Sunday, October 29, 2006


Armey of One

In Sunday's Washington Post, the former House majority leader follows up on his recent comments to Ryan Sager and further discusses where the GOP lost its way:

As soon as politics superseded policy and principle, the avalanche of earmarks that is crushing the party began.

Now spending is out of control. Rather than rolling back government, we have a new $1.2 trillion Medicare prescription drug benefit, and non-defense discretionary spending is growing twice as fast as it had in the Clinton administration. Meanwhile, Social Security is collapsing while rogue nations are going nuclear and the Middle East is more combustible than ever. Yet Republican lawmakers have taken up such issues as flag burning, Terri Schiavo and same-sex marriage.

They're fooling only themselves.

One interesting point: Armey clearly identifies the Medicare prescription drug bill as one of the deviations from conservative policy. Yet, his erstwhile "Republican revolution" ally, Newt Gingrich, supported that bill.

It's become quite evident that that legislation will become for conservatives and Republicans what welfare reform was for liberals and Democrats in the '90s -- a continual source of disagreement and tension between purists and pragmatists.

Whether the general public will accept the drug program the way it has welfare reform is another question.

It's also intersting to note that, while Armey obviously feels that the GOP deserves to lose this time around, he doesn't feel that the Democrats have exactly offered any sort of alternative (aside from being "not Republican" -- which may be enough):

If Democrats take control of Congress on Nov. 7, they will form an accidental majority. They are not succeeding because of their principles or policy proposals, but simply because they have kept their heads down. Republicans, fearful of taking on big tasks and challenges, may be defeated next month by a party that offers nothing on the key issues of our day.

[Nancy] Pelosi says she would preside over a moderate Democratic majority, and has committed to raising taxes only as a last resort. But Democratic policy goals such as nationalized health care and low-interest student loans are expensive, and dozens of new spending "priorities" will crop up as soon as the election results are tallied. Democrats have promised that all new spending will be offset by tax increases, so will they raise taxes in the run-up to the 2008

In essence, Pelosi will be forced to choose between a vocal base -- expecting immediate satisfaction on issues such as withdrawing from Iraq, legalizing same-sex marriage and the impeachment of President Bush -- or policies that are tolerable to a majority of Americans. That's quite a dilemma: appeasing a base that has been hungry for political revenge since 2000 and 2004, or alienating moderate and swing voters.

One may disagree with the Republicans of 1994, but it was pretty clear where they stood. The Contract With America afforded them an ideal jumping off point with which to govern. The Democrats "100 hours" document may be popular, but it hardly seems a bold enough agenda to .

By the way, Armey may be guilty of his own spin if he seriously believes that the Democratic Congress is going to push "legalizing same-sex marriage" as one of their main initiatives over the next couple of years. Not even I believe the Democrats are that stupid. Indeed, I don't even think the Democratic base is looking for that. There are still quite a few people who remember what the gays-in-the-military issue did to Bill Clinton's early days in office. Withdrawing from Iraq? Impeaching Bush? Now that's a different story.

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