Garry Wills: Edmund Burke Against Grover Norquist

Roundup: Historians' Take

Garry Wills is Professor of History Emeritus at Northwestern. His latest book, Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer, was published in October 2010.

Grover Norquist is the powerful president of Americans for Tax Reform (where reform means elimination). He issues to all Republican candidates and office holders Tax Payer Protection pledges—a promise never, under any conditions, to support the raising of a tax—and then he monitors and reports the performance of those who have taken the pledge, as almost all Republicans in Congress have. That, in effect, puts a ban on congressional discussion of tax income, since the Republican bloc has pledged not even to consider it.

The idea of committing candidates to a rigid position as a condition of their being elected seems to be catching on. In Iowa, in anticipation of the caucuses there, Bob Vander Plaats of the conservative religious group Family Leader has issued a “Declaration of Dependency” committing a candidate to marital fidelity along with opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act, to pornography, to Sharia law, and to “uneconomic anti-marriage aspects of welfare policy [and} tax policy.” The pledge demands, as well, that its subscribers recognize “overwhelming statistical evidence” that married couples “enjoy better health,” and it requires the appointment of “none but faithful [i.e. religious] constitutionalists as judges or justices.”...

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