Evan Smith: Did the Democrats win on Election Day, or did the Republicans lose?
Dick Armey: The Republicans lost. They had been losing this election for a long time, and it’s because they have gotten so far away from the standards of behavior and conduct that endeared them to the American people in the first place. When the Republicans were shining in the eyes of the voters, they were dealing with big issues. They were taking political chances in order to do the right thing, and their whole thought process was directed at “What can we do that’s good for America?” They weren’t thinking about themselves.
ES: You’ve said before that they got a little too conservative on some issues.
DA: What I said is, they lost sight of the fact that as small-government conservatives their mission should be to stop the government from growing and interfering and becoming excessively involved in people’s lives. In recent years they’ve taken legislation to the floor that was designed to expand the government for the purpose of imposing standards of morality and conduct on the American people. The two most notable areas where they’ve done that—to their recent electoral harm—were on immigration and some items of fancy among evangelical leaders.
ES: Let’s take those areas separately. In the latter case, you cite the Terri Schiavo matter.
DA: It’s the clearest example of where they lost sight of the fact that freedom is the first objective of governance. The fundamental tenet of small-government conservatism—what you might call Ronald Reagan conservativism—is federal respect for the prerogatives of state government, which Reagan called federalism. One of the first things we established when