Establishment Republicans should stop fighting the tea party movement, which restored them to political relevance in the last midterm elections, Fiscal Times columnist Liz Peek told Newsmax TV
"The Republicans have to take the tea party as a very appreciated and needed source of energy," Peek told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner. "The tea party came along in 2010 when the GOP was flat on its back — having been creamed in the most recent presidential elections — and, for heaven's sake, delivered the House of Representatives."
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What the GOP and the tea party need to do this year, and for 2016, says Peek, is find their strongest areas of agreement and build a unifying message around those points. Peek said the concerns about runaway government spending that gave rise to the movement — and to a House GOP majority — offer a way forward.
"It happened because the average American was incensed about the spending on the bailouts — on TARP, on the stimulus," said Peek. "That was all a small-government message. People were horrified to see our deficits and debts blow up.
"That's a very strong and persistent undercurrent to GOP thinking," she continued. "Republicans have always believed that we need to balance the budget, we have to be careful about spending. People understand that."
Tea partiers themselves might also have some rethinking to do, says Peek. After the 2010 elections, she said, "the tea party kind of went, in many states, off on their own missions, which encompassed a lot of social messaging . . . which not everybody shares as broadly: opposition to abortion, opposition to same-sex marriage."
She cited Sen. Ted Cruz, a first-term Texas Republican and tea party favorite who opposes abortion and gay marriage, as someone "who kind of co-opted the tea party for his own personal aggrandizement."
"I don't think he's a national figure who could ever aspire to higher office because, really, look at the polling on these issues that he's very adamant about . . . The country is now pretty lenient toward same-sex marriage. Abortion is still a red line, and yet it's not necessarily all Republicans, it's kind of a strange political issue."
Peek said the tea party and the Grand Old Party have common ground in "admiration for the individual" and in "aspiring to balanced budgets and smaller government."
She said one U.S. president, in particular, knew which conservative messages resonated with the largest number of people.
"Ronald Reagan really got it right," she said. "He understood what Americans were worried about: the overreach of federal government . . . He didn't talk a great deal about big business, and neither we should today."
Peak said affinity for big business is what cost House Majority Leader Eric Cantor his seat in a stunning primary upset
by a political newcomer.
"Unfortunately now that the GOP is so closely tied to the Chamber of Commerce and to big banks and other large financial institutions and business institutions . . . they've kind of lost their message, and that's what hurt Cantor," said Peek.
"Cantor was in New York all the time raising money on Wall Street, and his constituents knew that. He didn't show up."
Peek said one issue the whole GOP can rally around for 2016 is education reform.
"Everyone wants a better education system," she said, "and the Democrats are so tied into the very powerful teachers' unions that they really have very limited scope for what they can talk about."
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