Grover Norquist and Osama Bin Laden

Cartoon of Grover Norquist

Cartoon of Grover Norquist

From my History in Politics series:

To put together Grover Norquist, the Republican anti-tax champion, and the late Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attack on the U.S., the truth lies in their common attitude toward the American federal government. Norquist famously said he wanted to shrink our Washington, DC-based national government to a size where he could “drown it in the bathtub.” Osama Bin Laden, who hated our American government with as much fervor as Grover Norquist, described his 9/11 attack as the “conquest of the U.S.A.” Both these men had the same goal: destroy America’s ability to govern itself.

Some people are asking if Norquist’s philosophy of starving the U.S. government is not an incitement to treason. Bin Laden paid with his life for his murder of more than 3,000 Americans. Norquist, with his anti-tax “pledge,” although diminished in support to an extent, is still maintaining his un-American wish to overthrow the U.S. Constitution.

The adoption of our Constitution is generally seen, for those who know American history, as the cement that has kept Americans together since we gained our freedom from Great Britain. It was not easily passed. There was significant opposition to having a strong government, and in ratification conventions, state by state, the measure often just squeaked by. Massachusetts was a case in point. The Constitution was adopted there by a plurality of only 19 votes.

We see now in the issues raised by Grover Norquist some of the same sentiments that early on fired up the idea of nullification by the states of federal laws and encouraged them to disobey the law of the land. For example, cries have recently gone out from state figures that they would nullify the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress under the leadership of President Barack Obama.

Prior to the Civil War, the most flagrant attempts to reject certain aspects of a Federal law concerned South Carolina and its decision to nullify the Tariff of 1828 and the Tariff of 1832. Andrew Jackson was president, and he set forth his objections to these nullifications by declaring, “I consider, then, the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one state, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.”

Jackson hinted at a use of federal troops to enforce this legislation in dispute, and no other state came forward to support South Carolina.

Almost thirty years later, the issue took a serious turn when certain states, unable to overturn federal legislation, opted for “secession.”

That word has raised its ugly head again in petitions from sorehead losers in the 2012 elections. In the 1860s, it led to all-out war and the ultimate defeat of the Secessionists. Hopefully, the present moves of petitioners in small bodies of various states will quietly fade away and no attacks on federal facilities will be contemplated or carried out.

But to go back to two of the biggest haters of our present-day federal government, Osama Bin Laden is no more, but his organization Al Qaeda is a going concern and one that we are combating with our federal resources. Bin Laden’s pitch to Muslims is based on their returning to what he saw as the glorious past of the Caliphate, when Islam was unified and rampantly imperialistic. Grover Norquist’s dream might be a return to the 18th century, when the top echelons of countries like Great Britain and France paid no taxes, and Marie Antoinette’s philosophy vis-à-vis the poor and middle classes under her reign was “Let them eat cake,” when told the people had no bread.

We have had other examples of this mind-set in our history. We have seen the possibility of the U.S. defaulting on its debt to protect the tax status of the two-percent wealthiest Americans. I’m not sure what Grover Norquist would tell us to eat. Dirt, possibly.

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