Political Animal


June 12, 2012 9:29 AM Norquist Defends Mythical Reagan Against Real Reagan

By Ed Kilgore

So Jeb Bush incautiously suggested that Ronald Reagan would probably be considered a tax-raising, Democrat-coddling RINO if he were around right now, and the unofficial keeper of the Temple of Reagan, Grover Norquist, freaked out.

It would be a silly nothingburger of a story if not for the immense power Grover Norquist exercises over Republican politicians, and the equally immense mythological presence of Ronald Reagan in the conservative imagination.

Norquist was definitely annoyed at having to deal with Reagan’s actual record, so he explained why the real Reagan wasn’t relevant:

He didn’t have a Republican House committed to not raising taxes as president. And he had a pre-Reagan Senate. This is the Republican Party that Reagan created — that he envisioned.

Uh huh. And Grover, no doubt, is the commissar Reagan “envisioned” to make sure today’s Republican Party—which he also “envisioned”—would do not as he did but as Grover says he woulda shoulda coulda done if everything had been different.

Cults are really hard to maintain when there are so many people still around who remember the cultic objects before their images were blurred by smoke and incense.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Burr Deming on June 12, 2012 9:55 AM:

    The Republican race toward the precipice is not a strategic decision. It is a sociological phenomenon. It is not a recoverable mindset. It is fueled by new technology. It is a fatal virus that will destroy the GOP. No antidote is apparent.

  • c u n d gulag on June 12, 2012 9:57 AM:

    No Ed, cults are easy to maintain when there are so many people who are willing to suspend disbelief and worship whatever you point them to.

    This is OT - but I'll say this much for the some of previous Republican Presidents - Ike, Nixon, and Reagan, were not born into wealth and power, and actually had to do more than pop-out of the womb and sit on the gravy train until the powers-that-be decided to make them candidates for President, unlike "Papa Doc" "Baby Doc," and Mitt (R-money).

  • stormskies on June 12, 2012 10:02 AM:

    The next thing Norquist will do is bring forth voodoo dolls with pins in them for anyone who disagrees with his hysterical delusions.

  • schtick on June 12, 2012 10:04 AM:

    I suppose the next step with Grover will be the S&M whips and chains to keep his flock in line. And you just know they will sign the pledge for that, too.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on June 12, 2012 10:08 AM:

    I was looking at his ugly puss today and wondered who made him King? That that blot on western civilization wields so much power is beyond comprehension.
    Can someone explain it to me?

  • T2 on June 12, 2012 10:09 AM:

    "Reagan envisioned" ?????? the guy was, and his own family admits this, senile for almost his entire second term. He didn't envision sh*t. He just stood there and smiled while the same usual suspects pulled the strings of power.....but back then the "strings of power" let Ronnie RAISE TAXES a bunch to pay for their Military Industrial Complex.
    Now Norquist praises Reagan....but what about the tax hikes, you scumbag?

  • c u n d gulag on June 12, 2012 10:18 AM:

    Ronald Reagan NEVER raised taxes!

    "Ronald Reagan is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."

  • ckelly on June 12, 2012 10:27 AM:

    Shush! Rewriting history is HARD WORK people!! Especially with all those pesky internets and video tapes.

  • 2Manchu on June 12, 2012 10:28 AM:

    If I recall from grade school (and Schoolhouse Rock), the President of the United States has a certain power (I think it starts with a "v") that they can use to prevent a bill from becoming law.

    If Reagan truly was opposed to increasing taxes, he could have used this power to prevent them from happening, or at least force Congress to override him.

    And yet, Reagan didn't.

    Can Grover explain that one?

  • boatboy_srq on June 12, 2012 10:37 AM:

    He didnít have a Republican House committed to not raising taxes as president. And he had a pre-Reagan Senate.

    By that logic, government that involves representation from more than one party is irrational and cannot function. There are descriptors for governments where only one party is present; "democratic" is not generally included in that list.

    How exactly does Norquist define a "pre-Reagan" governmental body? Would the Senate circa 1984 still be pre-Reagan, since 1/3 of it still predates his inauguration? What about SCOTUS - that would be a pre-Reagan body well into the 1990s.

    Using these terms, it's impossible in turn for the Reichwing to criticize Obama: he's had pre-Obama Senate and SCOTUS for the same amount of time, and a contra-Obama House for two years, so it's impossible to ascribe any of his policies to his administration - and entirely appropriate to lay the woes of 2012 US right at Republicans' feet. Indeed, it's impossible to discuss the accomplishments of any President until second term at best, which would invalidate all of Bush 1 (those were Reagan years which makes the 1991-2 recession Reagan's fault), Carter, Ford, Hoover (though in Hoover's case the blame goes straight to Coolidge) - no single-term Presiden is immune to this. Makes you wonder whether God's Own Party is rethinking, among other Constitutional Amendments, the 22nd.

  • Steve P on June 12, 2012 11:00 AM:


    Try "Grand Inquisitor". Because Norquist doesn't believe a word of this sh*t he's peddling. "Ronald Reagan" is a myth he co-opted--a man who actually governed as a center-right Republican and a social moderate, embalmed by Norquist as an exhibit to attract the suckers who buy the snake oil.

    Find a candidate with Reagan's positions today, run him in a major primary and watch the Cudgel For Growth attack ads. Especially when he pries Grover's clammy hands off his arm and shoves him and his pledge aside, like Reagan would have.

  • SecularAnimist on June 12, 2012 11:31 AM:

    Ronald Reagan was bloodthirsty butcher.

    When four students were murdered by the National Guard at Kent State, then-governor Ronald Reagan said "If it's going to take a bloodbath to straighten this country out, so be it."

    Ronald Reagan is personally responsible for the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Central America at the hands of US-backed terrorists and death squads.

    And without the incredible good fortune that Gorbachev was in charge of the USSR, Ronald Reagan would probably have incinerated the world.

  • Keeping Track on June 12, 2012 12:12 PM:

    The Republican party can no longer be said to have a philosophy. What it offers is smokescreens for greed, and wedge issues to cleave the 99% down to 49% of ballots cast and counted. They perpetually scour the fringes of public opinion, looking for any button hot enough to get people to vote against their own economic interests. Race, gender preference, religion, feminazis, abortion (even contraception, for christsake!) are often not real beliefs of theirs, but just tools wielded by the perpetually beleaguered 1%.

  • tcinaz on June 12, 2012 12:41 PM:

    The whole Bush point is inane to begin with, so any discussion about it is irrelevant. Reagan learned from Nixon what it took to get elected as a Republican. He was a professional actor who portrayed whatever was necessary to get elected. And he revealed with Philadelpia, Mississippi and with welfare queens the depth of his cynicism in quest of manipulating the Republican vote. Today he would be as cynical and as effective with Republican voters as Mitt Romney. Grover Norquist has always attempted to mask that cynicism as some principled conservative ideology, but 32 years of GOP policy reveals that there is only one principle Republicans adhere to: get re-elected.

  • Rabbler on June 12, 2012 2:59 PM:

    Would Reagan have ever been president without the support of the tweener looney tune wing of the Republican party. That wing was born in response to the 'the 60s.' Now it is a fully grown monster. Reagan belongs to the monster in the sense that it made him and he had the sense to know it

  • Sparko on June 12, 2012 3:31 PM:

    Lenin was also good at telling the world what Marx really meant. And in turn, Stalin was able to fully understand the dead Lenin, right down to ghastly wish to be embalmed and placed on display forever.