Today, at a luncheon at the National Press Club on the future of the Republican Party in Washington, FreedomWorks chairman and tea party strategist Dick Armey slammed former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and other anti-immigration activists for “alienating a ‘natural’ constituency [Latinos] that could help the party win elections.” Armey admitted that as House leader, he made sure Tancredo didn’t have a stage to speak on. The Daily Caller reports:
Former Republican House leader Dick Armey said staunch anti-immigration opponents such as Rep. Tom Tancredo are destructive to Republicans — and are alienating a “natural” constituency that could help the party win elections. “Who in the Republican Party was the genius that said that now that we have identified the fastest-growing voting demographic in America, let’s go out and alienate them?” Armey said, referencing Hispanics, during a luncheon in Washington at the National Press Club.
“When I was the majority leader, I saw to it that Tom Tancredo did not get on the stage because I saw how destructive he was,” Armey said of the Colorado congressman and 2008 Republican presidential candidate known for his opposition to illegal immigration. […]
Armey also said “the Republican Party is the most naturally talented party at losing its natural constituents in the history of the world.” “This party was born with the emancipation proclamation and can’t get a black vote to save its life. How do they do that?”
Tancredo has long been a target of Armey’s criticism. In an interview with Charlie Rose that aired earlier this month, Armey went as far as to list former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) as representing part of the “tea party tent” that he feels “uncomfortable” with. In 2006, Armey referred to Tancredo as the “cheerleader of jerkiness in the immigration debate.”
Armey’s remarks have clearly made “nativist-extremist” groups that are trying to exploit the momentum of the tea party movement nervous. Americans for Legal Immigration (ALIPAC) quickly came to Tancredo’s defense and started urging its members to attack Armey’s immigration position and make their voices heard. According to ALIPAC, Armey has been fighting to “keep the illegal immigration issue out of the Tea Party movement.” On an organizing conference call hosted by NumbersUSA, callers dismissed Armey as not being a “true tea party patriot,” but also sought tips on how to translate their anti-immigrant views to fit the tea party narrative. “We’ll be a whole lot better off if when [sic] we talk about illegal immigrants we leave off the Hispanic-Latino stuff,” advised NumbersUSA executive director Roy Beck.
While Armey’s remarks might delegitimize nativist tea bagger-wannabes in the eyes of those who value his funding and leadership, he’s ultimately the one responsible for giving their voices a megaphone. Armey may have kicked Tancredo off the stage in the House, but now he’s built a platform that’s open to any wingnut who wants to capitalize off of the anger and frustration that the tea party movement encapsulates.
Finally, while critiquing the GOP, Armey himself falls into another trap of the Republican Party: failing to offer workable solutions on immigration. While Armey is quick to critique the federal government’s immigration agency, the only solution he has offered is to privatize the U.S. immigration system. Currently, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is the lone Republican working on comprehensive immigration reform. A second Republican co-sponsor is, so far, nowhere to be found.