In Grover Norquist’s World, Ronald Reagan Is a “Rat Head in a Coke Bottle”

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/5448693937/sizes/m/in/photostream/">Gage Skidmore</a>/Flickr

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


On Sunday night, 60 Minutes‘ Steve Kroft profiled the man who’s done more than anyone to ensure that Congress’ budget-slashing supercommittee goes down in flames: anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist.

Norquist, who runs the group Americans for Tax Reform, is best known for his “Taxpayer Protection Pledge.” Those who sign the pledge, usually Republican members of Congress, vow to oppose all tax increases. “Pledge” signers include 270 members of Congress, among them House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), as well as every GOP presidential candidate except for Jon Huntsman. Indeed, the refusal of any notable Republican in Congress to stomach tax increases as part of this summer’s debt ceiling deal or the supercommittee’s plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the national deficit is owes largely to Norquist’s “Pledge.” Those who break it face Norquist’s wrath when re-election time rolls around. Norquist told Kroft his organization will fund ads opposing that candidate “to encourage them to go into another line of work, like shoplifting or bank robbing, where they have to do their own stealing.”

But perhaps the most curious moment of the interview came when Norquist described his role as simply protecting the Republican brand, just as Coca-Cola ensures the quality of its signature product:

Norquist: ‘Cause let’s say you take that Coke bottle home, and you get home, and you’re two thirds of the way through the Coke bottle. And you look down at what’s left in your Coke bottle is a rat head there. You wonder whether you’d buy Coke ever again. You go on TV, and you show ’em the rat head in the Coke bottle. You call your friends, and tell them about it. And Coke’s in trouble.

Republicans who vote for a tax increase are rat heads in a Coke bottle. They damage the brand for everyone else.

Norquist belongs to a group of conservative stalwarts who idolize Ronald Reagan and his economic policies. A bust of Reagan sits on Norquist’s desk. The irony, of course, is that Reagan himself would’ve repeatedly violated Norquist’s “Pledge” (had he even signed it) during his presidency. Reagan closed business tax loopholes in 1984. He raised corporate taxes in 1986. He hiked capital gains taxes by 40 percent. In all, Reagan raised taxes 11 times in eight years. In Norquist’s world, Reagan was just another “rat head in a Coke bottle.”

The full 60 Minutes profile of Norquist is worth watching, if only to better understand the man behind the fiscal gridlock in Washington. It’s here:

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate