Former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist appeared before a crowd of dozens at the National Press Club Thursday to talk about the prospects of a left-right “convergence” in Washington.
If there is any justice in the world, the organizers should have made them pay for their own lunches.
The premise of the event was that while Washington is riven by partisan battles, there are many issues that the American people don’t view through a partisan lens, and which the left and right ought to be able to agree on. So far, so good.
In the end, though, both men delivered brief, disjointed remarks about civil liberties, crony capitalism, and government transparency, offering nothing resembling a plan of action on any of the issues, much less any evidence that there is any sort of measurable movement toward convergence among the American public.
Nader, whose legacy might have been giving Americans safer cars and safer food had he not instead gone into politics and given them the presidency of George W. Bush, began with rambling remarks ticking off a brief list of times, mainly back in the 1980s, when the left and right came together on specific issues. (The Clinch River breeder reactor, anyone…? Anyone?)
Norquist, whose aura of invincibility was punctured when Republicans in 2012 ignored the anti-tax pledge that made him famous, has recently been in the media more for his appearance at the Burning Man festival last week than for his political influence.
His remarks, punctuated by one-liners about the evils of government “stealing’ peoples money," were equally vague. He spent some time on earmarks, which haven’t actually existed in Congress since early in the Obama administration, then moved on to government transparency, corporate welfare and, just to establish his outsider cred, mandatory minimum sentencing.
What neither man did was offer any reason at all to think that some sort of viable left-right alliance is in the offing. The whole thing had the air of a bull session among first-year political science graduate students.
At the tail end of the question-and-answer session, Nader seemed to realize that they had delivered nothing of substance. Perhaps trying to earn his lunch, he awkwardly offered to fund “one full-time person” if Norquist would do the same, so that they could set up a “the first totally committed convergence advocacy group in America.”
Norquist ignored him.
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times: