Lights, sequins, syncopation. They do put on a performance. Governing? No. But glitter, glam and that good old anti-government sound? Oh, yeah. You can almost hear the Gipper tapping his toe.
They are the show that’s trying to stop the show. They are The Extremes.
Michele. Rick. Rand. There’s Texas right-winger Louie Gohmert on the drums. Ever-extreme Roscoe Barton on the tinny tambourine.
Singing background, that’s Doug Lamborn of Colorado, he who called President Obama a “tar baby.” Snap those fingers.
In a discontented summer, on the Tea Party label, they rose to the top of the charts, refusing to tune down their anti-tax shtick, even in the face of a $14 trillion deficit, even at the risk of shutdown and default by the U.S. government.
No government? No problem. That would just mean more spotlight for them. These are the one-hit wonders who in an economic lull, took the country by storm, as pop acts tend to do. You do remember the Spice Girls. Maybe.
Understand: Behind every musical sensation is a sensei, a guru, a promoter, the one with the iron hand. For Diana Ross and The Supremes, it was Berry Gordy, known for his dalliances and controlling quirks. For Michele Bachmann and The Extremes, it is Grover Norquist.
Did I mention Rick? Yes. Now, Rick Perry has brought his act into the act. And, sorry, Michele, but he looks every bit as good as you in satin and feathers. And he’s Grover’s squeeze, too.
You might wonder how Norquist rose in the industry. That’s pretty simple. Industry — corporations, more particularly — and right-wing industrialists, pumped millions of dollars into his interest group Americans for Tax Reform. With all that money and behind-the-scenes support, Norquist has attained a position held by few outside of government: a combination hit maker and hit man.
To get his blessing you have to do two things: (1) Get elected. (2) Sign his pledge never to support new taxes, though the national debt soars, though troops are committed around the globe at the cost of half a billion dollars every day — $700 million a day at the height of involvement in Iraq. No matter. To put it in the vernacular of the heartland: We don’t need no stinkin’ revenue.
Norquist is the the demagogue’s demagogue. But for people who care only about their own needs, he is the star maker’s star maker. He’s famous for quipping: “I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Put that to music.
Here’s the amazing thing. Whereas once members of the House and Senate pledged allegiance to the United States and its needs, all but 17 Republicans holding seats in the two houses are committed to something else entirely. They are beholden to that pledge to Grover Norquist.
Lest we think this makes Texas Gov. Perry an outsider — pure, fresh air amid this circular current — he has signed the same pledge and has been one of Norquist’s favorite anti-tax mannequins for some time.
As a result of Perry's leadership, though Texas must balance its budget by law, it has a structural deficit that causes it to continually carve at what a state must do, like educate its children, pave its roads or protect its natural resources.
It’s been clear, whether the needs are those children, or the elderly, or the disabled, or all those troops who shed blood for us, what The Extremes are about is pleasing two constituencies: Those who can afford the best seats at the base of their stage, and of course the mogul who helped make them what they are.
Once upon a time, Thomas Jefferson wrote that this is a nation in which power was derived from the consent of the governed. He did not consider a government in which any thing it might need to do would have to be run past the desk of a man named Grover.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.