Armey says “unreliable” Republicans are Tea Partiers’ only hope
Dick Armey says the Tea Party movement is willing to back Republicans for office, but only if they agree to reform their sinful ways when it comes to fiscal dangers like the budget deficit and the federal debt.
In fact, he predicts that Tea Partiers and their conservative allies will be around for a long time to make sure Republicans who get into office avoid the perils of backsliding on the road to fiscal purity.
“If we’ve got any hope at all, we must put it, as unreliable as they are, with the Republicans and try to rehabilitate them, reform them … and manage their behavior,” the former House Republican majority leader told a National Press Club luncheon.
Armey is likely to know what he’s talking about. His nonprofit group, FreedomWorks, has been busy organizing, training and facilitating Tea Party rallies since the movement surfaced early last year.
Some suspect FreedomWorks of trying to co-opt Tea Partiers for Republicans. But Armey insists his only objective is to push a conservative agenda aimed at maximizing liberty and minimizing government control.
“I call it small government, grass-roots activism. The Tea Party activists are a part of it, FreedomWorks is is part of it. FreedomWorks is the longest standing most active organization within this movement,” he said. “Make no mistake about it. These are not ‘kookie’ birds. Right now the greatest player, the big tent on the political scene in America, is called the Tea Party movement.”
But Tea Partiers realize that America’s two-party system has a natural immunity against third parties, Armey said. So they must choose the lesser of two evils.
The Democrats? “The Democratic Party has pretty much abandoned all the things that they cherish,” Army said in remarks that sometimes made him sound like the Tea Party’s national spokesman.
Republicans have been pretty bad of late themselves in terms of fiscal austerity. The budget deficit ballooned under George W. Bush. Then they bailed out Wall Street.
As a result, Republicans cannot credibly offer voters a second Contract with America, Armey said, referring to the conservative manifesto that helped the party capture Congress in 1994. So the Tea Partiers and other conservative grass-roots activists will offer both Republicans and Democrats the chance to sign onto a Contract from America, to be unveiled on tax day, April 15.
“We think they’ve got the ability to stand on their legs and accept the contract, while they don’t have the ability to stand on legs and offer a contract,” Armey said.
And if Republicans manage to win back control of the House, or even the Senate, in November? Will Tea Partiers thank their stars and go home? No way, says Armey.
“This wave is not likely to ebb.” he said. “Now they have the Internet with which to stay in touch with one another and do what I think of as something akin to the National Guard. They will have their activism at the ready.”
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Photo credits: Reuters/Larry Downing (Dick Armey); Reuters/Joshua Lott (Tea Party protesters)