Armey, Gingrich: Republicans spent their way to the wilderness

posted at 4:30 pm on November 7, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Dick Armey writes in a Wall Street Journal column today what most conservatives understood for the past several years — that “compassionate conservatism” was just another name for Big Government.  The former Majority Leader under Speaker Newt Gingrich traces the fall of the GOP to the beginning of the Bush administration and its spending policies:

To be sure, the American people have handed power over to the Democrats. But today there is a categorical difference between what Republicans stand for and the principles of individual freedom. Parties are all about getting people elected to political office; and the practice of politics too often takes the form of professional juvenile delinquency: short-sighted and self-centered.

This was certainly true of the Bush presidency. Too often the policy agenda was determined by short-sighted political considerations and an abiding fear that the public simply would not understand limited government and expanded individual freedoms. How else do we explain “compassionate conservatism,” No Child Left Behind, the Medicare drug benefit and the most dramatic growth in federal spending since LBJ’s Great Society? …

Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006 because voters no longer saw Republicans as the party of limited government. They have since rejected virtually every opportunity to recapture this identity. But their failure to do so must not be misconstrued as a rejection of principles of individual liberty by the American people. The evidence suggests we are still a nation of pocketbook conservatives most happy when government has enough respect to leave us alone and to mind its own business. The worrisome question is whether either political party understands this.

Newt Gingrich sounds a similar tone in this interview with a George Washington grad student, especially at the end:

However, in the midst of the Bush-bashing, I want to point out something Gingrich says. He states that as long as the government spends multi-trillion dollars every year, lobbyists will gather to get their share, distorting the political process and leading to corruption. The only way to reduce or eliminate the influence of lobbyists in Washington is to reduce the amount of spoils they can grab.

Gingrich is right, and so is Armey, as far as they go.  That process also works in reverse, though, something both Armey and Gingrich neglect to mention.  Armey does some measure of self-congratulation in noting the roles of himself, Gingrich, and John Boehner in opposing the “old bulls” of the party in 1994 and winning with the Contract with America.  What neither Armey nor Gingrich mention is the parallel “K Street Project” that Republicans launched to get lobbyists harnessed to the Republican Party.  In order to do that, they needed to guarantee spoils to these lobbyists, which meant more money spent at the federal level and an explosion in earmark spending.

We can certainly criticize the Bush administration for its high-spending ways, but let’s not kid ourselves that the Republican problems started with W’s inauguration.  The seeds of the spending explosion got planted in that K Street Project, and that signaled the end of small-government conservatism in that era.  Gingrich is right in that we need to cut spending in order to minimize the influence of lobbyists, but we can’t trust any party to do that when they’re busily bribing lobbyists in order to support a supposedly “permanent majority”.  Republicans forgot why they wanted that power, and got seduced by it instead, and well before Bush took office.


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You have to have cheerful political activists who believe in the root truths of the nation, and can communicate them with style and panache and wit and energy, not just warhorse political gladhanders who know how to gain their own power.

Obama’s strength was being the “right black guy at the right time“. His charisma was mostly MSM (and black community wishing-for-one-of-their-own) manufactured, as his clumsy, ignorant, embarrassingly dull off-the-teleprompter moments reveal.

If he had looked more like his mother, he wouldn’t have had a chance in hell with his level of vacuity and weakness and inexperience. A Dan Quayle with enough melanin can win elections when Race History and a flailing economy are in conjunction.

Political Motivating can be a natural gift, or can be learned and honed.

Palin has the natural version.

(Which is why those who recognize her strengths are trying to destroy her. It is rare to have this ability to connect. while looking good and seeming effortless.)

Half of political (or any) success is being entertaining in how you instruct and inspire and rouse and lead.

Without the ability to first charm people, the didactic and dry “political stuff” doesn’t have a chance of getting accomplished.

The conservative movement needs to find those who can galvanize, not sermonize.

profitsbeard on November 7, 2008 at 6:41 PM

You are all unreasonably optimistic. This will be a replay of the late twenties, and the thirties with Bush playing Hoover and Obama playing FDR. That is a Republican helped bring on a deep recession and the savior gets elected and makes it worse depression. In 38 FDR was washed up because of his highly unsuccessful economic policies and he lost a good many congress men that year. In 40 he was saved by the expectation of war which officially started 13 months later.

We are in for at least one decade of Obama Deal.

burt on November 7, 2008 at 6:43 PM

Amen! I second that!

