The main thesis of Armey’s article is, “Why are Republican leaders governing like Democrats?”
Armey cites three principles that he calls “Armey’s Axioms.” They are as follows:
- Make a deal with the devil and you're the junior partner.
- You can't get your finger on the problem if you've got it in the wind.
- When we act like us, we win. When we act like them, we lose.
I have to admit that I have long appreciated Armey’s homely charm. When the whole Monica Lewinsky affair hit the fan, he responded to a reporter’s question about if he would resign if he were in President Clinton’s place by saying, “If I had been in the President's place, I would not have gotten the chance to resign. I would be lying in a pool of my own blood hearing Mrs. Armey standing over me saying 'How do you reload this d****d thing?'” (see here)
Armey’s first point is that when Republicans cut deals that go against the basic principles of “lower taxes, less government and more freedom that got them elected” they are making a deal with the devil. The result is that constituents everywhere are saying, “I can't tell a dime's worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats.”
Armey’s second point is that Republicans should govern according to their basic principles rather than adhering to poll numbers. He says that “good policy is good politics for Republicans,” but “when we let politics define our agenda, we get in trouble.” He cites the “embarrassing spectacles” of the recent highway bill and the Medicare expansion.
Armey understands why right leaning politicians somehow find it easy to end up leaning leftward.
“As the party of smaller government, Republicans will always have a more difficult job governing than Democrats do. Government naturally wants to expand. It is always easier for politicians when both you and your political base truly believe that there is a new government program to solve any problem, real or imagined. We will always have to work harder and be more entrepreneurial than our political opponents when it comes to implementing reforms.”Armey’s native bluntness comes through as he discusses the Republican’s inability to pass meaningful Social Security reform. “I've never quite understood the bed-wetters' fears when it comes to personal retirement accounts. How could you possibly lose by saving future retirees--our children and grandchildren--from another broken government promise?”
Armey says that while the challenges ahead of congressional Republicans are great, they are not insurmountable. He believes the party’s underlying principles to be sound and cogent, while “the "ideas" of the left are bankrupt.” Of course, people on the left say the same thing about conservative ideas.
Armey’s final point is that unless Republicans align their behavior with their basic principles, voters will fire them next November. He points to the recent elections as a harbinger of that event, and asks, “What will happen to Republicans if … freedom-loving, grassroots activists don't show up for work next fall?” Hence, his warning that, “When we act like [liberals], we lose.”
Can Republicans pull out of their left-leaning funk (4+ years in the making) in time for next November’s elections? It will take the reintroduction of serious backbone and near-religious adherence to conservative principles. I’m not sure they have it in them.