Election 2010: Tea Party results

Nov 03, 2010

Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of FreedomWorks, will be online Wednesday, Nov. 3, at 1:30 p.m. ET to discuss the midterm election and how the grassroots tea party candidates fared.

Hi, Matt Kibbe here, from FreedomWorks. I'm here to take your questions about the Tea Party movement and yesterday's historic midterm election. I look forward to your questions.

Is there really any space for a third party in the American political system ? Even is it is a branch party ? --@Kizarama via Twitter

It is my belief that third parties are largley ineffective. Our strategy this cycle was a hostile takeover of the Republican Party, which began in the primary season. We have to continue to beat the Republicans, as well as the Democrats, if we want to see real reform in Washington.

While many Republicans won, many of the best-known Tea Party candidates didn't. Is it possible that America wants its government to move to the right on your issues somewhat, but doesn't really like the seeming political extremism of the core of the movement?

I think what you're seeing is just the first step. We made a concerted effort to enter races that the Republican establishment in previous cycles would have conceded to Democrats, places like, WA, CA, and WI, and put up a solid fight - even winning in some cases. The goal is to engage people and continue to build a solid grassroots machine that will continue to push back against massive spending and government overreach. I think we accomplished that yesterday.

Now we get to interesting times. The Tea Party and its associated candidates are going to get a chance to govern. This includes participating in the budgetary process. Maybe now we will finally get some specifics about which big programs they'd cut. I'm betting on none. At the end of the day, I'm not sure anything changed yesterday.

There needs to be an honest debate about across the board spending cuts. The incoming class will do well to remember why they were elected yesterday. This new class has closer ties to the the people that elected them, and will be held much more accountable than current elected officials. I think that is a gamechanger, and is something that will directly impact what we see out of Washington.

One of the things I find most confusing about the Tea Party, and everyone and everything to which the MSM applies the Tea Party label, is that there doesn't seem to be any shared policy ideas. Although most appear to share the belief that the federal government should be smaller, it's impossible to identify specific cuts (beyond that old bugaboo, waste, fraud, and abuse, which was a lame idea when Al Gore tried to find it and isn't much different now). Are Tea Partiers in favor of a smaller defense budget, reductions in Social Security and/or Medicare benefits, less infrastructure spending, reduced anti-terrorism measures, or something else? Do they believe in a balanced budget or Bush-style deficit spending? If they can't identify cuts, and want to keep the Bush personal income tax cuts, what can they increase to pay for them?

People are ready for an honest discussion about what needs to be cut. We would be willing to put up across the board cuts, with everything on the chopping block. Depending on which Tea Party group you talk to, they will certainly have different ideas about what should be cut. The beauty, and one of the huge wins yesterday, is the strength on the local level, and the focus on empowering local governments to make the choices that are best for their people.

As you look over these results, what are your plans for state elections in 2012? Where do you believe the Tea Party can make inroads in the next federal elections?

Before we get to 2012, we have to get to 2011 and the legislative agenda. How President Obama reacts to yesterday's Tea Party mandate will impact how we move forward, and how we will approach 2012. From here, we need to work on repealing and replacing Obamacare and continuing to guard against out of control spending and tax increases.

What's your position on eliminating farm welfare? Anything other than YES tells America you're not serious about balancing the budget and having Americans take personal responsibility for themselves. FYI, New Zealand eliminated farm welfare and its agricultural sector is doing fine.


I think you'll admit, probably proudly, that this teabag cadre of newcomers hasn't a lot of political experience. Does having such pronounced outsider status and inexperience put the teabag officeholders at a disadvantage? Will it make them more dependent upon beltway staff, entrenched leadership, and K-Street regulars? To be honest - I think it's a little akin to sending a bunch of vegans to try and run a sausage factory.

Your viewpoint is predicated upon the idea that this has to be a sausage factory. A lack of political experience in DC is not necessarily a bad thing - we need to focus on policy over politics.

Ken Buck, certainly a Tea Party candidate, had a hard time in Colorado. Despite strong financial support, he seemed to stumble over social issues like abortion. (Side note: For the second election in a row, an amendment to classify the fetus as a person was soundly defeated). Buck didn't manage to catch the wave because Colorado is a fairly purple state and Buck/Tea Party misread the electorate.

The strength of the movement is the focus on fiscal issues, which tend to be a uniting factor among a vast majority of Americans, especially given the current economic climate. Social issues have distracted and proven divisive in close races - like Ken Buck in Colorado.

The only way I would consider it a game changer is if winning Tea Partiers put defense spending on the table for cuts especially since the Republican defense secretary has recommended cuts. If Tea Partiers exclude defense spending from cuts, they will be just like other politicians trying to protect special interests (e.g., defense contractors that make substantial political contributions).

If the left wants to criticize us for not getting into specifics on spending cuts, will they agree not to demagogue on social security and scaring old people when we do?

I'm sorry, I just have to ask what kind of name is FreedomWorks? Do you work with Amnesty International or promote religious freedom around the world? Names like these when used by political parties carry the negative inference that others with opposing views are somehow anti-freedom.

You can't really make an argument that the establishment in Washington, DC  is pro-freedom. They just took over health care, car companies, banks and are working on literally regulating the air we breathe (C02). It's appropriate for a reform group like our to embrace the idea that freedom works, because we believe that it does.

How many seats in Congress went to tea party members?

There are still too many numbers coming in to answer that accurately. However, there are, as of right now, 67 signers of the Contract from America and 10 more that are too close to call. The Contract focuses heavily on the issues that are at the core of the Tea Party movement, and this is a referendum on the success of those ideas.

I have an elderly relative that has never made more than the minimum wage. Her meager SS check is the only income she has. What happens to all the old people like her? Family helps but finances are tight for everyone. The church is poor cuz its members are poor so what happens from the Tea Party?

Under various reform plans, benefits for current retirees do not change. The issue is what happens to future generations that are dealing with a failing system. A politician who says he's going to protect a system which is bankrupt to win your vote isn't compassion - it is a continuation of the reckless spending policies that have gotten us where we are today.

I somehow doubt you will address this, but what objectively can you point to that distinguishes the "Tea Party" from the same old right wing in this country? I know you have a few token conservative democrats and independents, but the rhetoric, message, platform and (sad to say, yes) a minority strain of racism are the same thing we have been hearing from conservatives for decades. Did the "Two Time Bush Voter Party" just not have the same ring to it?

In short, it's bottom up rather than top town. Today's movement was triggered in response to Bush era policy. The Tea Party movement has taken on establishment Republicans across the country and is truly representative of the average American, who simply wants their government to exercise the same restraint that they are being forced to exercise. If you look at the candidates that won last night, you'll quickly realize that it isn't about race or gender. Tim Scott, Allen West, Marco Rubio, and Nikki Haley are all strongly backed by the Tea Party, and are solid fiscally conservative champions that we are thrilled to support.

It seems that when Tea Party candidates worked with the GOP, they did well, but when they confronted the GOP establishment (Angle, Paladino, O'Donnell, Miller) they did poorly. Is that a reasonable interpretation, or do you have another explanation?

That is just inaccurate. For example, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio all took on the GOP backed candidate in the primary and handily won the general. What you have to remember is that this movement is based on ideas, and not politicians or short term electoral victories.

We made some great first steps last night, but we are just getting started. We have a tough legislative agenda coming in 2011 and we have thousands of activists all over the country who are geared up to keep the pressure on the new guys, and continue fighting the old guard. Thanks for having me today.

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Matt Kibbe
Matt Kibbe is president and CEO of FreedomWorks.
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