The only thing I would add is that the Republican party needs to create a self policing force. This force should be in charge of sweeping our door and when they find dirt and trash getting it OUT of the house tent whatever.

The American gen pop would not have turned their back on the republican party just because some bad apples got in or some once good apples rotted.

Lets make our foundation solid and non-negotiable.

-SMALL GOVERNMENT: Make it clear we don’t want the government to provide for all your needs we instead want to give you enough freedom and lesson the government burden enough for you to maintain your own needs. Our goal is all citizens to be INDEPENDENT PEOPLE not SLAVES. And yes I absolutely support those word use. It should be driven home that to make yourself dependent on the government or someone else is to enslave yourself to that government or person.

-Corruption Free Representative Government: Government corruption and waste should be searched out and attacked vigorously. Every government agency should be picked through and attention brought to the waste and corruption. Force the Liberals to defend these waste and fight the cutbacks. Internal Republican corruption should be crucified openly and brutally. Very simply nations hold and respect a enemies soldiers as POW until the wars over but spies and especially Traitors are usually shot or hung.

-De-Regulate: This is a winner with every American who is either self-employed, owns a business, or has done any research into starting a business or professional career. Very simply go to your local state site and just see the amount of red tape, cost, and just general BS aggravation it takes to get something as insanely simply as a HOT DOG VENDOR. When the Liberals say regulation protects the poor old lady from getting frauded, go do your research and show up with 5 cases of how lil old ladies are still frauded even with the existing regulation. The number of people regulation protects is miniscule to the number of people de-regulation allows to become small businesses and jobs, economic gain. SIMPLE want more business and jobs make it easier to start a business and employee people. Research Benjamin Franklin and how he wired NY for power. Then try to imagine someone today doing such things, the permits, ecological impact test, business, occupational, city, county, state, federal hoops and wow the insurance etc….

-Ole School morals like what took America from a backwater wilderness to the World Power we are. Very simply God, County, Family, In that order. Brief Below:
=God: Lets not push what God or one certain, just as the Founders did GOD (you pick the name or even scientific formula and insert later). But without question we should push GOD and basic morals/civics.
=Country: There is NO excuse for Americans to not be proud of our nation (if they are we should have no shame in requesting if not demanding they LEAVE our nation). Patriotism should be enforced, pushed, and spread. The Lefts ability to turn patriotism into knuckle dragger ideology should be fought to the death. This disease spread by the liberals is causing lack of self respect, pride, and patriotism in our nation and its foundations. Moral equivalence is a direct result of this withering of patriotism. The Republicans should believe in America and fight for and defend her. Let the liberals try to debate why America is not a good just country FORCE THEM TO!
=Family: Family should be expanded to try to bond back the ole nuclear family. Give tax breaks to married couples and more tax breaks to couples having children. If welfare cannot be eliminated then we should make it a sliding scale that pays less if you are not married, and even less if you don’t know the daddy’s name. Paying young girls to have babies and punishing the ones that were married or wrote the daddy’s name in with less or no assistance is what the Liberals destroyed the black family with.

Ya want a big tent lets take our beliefs small government, deregulation, and basic morals then aggressively go after the different groups explaining how those beliefs can help or better their life.

C-Low on November 7, 2008 at 6:44 PM

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the need to shed (or hide) social conservatism from the Republican platform if we want to win elections again. A serious question I have (I really don’t know) is: What would be the difference between the Republican Party minus the social conservative platform and the Libertarian party?

neuquenguy on November 7, 2008 at 6:46 PM

Jenfidel, you misunderstand my lousy blog. And I won’t bore readers here with long diatribes, it’s easier to link. If I did a long post, you’d snark at me to get my own blog. Honestly. Chill.

Conservatism lives, but if we keep calling it The Republican Party, we’re gonna lose. And I’m not going to give up. Anyone who has read more than one post on my blog knows that I supported McCain wholeheartedly even though I felt he was wrong for our party. He was our guy. But we’ve lost more than an election and we need to seriously, seriously consider that there is something to be gained by letting rotting things die and be reborn into what they are supposed to be.

Joan of Argghh on November 7, 2008 at 6:48 PM

Why don’t politicians get this? Are they living in a vaccumm? This is the reason I had to hold my nose to vote for Saxby Chamblis along with the support of the immigration bill and the bailout. Who do they listen too obviously not their constituents.

ldbgcoleman on November 7, 2008 at 6:56 PM

Ed good points on all.

