Tea Party Leaders Go Over Election Wins, Losses
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
One thing to watch in the coming days and months is how well Republicans can stay united. During this election year, the Tea Party movement often challenged the Republican Party establishment. Tea Party candidates shouldered aside others in primaries, and though some high-profile Tea Party candidates eventually lost, presumptive speaker John Boehner gives the movement a lot of credit.
Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio): What unites us as Republicans will be the agenda of the American people. And if we're listening to the American people, I don't see any problems incorporating members of the Tea Party along with our party in the quest that's really the same. They want us to cut spending, and focus on creating jobs in America.
INSKEEP: We reached out to a pair of people involved in the Tea Party movement, starting with Toby Marie Walker. We heard her on this program earlier this fall, and called her back again. She is co-founder and president of the Waco Tea Party in Waco, Texas, and feels good about the election results where she lives.
Ms. TOBY MARIE WALKER (Waco Tea Party): It was a sweep. Everyone who was in office that had not been, I think, on the side of the people is now on the outside of politics.
INSKEEP: Your congressman is, for a couple more months, Chet Edwards, who is a conservative Democrat. What happened to him?
Ms. WALKER: He didn't listen to the people of the district. It was the stimulus, it was the TARP. It was a myriad of other bills. We have things that needed to be done like I-35 expansion, and making sure that we are responsibly spending money. And so he just lost touch with the people.
INSKEEP: Well, let me bring another voice into the conversation. Matt Kibbe is with FreedomWorks, one of the organizations that had associated itself with the Tea Party movement. He's in our studios in Washington.
Welcome to the program.
Mr. MATT KIBBE (CEO, FreedomWorks): Hey, thanks very much.
INSKEEP: Does this election amount to a victory for Tea Party movement?
Mr. KIBBE: I really think that even before November 2nd, the Tea Party had defined this election by driving the issues that mattered in this debate. And virtually every Republican and most Democrats - certainly, the Democrats that won in battlegrounds like West Virginia - literally ran on the Tea Party agenda.
INSKEEP: I want to mention something and throw this open to you both. We heard on this program earlier this week from Tom Davis, former Republican congressman, analyzing the election from the Republican point of view. He said he was asked, is there a mandate, something specific that the people have told you to do? And he said; we didn't get any mandate; what we got is a second chance. Toby Walker, do you think that's true?
Ms. WALKER: I think that some are getting another chance, but they have a mandate: to be fiscally responsible, to allow the free markets to reign. And if they think that we won't be watching in 2012, we will be watching. And this is just the beginning.
INSKEEP: Matt Kibbe, is there a mandate here?
Mr. KIBBE: I think there is a mandate. And you've seen this notion, that the government shouldn't spend money it doesn't have, take front and center in this election, where all Republicans are going to be pushing for fiscal responsibility. And the big question for the president: Is he going to come back to the middle, like Bill Clinton did in 1995, and actually work on spending?
And that's where the potential for compromise is. If the goal is a balanced budget, if the goal is to reign in spending, let's put those programs on the table, and decide which are the priorities that are most important.
INSKEEP: I'm glad you used the word compromise, because it's a word that Democrats have used in the last couple of days, and some Republicans.
Mr. KIBBE: It's a newly discovered word for them.
INSKEEP: OK, OK. And some Republicans have said no compromise; we're not going to compromise on these things. If you find some of the candidates that you supported this last election compromising with the White House - getting 50 percent of what you want, 40 percent, 60 percent - are you going to be happy with them, or turn against them?
Mr. KIBBE: Well, I think there's plenty of room to compromise if the goal is to reign in government spending. If the question is government-run health care, I don't understand what the compromise would be between a bad idea and half a bad idea.
INSKEEP: Toby Walker, you said something at the beginning about I-35. You're talking about an interstate that passes through your part of Texas, isn't that right?
Ms. WALKER: Yes.
INSKEEP: What do you want done?
Ms. WALKER: Well, we have been putting money to expand I-35. We've been putting that money aside for years, and it's never been spent. They spend it on other things. When the federal government takes taxes and - say, well, this is for roads, spend it on the roads. Don't spend it on a helicopter for a politician.
INSKEEP: I wonder if we're touching on a basic challenge of the next few years -is that there is stuff the people actually want from the government, and doing that while cutting the deficit is going to be hard.
Mr. KIBBE: Well, it is a challenge, but I think what Toby's talking about is that there are things that the government should be doing. And when you have all of this deficit spending, like you saw in the federal stimulus, it crowds out the priorities that should be focused on.
INSKEEP: Didn't a lot of that go to road building? You see signs all over the place.
Mr. KIBBE: Well, you do see the signs, and you wonder why we're printing signs instead of paving roads. But our point of view is that so much deficit spending puts a real burden on the private economy. It crowds out private initiative. And we know that today's deficit spending is tomorrow's tax increase. And I think that understanding is really what brought people to the streets of America, saying enough is enough.
INSKEEP: Matt Kibbe of Freedom Works, thanks very much.
Mr. KIBBE: Thank you.
INSKEEP: And Toby Walker of the Tea Party movement in Waco, Texas, thanks to you.
Ms. WALKER: Thank you.
INSKEEP: We've got more analysis, and more voices throughout the program, on your local public radio station today. You can also find more analysis on our website, NPR.org. Or follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We're @MorningEdition and @NPRInskeep.