The full story of what Armey was up to in 2010 and the destructiveness of what he wrought on the tea-party movement is now out there for all to see. The truth is the whole situation was even worse than I could have foreseen and the $8 million payoff Armey got to leave FreedomWorks.
Last month, two FreedomWorks board members and allies of Armey sent Matt Kibbe, the president of the organization, a letter telling him they had received “allegations of wrongdoing by the organization or its employees.” They told Kibbe the board had retained attorneys to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations and ordered Kibbe, previously booted off the board, to cooperate and ensure no records were “destroyed, deleted, modified or otherwise tampered with.”
Kibbe responded to the Dec. 12 letter with a blistering memo exposing, from his point of view, how Republican insiders attempted to take over FreedomWorks under Armey’s watch. Kibbe portrayed himself as the true tea-party champion and Armey as the leader of the Republican establishment shills and said that the investigation was payback for battling Armey.
“As it turns out, the fight for lower taxes, less government and more freedom is all well and good until it is Republicans – ‘old friends’ – that are the ones needing to be held to account,” Kibbe wrote. “It is our sense that the irresponsible acts of the so-called Trustees of FreedomWorks – Dick Armey, C. Boyden Gray, and James C. Burnley – on Sept. 4, and their continued hostile acts today, are all about retribution for our willingness to take a strictly nonpartisan approach to politics, our willingness to hold both Republicans and Democrats to the standards set out by our freedom philosophy and the clear limits on government power delineated in our U.S. Constitution.”
In his memo, Kibbe presents a strong case against Armey for his primary support of Republican establishment candidates over genuine tea-party candidates.
For those who want only the quick-and-dirty version of what I saw coming in 2010, here it is:
Armey was 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 always overwhelmingly want to see immigration laws enforced and the border secured. But Dick Armey and FreedomWorks insisted that tea-party activists who work with them avoid this issue like the plague.
What Armey did after the 2010 mid-term elections was seek to limit the tea-party’s activism, effectiveness and longevity – to cut the very heart and soul out of a movement he had nothing to do with starting. He was the proverbial politician who attempted to jump in front of the historic parade the tea-party movement represented. It was not his movement, and he had not earned the right to dictate the rules of engagement and assert leadership over it.
Armey and FreedomWorks claimed they wanted 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. Needless to say, it happened again in 2012.
If America has problems other than economic, how do you address them with a purely economic program?
Obviously, you can’t.
It is not too late for the tea-party movement to recognize the con job that has been played on them – and to return to the grass-roots effectiveness it experienced in 2010. In fact, it is a necessity if America is to survive as we have known it in the next four years.
I 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 that began in 2010 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.