Grover Norquist is one of the most influential conservative operatives and sharpest political strategists in Washington. As president of Americans for Tax Reform, the taxpayer advocacy group he founded in 1985, each week he chairs the "Wednesday Meeting," a gathering of more than 120 elected officials, political activists and movement leaders. It's just one of many reasons The Wall Street Journal has called him "the Grand Central Station" of the conservative movement. Norquist's new book, “Getting the Government's Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives” (William Morrow), examines what he says are two competing "teams" in American politics -- the “Leave Us Alone Coalition” and the "Takings Coalition” -- and explains the demographic, economic and political trends that are shaping their futures. I talked to him April 22 on his cell phone as he raced around to various meetings in Washington.
Q: The Leave Us Alone Coalition is who?
A: Taxpayers who want their money left alone. Property owners who want their property left alone. Gun owners who want their Second Amendment rights left alone. Home-schoolers who want their kids left alone -- and everyone for whom the most important thing in their life is their faith and their family and who don’t want the government attacking their faith or throwing prophylactics at their kids.
Q: And the Takings Coalition people would be?
A: Trial lawyers, labor unions, big-city political machines, government workers, people with government contracts.
Q: Who is your book written for?
A: Anyone who is interested in the politics of the United States for the next 25 years.
Q: Why did you write it?
A: Well, since I do political work and have been doing political work for the last 25 years, I’ve learned how the center-right coalition works and how the left coalition works. And the mistakes that each team makes come from misunderstanding the nature of their own coalition. It’s the equivalent of a book that tells you how a car works, so that people who are interested in riding in cars can get somewhere. It’s about how political coalitions work. And how smart politicians damage themselves when they misunderstand what moves voters. Since I’m center-right, I’m hoping that the center-right will learn more from it than the left, but a smart person of the left could learn quite a bit too.
Q: Are these two coalitions evenly divided or is one gaining?