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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Friday, October 13, 2006


in praise of Dick Armey

posted by Aziz P. at Friday, October 13, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
Another Armey’s Axiom says that if it is about power, you lose. And unfortunately when it comes to James Dobson, my personal experience has been that the man is most interested in political power.

As Majority Leader, I remember vividly a meeting with the House leadership where Dobson scolded us for having failed to “deliver” for Christian conservatives, that we owed our majority to him, and that he had the power to take our jobs back. This offended me, and I told him so.

In a later meeting Dobson and a colleague came into my office to lobby against a trade bill, asking me to stop the legislation from going to the House floor. They were wrong on the issue, and I told them no. Would you at least postpone the vote, they asked? We have a direct mail fundraising letter about to go out to our membership, they said.

I wondered then if their opposition to the bill was driven less by their moral compass and more by the need to rile their membership and increase revenue. I wondered then, if these self-appointed Christian leaders, like many politicians, had come to Washington to do good, but had instead done well for themselves.


Freedom works. Freedom is a gift from God Almighty, and we have a responsibility to protect it. Christians face a temptation to power when we are fortunate enough to have a majority of support in Congress. But government can never advance a faith that is freely given, and it is corrosive to even try. Just look at Europe, where decades of nanny-state activism— including taxpayer support for churches and for religious political parties— have severely eroded the faith. In America today, too many of our Christian leaders fail to recognize the temptation to power and the danger it holds for our society and our faith.

And so America’s Christian conservative movement is confronted with this divide: small government advocates who want to practice their faith independent of heavy-handed government versus big government sympathizers who want to impose their version of “righteousness” on others through the hammer of law.

This is essential context for David Kuo's new book about the exploitation of the Religious Right by the present Administration. And as Digby points out, it's not that the Administration thinks that teh Christian leaders are dupes. It's that the Administration and the Christian leaders both think ordinary Christians are dupes. Kudos to Armey for calling it to its face.


Armey's also the guy who said "to the victor belong the spoils", so it's hard for me to go so far as to praise him. I do give him my respect for not abusing his faith for political advantage.

The question that worries me is this:

Have we come to the point that anything short of utter venality is worthy of praise?

Thanks -


Armey's also the guy who said "to the victor belong the spoils", so it's hard for me to go so far as to praise him. I do give him my respect for not abusing his faith for political advantage.

The question that worries me is this:

Have we come to the point that anything short of utter venality is worthy of praise?

Thanks -


Sorry Aziz, I'll never figure out this blogger thing...


Well, we have to start with praise for what is good rather than criitique of what is bad if we wantt to forge any kind of lasting atmosphere of genuine majority thinking. There isnt a single politician -not even Howard Dean - that I cant think of a reason to NOT praise them for.

granted, the the upcoming election will change the dynamic but i dont want to be in eth same position twleve years from now with polarity reversed.

I think we really do need to build a community of some kind here again. I dont kw f this blog can do that anymore. We really need a purple poltics dailykos. Its been a dream of mine for some time.


Aziz -

The first thing I want to say is that I have nothing but respect for your goal.

The second thing I want to say is that, in the context of US politics today, we will not, ever, find our way to consensus through dialog between the left and the right. Even calling them "left" and "right" is a misnomer -- the polarization these days is between a radical, authoritarian right wing and everyone else.

As long as conservative Republicans hold the White House, the House, the Senate, and have the generous representation in the judiciary that they currently have, there will be no dialog. None.

Yes, conservatives will talk to folks like you and me. They will occasionally concede the legitimacy of a point or two if forced through sheer logic and decency to do so. But they will never, ever, ever concede or change a single point of policy.

Dialog, in the sense of true engagement and consideration of other points of view, *will not occur* until the whip hand is taken from them. When, and only when, they do not hold all levers of power will there be anything like substantive dialog.

Dick Armey is a guy I actually like, for all the reasons that you do. He's also a guy that, at the level of actual policy, would cut folks like you and I off at the knees in a heartbeat without a second thought.

So, likeable as he is, I'm not inclined to give him an inch.

When the levers of power are shared, we'll see dialog. When the levers of power are shared, we'll see a consideration of all points of view. Not because there is anything like a genuine interest on the part of conservatives to do any of that, but because they will be forced to.

Thanks -


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.