Richard Keith "Dick Armey" is a former U.S. Representative (R Texas, 1985-2003) and the current chairman of conservative nonprofit group FreedomWorks. Along with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, he helped author the "Contract with America" that ushered in major Republican victories in the 1994 midterm elections. He subsequently served as House Majority Leader from 1995 through 2003. In his chairmanship with FreedomWorks, Armey has been an instrumental supporter of the nationwide "Tea Party" protests that began in early 2009. He is the author of several books on politics and economics, including "The Freedom Revolution" and "Armey's Axioms."
Question: How can the Republican Party win over young and minority voters?
Dick Armey: Well, first of all younger voters are ideological. They're idealists. They want you to stand for something. They don't understand pork; they don't need pork. So, to them, it's not about, "All right, what's in it for me?" It's, "What do you stand for?"
When the Republican Party has stands for a vision of freedom and independence from the intrusions of big government, individual’s opportunity to be creative and entrepreneurial. Look at how many college dropouts created a new and wonderful product in the 80's because they had a world where you could get the money for your investment and your work would be honored. And that was a big draw to the – Hispanics are the same thing. They are an entrepreneurial group of people and they could and should be quite available to the Republicans if the Republicans hadn't, once again, taken an overly aggressive big government approach to immigration.
If they had remembered that Ronald Reagan stood there and said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." Instead of going to San Diego and saying, "I'll tell you what, let's build a wall." They offended the Hispanic voter. Bless their heart, I love the Hispanic people, they have got such a great entrepreneurial energy. But you know, Armey's Axiom is, "You can't call her ugly all year and expect her to go to the prom with you." So, a lot of natural Republican constituent votes in the Hispanic community were lost simply because people said, “I'm not going to vote for them, they don't like me,” because again, they had a short-sighted, politically defined view of immigration that had a mean spirit to it. And the Hispanics, I think they took exactly the correct approach to the Republican. Why should I vote for these guys with their attitude towards me?
Get expansive about things that are bigger than ourselves. This is a great free land built by immigrants who had entrepreneurial opportunities and used them to make their families better off. And let’s have these doors open and then let’s civilize the government. Make the INS an agency that isn't mean, cruel, and indifferent. Make it one that is a service in the lives of real people wanting to be free, as it should be.
So the Republican has had a failed political vision and the government fails in its duty to a very large and exciting, energetic immigration population for this country.
Question: Can the party ever bring back African-American voters?
Dick Armey: Well I think they could. Yes. This is a very interesting thing because you've got to remember the Republican party was born with the Emancipation Proclamation. It's very difficult to reach out to African voters, but it starts with just the beginning of making the effort.
In the end, we are all the same. We have the same dream for our children, and we all love freedom. We all love independence. The biggest problem that Republicans have in reaching African voters is gerrymandering. The Democrats have by and large sequestered the African-American voter into areas where Republicans just simply don't hold office because they've gerrymandered the vote. And it's a tough issue for them. It's again; Hispanics are the easy opportunity for Republicans to get back on the ground, they ought to stand on with the Hispanic community. African-American communities are much harder, but it is certainly not a community that isn't available to our value if we speak about values. Things that are great and sacred and important to Americans.
Recorded on November 11, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen