Misreading Dick Armey

Dick Armey has an excellent critique of the Republicans in yesterday’s Washington Post. Armey’s argument is misinterpreted by this self-proclaimed moderate and this social conservative, both of whom think that Armey is blaming social and religious conservatives (or unfairly singling out some religious conservatives) for the Party’s current problems.

The Republican Party is a broad coalition of libertarians, social and religious conservatives, fiscal conservatives and pro-defense liberals. A broad coalition needs unifying ideas that transcend the differences between the coalition’s subgroups. Armey is arguing for those unifying ideas. He is not saying that the issues that energize social conservatives do not matter. What he is saying is that by focusing too much on those particular issues, and by spending to the point of negating their historical focus on limited government, the Republicans abandoned the values which in the past unified them and allowed them to win elections.

The groups comprising the Republican Party disagree about many things but share fundamental beliefs in limited government and strong national defense. The conventional wisdom since 2000 has been that the Republican coalition is weakening because it no longer has a Democratic administration to oppose. That seems right, and it appears increasingly obvious that the limits of Republican political effectiveness have been reached. Spending and social-issues triangulation no longer work, if they ever did, to keep the coalition together. A new approach is needed. Perhaps now, for want of better alternatives, the Republican Party will return to its small-government roots.

(And perhaps one day the Democrats will provide effective competition in the form of alternative ideas to what the Republicans are offering. In the meantime the only choices we have are Republicans and anti-Republicans. The failure of the Republicans to dominate the political landscape in the face of such weak opposition shows how much they have drifted from their ideological roots.)

(via Instapundit)

Cross-posted at 26th Parallel.

6 thoughts on “Misreading Dick Armey”

  1. Prof. Reynolds is becoming tiresome, as so too Dick Armey, with their endless comment that the Democrats offer no ideas to offset the GOP. In fact, the GOP controls both houses of Congress and the White House. In fact, the GOP has shown a total failure in what they have offered: a huge budget deficit (from the Clinton balenced budget); no changes in health care needs; nothing done about illegals aliens; a war that is a disaster and which will tar the Bush record in history; corruption and scandal. And yet, a party unable to live by what the publilc is told is their standards (small govtp; balenced budget etc) needs to get back to their roots and all will be well. In short, keep this failed group in power and do not under any circumstances bring in the Democrats!

  2. Dick is a fool who has failed to show any leadership or vision. He should step aside and let others move the party forward. I guess what I am saying is that Dick is the past and teh present and future has no real palce for him.

  3. Nate Zuckerman:
    I think Armey makes a good case: Republicans do well when they run on a coherent platform of limited government and strong defense.

    And yes, the Republicans control Congress. So what? If the Democrats think the Republicans are doing the wrong things, shouldn’t the Democrats tell us what they would do instead? All they are doing is making hindsight criticisms of Republican failures (which is what you are doing too, BTW). Nothing wrong with that but any adult knows that criticism is always easier than action. Do you think, for instance, that the Democrats would be criticizing the war if they thought it was going well? I think it’s obvious that they wouldn’t be. Do you think, for instance, that the Democrats would respond better to attacks by jihadists than the Bush administration does? I see no evidence that they would, and suspect that they wouldn’t. Of course, if they made an actual argument for their defense posture, instead of merely criticizing Bush’s actions, it might be possible to evaluate their positions fairly. But they refuse to do that and I, therefore, don’t trust them. Why should I trust them? They are obviously following a cynical policy. That is inappropriate for serious leaders.

    (BTW, low budget deficits aren’t necessarily good. A low deficit under current conditions means govt is keeping tax rates high enough to collect enough revenue to avoid incurring more debt. Interest rates are low. A low deficit therefore means that capital that could be earning 10% or 20% annualized, or more, in private-sector investments is instead being used to avoid paying 4.5% interest on long-term bonds. That is an extremely wasteful use of capital.)

    Thanks for sharing your opinions. Check in again when you have a rational argument.

  4. I wish you’d stop saying “fiscal” conservatives. We’re economic conservatives, or free market conservatives – we care about property rights, regulations, free trade, antitrust laws, tort reform, and on and on, not just about the goddamned deficit.

    The Democrats came up with this “fiscal” business back when Clinton was running a surplus. It implied that “fiscal” conservatives should vote for the Democrats, and it also gave Democrats the chance to crow about their “fiscal” responsibility, as a change from their usual record of economic disaster. But to any conservative who cares about capitalism and the free market, the subject includes much more than just ways and means and getting and spending.

    Say no to “fiscal”!

    Otherwise, yeah. Dick Armey’s right. (Natch.)

  5. P.S. – Another choice might be the one an ex-girlfriend of mine labelled me with: cold-hearted money conservatives. But not – definitely not – “fiscal”.

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