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First Person Singular: Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I was active in the presidential race when I was 12 or 13. I worked on the Nixon campaign in 1968. I filed "Get Out the Vote" cards. This is how old I am: These were 3-by-5 cards with addresses and people's names on them. Four years later, in '72, I worked on a big fundraiser for Nixon in Boston. I was one of the guys who helped staff it, as a volunteer, and they said, "Oh, you're not going to be able to go because your hair's too long." I always had long hair and thought that Janis Joplin was the high point of Western civilization. I never saw any conflict in that and being for liberty. I always thought they were sort of the same thing. The [Nixon] party people backed off, but that was a brief hiccup in my participation in American politics.

When I became 21, I decided that nobody learned anything about politics after the age of 21. Look at people who grew up in the Great Depression, and their understanding of politics is Hoover and FDR. Fifty years later, everything is Hoover and FDR.

People get the basics about how the world works, and it makes it tough to adjust, not just to BlackBerrys, but to political zones. This is one of those things I tried to avoid being guilty of. I've tried to diversify, in terms of working on many different issues. You're never winning everywhere. You never have a sense that the work's done. At Americans for Tax Reform, we work in all 50 states and at the national level, so all during the Bush years there were battles at the state level that we were losing. And today we're winning battles at the state level. So, by diversifying your portfolio, I guess, in terms of life work, I avoid depression and, equally, I avoid smugness.

When I run into people in politics who focus on one zone for 10 or 20 years, for me that would drive me mad. Some of them are depressed because they've had no movement in 20 years on a particular project. "We're working on passing this piece of legislation."

"And how's it doing?"

"Well, it hasn't passed yet."

The first part of sanity is have enough projects going [so] that never is life going in the wrong direction.

Interview by Cathy Areu

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