Norquist’s Coalition May Suffer from Abramoff and Ideological Split

Speaking at an American Prospect breakfast, Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and the dean of D.C.’s right-wing coalition, offers his interpretation of the Republican Party’s problem appealing to gay and lesbian voters:

Ellen Ratner (Talk Radio News Service): The Republicans in Ohio are saying the gay marriage vote is essentially what won them the last election. The President has pushed this gay marriage amendment, the Senate has. Yet you say people have individual rights. They seem to have a very different view of gays.

Norquist: There’s a very interesting question on … I speak to the Log Cabin Republicans and work with them on a whole host of issues … the Human Rights Campaign on certain things … so I get trashed from time to time by some of my friends. I think it’s a mistake to write off any group. I was in Romania, they’re having elections in four weeks, and I was organizing the non-communists. And I had them write on a blackboard Who’s Voting for Us, Who’s Voting for Them. And they had to list … understand why everybody was. They had the gypsies voting for the communists, and I said, “OK, I get why the Communists are voting for the Communists, and the Army and the police and the guys with government jobs, but why the gypsies?” If I were a gypsy I’d want to live outside touchy-feely U.S. law, much less harsher communist law. And they said, “Well, the communists buy them liquor and then they vote for them.” And I said, “We can do this; George Washington did this, it’s OK.” And they said, “No, the gypsies are scum and we won’t talk to them.” And I said, “OK, I guess you’re not getting the gypsy vote then.” In politics you want to have as few gypsies as possible, as few groups and people who are not voting for you because you’re not talking to them.

He adds later that he has “never have seen numbers which suggest that speaking harshly about gays is a vote winner.”

While Norquist helps to hold together the economic and social wings of the Right, The Washington Post reports on fractures developing in Norquist’s group over his involvement in the Jack Abramoff scandal. While he continues leading his Wednesday meetings, “where officials of conservative organizations, activists and lobbyists gather with Republican politicians to swap notes, make plans and coordinate messages,”

Some social conservatives who have jousted with him over his more libertarian views on the regulation of television and its depictions of violence and depravity are exploiting his weakness to press their positions on Capitol Hill. Security-minded defense hawks who for years have questioned his ties to Muslim activists are resurrecting charges that Norquist has turned a blind eye to terrorist sympathizers.

Despite his troubles, The Post reports, “apparatus he has created for conservatives — with fundraisers, social dinners and weekly meetings not just in Washington but in 43 states and even Europe — has become too important to destroy.”