The danger to the tea-party movement has always been that Washington insiders would attempt to hijack it for their own purposes and political agenda.
One man who has clearly attempted to do that is former House majority leader Dick Armey with his well-funded organization FreedomWorks.
Armey is at the forefront of an insidious plot to “rein in” the tea-party movement, to constrain it to exclusively economic grievances defined in ludicrously narrow terms.
For instance, tea-party members overwhelmingly want to see immigration laws enforced and the border secured.
But Dick Armey and FreedomWorks insist that tea-party activists who work with them avoid this issue like the plague.
Armey has been stepping up his attacks on those tea-party activists who ignore his warnings – all but seeking to excommunicate them from a grass-roots movement he seeks to control.
In a recent interview with Charlie Rose, Armey attacked former Rep. Tom Tancredo, now a candidate for governor of Colorado, for his “harsh and uncharitable and mean-spirited” immigration positions.
Armey told Rose he was “not really happy to see Tom Tancredo calling himself a tea-party guy.”
“But first of all, we’re a nation of immigrants and a wonderful tradition. People have marched with their feet to America looking for freedom,” said Armey. “Our biggest problem in immigration is we have a dysfunctional INS. If the government would do its job with some degree of efficiency. …”
Armey went on to call Tancredo the “cheerleader of jerkiness in the immigration debate.”
What is this all about?
It is about an effort to limit the tea-party’s activism, effectiveness and longevity – to cut the very heart and soul out of a movement Dick Armey had nothing to do with starting. As I predicted long ago, politicians have attempted to jump in front of the historic parade the tea-party movement represents. That’s what Armey represents. This is not his movement. He has no right dictating the rules of engagement. He has no right asserting his leadership over it.
Dick Armey and FreedomWorks simply represent the old guard of the Republican establishment doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
They claim they want to build a “big tent” by limiting the tea-party movement’s agenda to purely and exclusively economic issues defined in the narrowest imaginable terms. This is what the country-club Republicans have been trying to do since the days of Nelson Rockefeller and through George Bush I and II.
It doesn’t work. You can’t build a big tent by excluding people and issues about which they are passionate. It is completely counterintuitive, and it has been proven wrong time and time again. (Dick Armey, meet Ronald Reagan.)
And, of course, as I wrote in “The Tea Party Manifesto,” there’s a bigger problem than that.
If America has problems other than economic, how do you address them with a purely economic program?
Obviously, you can’t.
Dick Armey and FreedomWorks are not alone in this misguided and mischievous agenda. They have many allies who would like to see the tea-party movement cast a narrow net.
I, on the other hand, would like to see the tea-party movement address all of the problems besetting our country. I would like to see this movement have long legs. Rather than constrain the tea-party movement and keep it in a box, I want to throw gasoline on this brushfire and see it rage across the country in the form of vigilant citizen activism that will clean up our political system and keep it clean – returning America to the rule of law and the will of the people and the formula that made it the world’s greatest experiment in liberty.