I’ve been following this dispute between these two with some interest, especially as it pertains to NY-23. This is a more important argument than has been reported, because the strategy behind rebuilding the party has not been discussed more than it should be, in my opinion.
I do think that they are both right, but the timing is important, and I think that Armey wins on that score. Per Dionne’s article, the Democrats were able to gain numbers the last couple of cycles by running moderates in traditionally red states. The wrong lesson to take from that is that we should be running moderates everywhere to gain back those seats in return right now. Dionne neglects to write that the architects of that Democratic strategy were Rahm Emmanuel on the House side and Chuck Schumer on the Senate side. They are both liberal Democrats, having gained the power to implement that strategy by dint of their seniority in their respective chambers. They could afford to recruit more moderate candidates than themselves and have them serve in Washington, because as senior liberals they would actually control the resulting agenda, using the majority numbers as levers to serve their ends.
As the Democrats are now discovering, it’s one thing to have power with a super-majority, but another to run with it, especially as the Blue Dogs, who can be reasonably be relied upon to follow their liberal masters in most circumstances (BTW, someone should really find out how often the Dogs really stray from the liberal porch – my sense is not that often, unless the spotlight is on them as it is in the health care debate) are under pressure to actually act like moderates they convinced the voters they were in the first place, lest they be turned out in 2010.
In short, I believe that when the Republicans have the luxury of being in the majority, it’s in their best interest to keep as many people on the reservation as possible, but when they aren’t, they need to get the true believers in office first. These conservatives are the ones that can be relied upon to stay on message as opposition to the Democrats’ profligacy and, as time goes on, inevitable corruption. As the dissatisfaction with the Democrats naturally increases as more of their agenda becomes public, the Republicans would gain more converts to their simple opposition message. As the first wave of conservatives in office would attain seniority in any new power structure, they would have the flexibility to attract moderates to the party, yet control their actions through conservative whips and party leadership. In that way, you won’t see Democrat Lite being served up in response to Democrat, because when you give voters that choice, Democrat would win every time, as they should in that scenario.
I know that this is a long email, and a little rambling because I am at the office after all, but a little more discussion of strategies and tactics needs to be aired on this subject.