Will The Real Conservatives Please Stand Up?

In Monday's Washington Post, GOP factotum Grover Norquist, who runs an outfit called Americans for Tax Reform, tells the public what conservatives think, and how they can incrementally achieve their program.

Funny thing is, real conservatives don't think many of the things Norquist says, not least of which is that you can change Washington slowly, by evolution.

Poseurs have hijacked the word u201Cconservative,u201D and not just when it comes to domestic policy. Internationalist, interventionist foreign policy ideas now travel under the conservative label.

Norquist’s Piece

The Norquist epistle is of a piece with the run of u201Cconservativeu201D thinking. Don't dismantle big government; take it over.

u201CThere are five steps to a single-rate tax: Abolish the death tax [and] … the capital gains tax, expand IRAs … full expensing of business investment … abolish the alternative minimum tax. Put a single rate on the new tax base and you have Steve Forbes and Dick Armey’s flat tax. Each of the Bush tax cuts … moves us toward fundamental tax reform.u201D

u201CConservatives,u201D he avers, u201Cwant to move to a flat-rate income tax for both economic and political reasons.u201D

Granted, a flat tax would be better than what we have now, but real conservatives would abolish the income tax, not flatten it. This would enable us to dismantle three-quarters of the unconstitutional federal regime. But Norquist, like most of the conservative Beltway philosophes these days, doesn't discuss the unconstitutional Leviathan.

Then again, the Leviathan is only possible because of the income tax, which is precisely why Norquist's Republican Party can never contemplate scrapping it. The income tax pays for GOP dreams of u201Cnational greatness.u201D

But let's go on: u201CThe Founding Fathers,u201D Historian Norquist writes, u201Cgerrymandered the Senate for Republican control.u201D

What? Maybe Norquist has been holed up inside the Beltway so long the real history of the Republic has been erased from his head, if anyone ever bothered to pencil it in. The founders did not u201Cgerrymanderu201D the Senate for the GOP. The Republican Party did not exist in 1787.

Real conservatives know and love history. They respect it. They study history and learn from it. The Norquist conservatives don't bother with it. They mostly study the Washington Times commentary section and the latest u201Cbackgroundersu201D from The Heritage Foundation.

The War Lovers

Norquist isn't the only faux conservative out there.

Others are the boosters of the trumped-up war against Iraq, the one we fought because Saddam Hussein had u201Cweapons of mass destruction.u201D American troops, by the way, have not found them.

These u201Cconservativesu201D envision America rolling over Iran and Syria, winning what they call World War IV. They run the Bush Administration, and compose most of the mob of u201Cconservativeu201D newspaper columnists and radio big mouths, from Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to Charles Krauthammer and the ubiquitous Bill Kristol.

Time was, America did not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy; we were well wishers of liberty everywhere, but defenders only of our own. Now, Leviathan destroys monsters from Indiana to Iraq, u201Cimposingu201D liberty along the way.

And u201Cconservativesu201D support it.

Call Us Conservatives?

Some of us weary of Norquist and his u201Creformistu201D Mafia telling the world, falsely, what an American conservative is. Maybe it's time to call ourselves something else, such as Constitutionalists.

But maybe not.

Norquist and Co. can use the name, but it changes nothing about them, and nothing about us.

June 11, 2003

Syndicated columnist R. Cort Kirkwood [send him mail] is managing editor of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va.

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