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The Rise of “Moderate Mike” – Part III

Before moving on to this third and final review of Sen. Michael Roberson’s moderate “coming out” appearance on “Ralston Reports” a week ago (click here for Part I and click here for Part II), it’ll be helpful to first give you a little background on the conservative icon Roberson trashed in the final minutes of his interview.

There are a lot of people who write conservative columns. There are many who write conservative books. Still others who communicate conservatism via radio and TV talk-shows.

And then there are principled conservatives who do more than talk the talk. They are activists in the truest sense of the word. They are true believers. They inspire and lead others to take action. They are what is referred to as “movement” conservatives.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is the quintessential movement conservative.

Don’t get me wrong. Grover talks the conservative talk. He’s written three conservative books. He’s a contributing editor to the American Spectator magazine. He’s a regularly published conservative guest columnist in papers all across the country. He blogs. He tweets. He Facebooks. And he regularly spreads the conservative gospel on radio and television shows – including a 60 Minutes profile earlier this year.

But Grover also walks the walk…in the trenches.

He holds not one, but two Masters Degrees from Harvard, where he cut his teeth in the conservative movement as executive director of the College Republicans.

He went on to found Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) in 1985 at the request of then-President Ronald Reagan, and also sits on the boards of the American Conservative Union (ACU) and the National Rifle Association (NRA) – perhaps the three most influential and effective conservative organizations in the nation today.

ATR’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge (which is made to a candidate’s voters, not to Grover) has been signed by every Republican presidential nominee since its inception and just about every GOP Member of Congress, along with well over 1,200 Republicans in state legislatures (including, by the way, Sen. Roberson himself…who broke his Pledge earlier this year; something he conveniently neglected to mention in his interview).

Grover’s weekly off-the-record “Wednesday Meeting” in Washington, started in 1993, regularly pulls together some 150 elected officials, party leaders and political activists to discuss conservative movement strategies and tactics. It is a veritable “Who’s Who” of the Right. Everybody in the “movement” who’s anybody has probably been to at least one of Grover’s meetings while in DC.

(I invited Sen. Roberson to go with me when we were both in Washington for a conference last spring; he declined the offer.)

Grover is also the guiding force behind conservative projects and issues such as the Reagan Legacy Project, Cost of Government Day, transparency in government, spending control, health care, telecom, international trade, lawsuit abuse, energy, property rights, regulatory burdens on small business, organized labor abuse, ending the death tax, and too many more to list here.

Conservative conferences, media events, issue forums, debates…Grover’s been deeply involved in supporting and attending many of them all over the country for decades. And in recent years, when there were multiple candidates running to be Chairman of the Republican National Committee, guess who hosted and moderated the televised debates among the contenders?

Yep, Grover Norquist.

For their part, the Left – including our own Sen. Harry Reid, and especially the liberal media – despises Grover and the Tax Pledge with passion. Indeed, Adriana Huffington once referred to Grover as the “dark wizard of the Right’s anti-tax cult.”

Grover took it as a compliment.

Why do they hate him and the Tax Pledge so viscerally? Because they know the Pledge is a serious and extremely effective impediment to liberal efforts to increase taxes and grow government, that’s why.

On the other hand, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich says that Grover is “the most innovative, creative, courageous and entrepreneurial leader of conservative grassroots activism in America (who) has truly made a difference and truly changed American history.”

And Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says “It’s because of soldiers like Grover that the conservative movement is so vibrant today.”

I could go on and on…but you get the picture.

For over 30 years – THREE DECADES! – Grover has been in the trenches with us fighting effectively for conservative limited-government principles, policies and legislation…long before the tea party movement made such activism “cool.”

But you wanna know perhaps the most important thing I ever learned from Grover; a simple little something that, if all of us as parents did on a regular basis, we could begin to reverse the present slide toward benevolent socialism?

It’s a lesson he learned as a kid from his father…which I’ve adopted and passed down to my own children.

As Grover tells the story, whenever he had the treat of an ice cream cone or candy bar, his dad would say, “I’m from the government and I get the first bite” – and take it. It was done in a playful manner, but the lesson was quickly learned: Government bad; eats my treats.

I can tell you from first-hand experience, you have no idea how this simple little exercise with young children impresses upon them the negative power the government has to take your “stuff.” In fact, my kids sometimes now go out of their way to “hide” and “protect” their desert after dinner just so “Daddy Government” can’t take what is theirs.

Mission accomplished.

Anyway…with all of that out of the way, now let’s go to the tape.

Here’s the transcript I’ve been promising you of Sen. Roberson and show host Jon Ralston discussing Grover and the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in the closing minutes of Ralston Reports on November 8 – two days after Roberson blew his opportunity to gain a GOP majority in the state Senate:

Ralston: You’re annoyed by that Tax Pledge, aren’t you?

Roberson: Yeah.

Ralston: Why?

Roberson (smugly): I’m tired of Grover Norquist.

Ralston: Why?

Roberson: Uh, I don’t think he’s helpful to our party. I don’t think he’s helpful to politics generally.

Ralston: Because?

Roberson: Uh, this ideological rigidity. That, you know, you can never change your mind; you can never be open to options, I think is problematic, problematic. We need to be deliberating in Carson City and Washington, DC. We need to talk about everything.

“Moderate Mike” then broke into a Rodney King-like “can’t we all just get along” routine; talking about “both sides working together” and “meeting in the middle” and “capturing the center.”

You know, the same wishy-washy mish-mash of two-faced Gumby Republicanism that GOP “leaders” have been spoon-feeding us for years in Nevada to justify voting with Democrats for higher taxes, more spending and bigger government.

In any event…

“Moderate Mike” is tired of Grover?

Grover has been a conservative warrior and taxpayer champion for over 30 years.

“Moderate Mike” has been actively involved in politics here in Nevada for all of…what…18 months?

Grover has been integrally and effectively involved in growing the GOP from the precinct level to the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for over 30 years.

“Moderate Mike” just blew over $2 million-plus in his first leadership role only for Republicans to end up exactly where they started…in the minority.

Even Grover’s political opponents recognize and respect what he has done on behalf of conservatives and conservatism in his lifetime.

On the other hand, even some of “Moderate Mike’s” closest friends, donors and allies call him “arrogant” and “self-serving” (though not to his face).

And what “Moderate Mike” calls “ideological rigidity,” we movement conservatives call “principled consistency” – a notion clearly alien to a man clearly more interested in building his personal political power and future than in building a strong Republican Party and conservative movement in Nevada.

What’s the old saying about absolute power corrupting absolutely?

Sen. Roberson might be tired of Grover Norquist, but I’m tired of Republicans like Sen. Roberson who pretend to be conservative when they run for office and then turn their backs on “the ones that brung ‘em” once elected.

Alas, I’m in the minority.

But like Grover, I was fighting for limited-government conservatism here in Nevada long before “Moderate Mike” hit the scene…and, God willing, will still be around long after he exits, stage Left.