If you were looking for leadership of a real grass-roots movement for social change, Dick Armey might not be your first choice.
After he rose to become House Republican majority leader, he quit to cash in on his political connections with the top lobbying shop DLA Piper law firm. He’s also on the payroll of the Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity, one of the main sources of organizational backing of the Tea Party.
I’ve been critical of the Obama campaign’s hypocritical promises of a new kind of fundraising campaign that relies only on small donors, not fat cats, while he seeks donations from Wall Street.
But Obama’s nemeses in the Tea Party are no better, portraying themselves as a grassroots populist movement while relying on members of the Republican permanent government like Armey for leadership.
Armey actually had to quit his lobbying job because of his DLA Piper clients favored Obama’s health care reform, after the president cut a deal to secure support from drug companies. The Tea Party, meanwhile, has been dead set against the Obama plan.
It’s not that somebody like Armey, with his vast knowledge gained from slithering through the corridors of power all these years, might not have something to offer an authentic grassroots movement. But wouldn’t he have to offer a renunciation of his past connections before he participate? Wouldn’t he have to acknowledge that he had been part of the problem before he could be part of the solution?
Whatever minor disagreements Armey’s former clients might have with the Tea Party agenda, their interests dovetail neatly. Demonizing government and railing against strong regulations will only mean fewer watchdogs for the drug companies and bankers DLA Piper serves, and fewer tools to hold them accountable.