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Matt Kibbe appeared on Fox News Sunday on March 17 to debate Steve LaTourette, a former Republican Congressman who now leads the Republican Mainstreet Partnership. The debate centered around how the GOP can win elections in the future, and was a classic case of the Tea Party vs. the Establishment. As host and moderator Chris Wallace stated, "CPAC highlighted the disagreement for the [GOP] to broaden its base."
Rep. LaTourette referred several times to Tea Party congressmen as "chuckleheads", and lamented the unwillingness of these representatives to vote yes to offering higher taxes in the Plan B negotiations on the Sequester in December. His point was that Congressional Republicans should have allowed the President to raise taxes on high earners as a negotiation gambit. The theory goes that, had the GOP acquiesced on this point, further negotiations would have yielded bargaining chips from the President that the GOP was seeking, and we could have gotten 60% of what we were looking for. He went so far as to say that these representatives seemed more interested in voting than governing.
Kibbe made the case that Congress wouldn't even be debating whether increasing the budget was a good idea if it weren't for the Tea Party wave of 2010, and the continued engagement of the activists to try to get the GOP to hold the line on tax increases. He said, "You have to stop this bipartisan process of kicking the can down the road and creating these artificial crises ... let's stop playing this game. We're never going to fix this problem just by pretending that the process of bipartisanship will get us to real solutions, because that's how we got here."
Kibbe went on to remind LaTourette that it wasn't the Tea Party movement or the congresspeople we elected that caused the budget crisis - they came in based on the voters' will to stem the tide of reckless spending.
The debate then shifted to Rand Paul's filibuster in the Senate over the nomination of John Brennan to head up the CIA. For many Tea Party activists, this was a seminal moment of protest - a clarion call to be the loyal opposition, much in the same manner that Rick Santelli's original rant sparked the Tea Party movement to life in February 2009. As you'll recall, Sen. Paul's filibuster was chiefly focused on the concept of unmanned drones being used to kill US citizens on US soil if they were suspected of being enemy combatants.
Kibbe made the point that you can be strong on national defense while still being fiscally responsible and looking for efficiencies in the Pentagon budget. LaTourette, in response, made reference to 'dysfunction' that didn't allow for negotiations with President Obama over what he called "ham-handed cuts" in the sequestration. The most confusing point LaTourette tried to make was that the reason we don't have a Republican president is that the party can't govern if it doesn't look like the rest of the country. It was hard to follow, but he seemed to be making the point that since most voters are in the middle, we should be more willing to compromise and move to the middle.
This, of course, is the classic argument from what is commonly referred to as the Rockefeller Wing of the GOP - those Republicans from the Northeast who would rather compromise with the Left than to take a firm stand against every advance of the Left.
Kibbe responded by flatly rejecting the notion that this unwillingness to compromise has narrowed the party. He made the case that FreedomWorks and the Tea Party movement have brought diversity, energy and ideas to the party in the form of actually getting Tea Party candidates elected. These candidates, he contends, have brought many ideas forward to balance the budget, cut taxes and cut spending.
It's a compelling argument which harkens back to Jim DeMint's quote from his time as a strong Conservative in the Senate:
[DeMint] famously said that he would rather serve in the minority in a small, ideologically conservative Senate Republican caucus than in the majority with a large group of centrist Republicans.
“I'd rather have 30 Marco Rubios in the Senate than 60 Arlen Specters," he said in 2010, referring to the late Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who in 2009 left the Republican Party to become a Democrat.
The full debate can be seen below. It's worth your 12 minutes to watch, as it is a classic case of Establishment Republicans versus the Tea Party.