Two of my favorite and most reliable of Armey’s Axioms are: “If it is about you, you lose” and “If it is about political ambition, you lose.”
Although I tried, I could never get myself comfortable with Eric Cantor in leadership because it always seemed to be about him and his personal political ambitions. Those things drain off a lot of time and energy and divert attention away from what is really important. People who waste their time on themselves are bound to be found out and fired eventually. That is why I was not surprised that Eric Cantor lost last night.
To me his losing was inevitable. Only the time and circumstances were in doubt. He was just too busy with his legitimate and necessary duties as Majority Leader, which are substantial, and his constant posturing, conniving, and plotting to take away the next job up to pay attention to his district. He did not do his homework, and so he got fired by his first, most critical constituency. He forgot to dance with the ones that “brung” him.
David Brat is a free-market economist like me. And, like me in 1984, he correctly perceived that the incumbent, rich in all the superficial trappings of political advantage, had put himself in a place where he would lose his seat to the first credible challenger. David knew he could be that guy, and he will be elected next fall if he remains that guy. My advise to Brat is to stay focused on the economic issues and maintain a high commitment to principles and policy. Good policy makes good politics, and you have a discerning voting constituency. Trust in your integrity and trust in their discernment.
The House Republicans have a chance to fix themselves as they replace their Majority Leader. Here are my suggestions:
Chose a person who is driven by policy objectives for the nation not political ambitions for himself.
Chose a creative thinker with serious policy innovations.
Chose a person who understands that it is an honor and a duty to have been chosen and that he has a moral duty to do, to the best of his abilities, the job for which he was chosen.
Do not make a deal for your vote in a leadership race, it is undignified and cheapens the process.
Do not give your vote to someone who offers a deal. He has just insulted you.
Richard K. Armey is the former Majority Leader of the U. S. House of Representatives.