Republicans' secret to victory is ... vapers? Grover Norquist's niche voter theory to defeating Hillary Clinton is just blowing smoke

Grover Norquist discovers the 2016 election will be determined by the issues Grover Norquist cares about

Published April 8, 2016 4:55PM (EDT)

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform                                (AP/Yuri Gripas)
Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform (AP/Yuri Gripas)

Burning Man aficionado and anti-tax imp Grover Norquist wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post Friday morning making the case that demographics aren’t necessarily destiny when it comes to the 2016 presidential election. Sure, he allows, the Democrats might have an advantage when it comes to pretty much every key emerging racial demographic – Hispanics, African Americans, Asians – but the Republicans have their own secret weapon.


According to Norquist, who’s been on a pro-vaping kick for some time, “users of e-cigarettes and vapor products” are just one of six – six! – groups of voters who, taken together, represent “dramatic changes in the electorate over the past 30 years” that “give Republican candidates an advantage.” The other five are home-schoolers, charter-school parents, concealed carry permit holders, fracking employees and, of course, Uber drivers.

Norquist’s case is simple: All these things are relatively new, and new things are good, especially when they are unregulated. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is old, which means she doesn’t understand them and wants to regulate them, and that will cost her the election:

Clinton watched her husband run for the presidency and win in 1992 and 1996. But that was before vaping, fracking, Uber, concealed-carry, charter schools and home schooling became prevalent in the United States.

It’s facile argumentation on Norquist’s part, in that he assumes that people who make use of these new and exciting products and services are as ferociously anti-regulation as he is. Weirdly enough, it’s possible to support something like Uber or vaping and also be in favor of the government enforcing safety standards and employer regulations. Here’s what Norquist writes about Uber, for example:

There was no Uber before 2009. Today, there are 400,000 Uber drivers who take at least four trips a month. Clinton has announced that she wants to “crack down” on independent contractor laws that allow Uber and the entire sharing economy to exist. Why? Unions don’t like laws that allow Americans to work independently. They don’t pay dues. Clinton wants you to have a boss.

You know who else is angry about the independent contractor laws affecting Uber drivers? Uber drivers. Specifically, the Uber drivers who’ve filed a class-action lawsuit against Uber challenging their status as independent contractors. The Norquistian dream may be for Uber drivers to cruise along seatbelt-free at 142 miles an hour, e-cigarette in their lips, enjoying the freedom that comes with no health insurance or job protections, but some of them actually like having benefits and some level of job security and structure. The same principle applies to Norquist’s theoretical legions of vape-first voters – it’s certainly possible for fans of e-cigarettes to also be a wee bit concerned about what all the chemicals they’re inhaling are doing to their body, especially since the science on the toxicity of vaping liquids is still preliminary and disputed.

Norquist’s case also presumes that these voters prioritize vaping, or Uber, or charter schools, or concealed carry over their other concerns. In his mind, there’s a millennial voter out there who’s worried about income inequality and supports immigration reform and is horrified at the ease with which mass murderers obtain firearms, but a few Democrats want to crack down on e-cigarettes so screw it he’s voting for Ted Cruz.

That’s not really how elections work, but it is an appealing libertarian fantasy to have a small army of single-issue, anti-regulation diehards niche-vote Hillary Clinton to death. In the real world, Democrats are much happier to have the growing minority segments of the population in their camp than a patchwork coalition of vapers and homeschoolers.

By Simon Maloy

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