A Mini-Interview With Dick Armey

While I was at the Freedomworks event in Raleigh last week-end, I got an opportunity to interview former House Majority Leader and Freedomworks Chairman, Dick Armey. What follows is a slightly edited transcript of my interview with him.

Should the official Republican Party stay out of primaries?

You know, my general attitude is that everybody has got the right to run. …Maybe the party ought to let folks in their local community have a fair contest.

One of the problems with the Republican Party getting involved in primaries is they tend to have a bad track record. A few years ago they passed on Pat Toomey and supported Arlen Specter. Turns out they endorsed a Democrat. A couple of weeks ago up in New York they endorsed a Democrat.

So the problem with the party regulars in Washington, who seem to be too much detached from real people, is they’ve got what I call this itty bitty schizophrenic concept of a Big Tent — which is we’re going to have a party where half of our candidates run like Ronald Reagan and the other half run like Barack Obama. All that does is confuse, frustrate and annoy the people whose votes they’d like to attract When the Republican Party acts like the Republican Party, they win. When they act like the Democratic Party, they lose.

So given their consistent pattern of bad judgment, I think…they ought to just restrain themselves, …stay the heck out of it, and let the local voters decide.

When I was up in New York 23, I had a newsman mad at me for being there. So I asked him very directly, “Are you telling me that this candidate would have won an open primary?” He said, “Of course, she wouldn’t have.” I said, “Well that’s our point.”

So, in the end, it’s the citizens of the district or the state that will decide the outcome; so why don’t the big shots leave it alone?

What do you say to people that say groups like Freedomworks, Club For Growth that get involved in these primaries, are hurting the Republican Party, they’re doing a disservice to conservatives?

Well, you have to understand, FreedomWorks is first of all, everywhere. We have our own activists, our own organization in the state of North Carolina, Alabama –: well, all of the states — and they will identify the problem.

For example, again in NY-23, our first understanding of that race came from our activists on the ground and their first word was that the Republicans just nominated a candidate that can’t possibly win. So if we wanted to stop a Democrat from winning, (they told us) we better look at the Conservative Party candidate, because that’s the candidate that’s got a chance of winning it. Well, I think the electoral experience validated their observations.

…I think that by now they maybe ought to come to terms with the fact that these folks aren’t going to go away. They’re just getting larger in their numbers, stronger in their will, more assertive, and clearer in their vision.

In fact, if the Republican Party had the same clarity of vision as most grassroots activists organizations do, it would probably be winning a lot more elections.

One last question because I know you’ve got to speak and I know everybody wants some of your time while you’re here: Do you think the Republican Party has learned anything or are we going to get them back into power and then they’re going to act just like they did the last eight years?

Well I’m encouraged every now and then. On my way to NY-23, I was in an airplane reading USA Today and an OpEd by John Boehner, the Minority Leader of the House, saying, “We learned our lesson.” I thought it was ironic that on the heels of that endorsement of that Democrat running as a Republican nominee, that he would be pleading his case that they learned their lesson.

Right now, basically what you’ve got is a contest between those who understand that when you have a real conflict of issues, it’s hard work and those who are looking for the easy ride and the simple answer.

When the Republicans once again understand defending liberty against an organization like the National Democrat Party is hard work, taking real consolidated commitment and vision, then they will be back. But, they won’t be back until they get that part of it.

Outstanding, appreciate your time, thank you.

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