With all the back-and-forth spin and negative ads leading up to the national election, one important question has been mostly obscured.
Unless we voters can answer this question and a few related follow-ups, we aren't reasonably informed.
That question is: Who the heck is Grover Norquist? Follow-ups include: Why does he have such power over, such sway among, many members of Congress? Why did they sign a pledge of allegiance to him? Why do they represent him and his views rather than their constituents and their concerns?
And one last question: Have any of your favorite candidates signed Grover's pledge?
To start with the first question, Grover has a questionable past. He was an associate of Jack Abramhoff, who recently got out of prison for illegal lobbying practices in Washington.
Grover's name and reputation were tarnished along with Jack's, and he pulled back from the public scene for a while. But he returned, with as much or more influence than ever.
As for Jack, he wrote a post-prison book in which he deplored his illegal practices and said he was reformed and now on the side of good, helping to root out illegal and excessive influence in DC. We'll see.
Grover seems to be the same unapologetic Grover. Somehow he has gotten seemingly intelligent, independent and competent elected representatives to sign on to his outlook of essentially no tax increases ever, no matter what, shrinking services to the needy, and pretty much dismantling our government and country as we have know it for the past 60 years.
This is radical stuff, taking away our representatives and putting them in his pocket, or at least tying their hands. Do we really want this?
At least we can ask our candidates if they have signed the pledge. And keep asking until they answer. And ask follow-up questions. No-one, including the media or the Democrats, has sufficiently asked about this.
Instead of all the negative ads and obfuscating spin, how about asking a few direct questions, politely and persistently, until they are answered?
(James Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily News)