Only one probelm. Most People (younger) whom are liberal or moderate or whatever in this day and age, do NOT like conservative values.

I really wonder what is going to happen to this country in the coming years.

upinak on November 7, 2008 at 4:34 PM

Youthful liberalism should be treated as a disease, with the cure being education, role-model awareness, and the sharpening of the lines between what is easy, and what’s right.

We have to take hold of the education system. I don’t mean indoctrination, where you teach a child to let someone think for them, rather teaching children to think for themselves in conjunction with rewarding strong ethics and the re-introduction of consequence. When children grow up seeing people making poor choice, yet not receiving a consequence to counteract the poor choice, they grow to understand that there is no negative reaction to compliment the poor choice. Likewise, when you attempt to instruct an adult that has been indoctrinated in such a manner, they will fight you and consider it “injustice” or scream “that’s unconstitutional”.

Common values and ethics are incompatible with liberal ideology. It is extremely illogical to think otherwise. Liberals have twisted our society to think that being responsible for your actions is equivalent to unconstitutionality. If you require an example, google the phrase “punished with a baby”.

Perhaps I’m conservative because of my military service. Perhaps it’s because my parents are conservative. Perhaps it’s because I’m a Christian. I’m part of said generation (age 25). People my age were tricked because selling complacency is easy, up until the point when it is realized that complacency leads to bondage, and by that time it’s too late.

leetpriest on November 7, 2008 at 7:02 PM

Poor leadership, plain and simple. And they behave like wimps. Sarah Palin has the needed 2 b’s.

Birdseye on November 7, 2008 at 7:03 PM

Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006 because voters no longer saw Republicans as the party of limited government.

I strongly disagree with this line of thinking. Though it’s perhaps true that Republicans lost control because conservatives saw Republicans as the party of limited government but not the liberals, moderates, independents and whatever. They lost Congress because America believes the lies liberals tell them.

shick on November 7, 2008 at 7:53 PM

Before you go back to your roots, decide which one to choose.

sashal on November 7, 2008 at 5:20 PM

Hello, Manly? Is that you? Can only hope.
Well said. Nice post IMHO

Chewy the Lab on November 7, 2008 at 8:18 PM

There is nothing wrong with compassionate conservatism per say. It depends on how the resources are used. For instance, in the drug prescription program, people already on medicare are able to buy drugs at a discount. They have to pay a deductible of sorts, they have to pay to participate in the program. But if these people do not buy their meds then the government pays more for their treatment because they are already on medicare. And if they can not afford to pay for their meds they often times go on medicaid which really does pay for everything. This is not just compassionate, it is long term common sense.

Being compassionate is a good thing, we should not abandon it. But we don’t need to depend on government exclusively. More competition to help keep down prices and more open markets can also cut costs. Freezes on government spending in a non essential programs as well as an end to earmarking and wasteful spending can help as well. Encouraging private sector is good as well. I would hate to see compassion become a bad word.

Terrye on November 7, 2008 at 11:34 PM

Maybe now that Newt is no longer running – he’ll come to his senses on global warming.
I love Newt, but what was the deal on that. It scares me that Newt would cave on truth in exchange for votes.

Sarah has it right!

CertainVictory on November 8, 2008 at 3:41 PM

We could solve the whole problem of lobbyists with the repeal of the 17th amendment.

angelat0763 on November 8, 2008 at 5:19 PM

I dunno. The domestic Bush doctrine – compassionate social conservatism coupled with third way economic policy – looks like a certain winner to me. The House GOP lack of fiscal discipline does not invalidate that strategy. I would think twice before discarding a winning recipe. The House made lots of mistakes that they only have themselves to blame for and they started to lose when they ran against Bush, on immigration (what a vote winner that was!) and a host of other issues.

el gordo on November 9, 2008 at 7:39 AM

Great piece. It is obvious that the younger generation is totally lost. Yes, there are those who are stuck in their ‘Xbox’, like Tron, but there are many more who are trying to regain control of their lives and the future.

MSGTAS on November 9, 2008 at 9:55 AM

A good article, as far as it goes, but it’s worth recalling the lesson of mind wiser than mine (unfortunately, I don’t recall who):

Fiscal responsibility is a hard sell. It’s extremely difficult to compete with promises of ‘free money,’ which is why big-spenders generally win.

Paul_in_NJ on November 9, 2008 at 1:37 PM

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