as a rather pathetic Soviet empire. But they still could have beaten us if Carter had continued supervising our team." He also confessed to Reason that he feared that Clinton's effort to implement universal health care could have relegated the Republicans to permanent minority status:  "Had the Democrats taken over health care, I think we would have become a social democracy and we could have never undone it. We wouldn't have won in '94, and even if we did, it wouldn't matter because 50 percent of the population would be on the take."

The Republicans are in power forever—until the next election, when the Democrats could be in power forever. Norquist lives on the brink. His fear of what the terrifying power of the state would be like under complete Democratic control explains his willingness to make a rare departure from the GOP line to oppose the Patriot Act. As the prophet of Republican permanence told Salon: "Someday Hillary Clinton's going to be attorney general, and I hope conservatives keep that in mind."

Chris Suellentrop, a former Slate staffer, is a host of the podcast Shall We Play a Game?