Grover Norquist: Edwin Land’s inadvertent invention.

I joke with my wife that, once you’re immersed as deeply as I am, everything leads back to Polaroid. And how on earth does the Republicans’ new vice-presidential candidate connect to the inventor of instant film?

Paul Ryan is, of course, a fierce small-government-lower-taxes advocate, backed and promoted by groups like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. (Norquist got Ryan to sign his pledge never to back a tax increase, and I doubt it took much prodding.) Norquist, for his part, often talks about his father’s influence on his thinking: Warren Norquist really hated paying taxes, and reportedly used to offer little life lessons by, say, handing young Grover an ice cream, then eating a third of it.

You may have figured out where this is leading: Warren Norquist was a vice-president at Polaroid, in charge of procurement. That was a critical (if unglamorous) job at Polaroid, where crazily complex, difficult-to-reproduce chemistry was the norm. In the production-oriented years under CEO Mac Booth, Norquist was, according to an adulatory profile in the (purportedly goddamn liberal) New York Times, considered a master.

I wonder what Edwin Land would’ve thought of Warren’s son. Land was, after all, a big believer in the free-enterprise system, and at one point all but begged his company’s employees not to unionize (they listened, and didn’t). But he was also generally pro-government: He advised several presidents on science, and contributed to defense work and other U.S.-funded scientific research. He also was a big supporter of the conservative bugbear known as public television: Land helped PBS and NPR come into being, testifying before Congress in the late sixties. And, of course, he lived in, and loved the culture of, one of the most liberal cities (Cambridge) in one of the most liberal states (Massachusetts) in America. Disliked Richard Nixon, too, because of Watergate. I think it’s fair to guess that he’d be an Obama voter.

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