In an op-ed to be published Sunday in The Washington Post, Bennet said the Tea Party is repeating the "gloom talk" of President Carter, and will not have a lasting impact on the country unless it changes its tack.
"I urge all of the Tea Partyers to follow Reagan, not Carter," wrote Bennett, who lost his bid for another term in Congress earlier this month after Utah Republican delegates spurned him in favor of candidates backed by the populist conservative movement.
"If they want their movement to be more than a wave that crashes on the beach and then recedes back into the ocean, leaving nothing behind but empty sand, they should stop the 'gloom talk,'" Bennett continued. "These are not the worst times we have ever faced, nor is the Constitution under serious threat."
But Bennett wrote that the tea partiers remind him of those who were fed up with the government in the 1970s after the Nixon presidency and the Watergate scandal.
He said the Tea Party is made up of people who are "fed up with Washington profligacy," just like those who voted for Carter because they were fed up with Nixon.
Bennett also wrote that the Tea Party movement and dissatisfaction with Washington in the grassroots is a more powerful force than most inside the Beltway realize.
The senator said that the Tea Party should avoid being overly negative, like Carter was during his widely-noted "malaise speech" during which Bennett said the Georgian "warned us that America's best days were behind us and suggested that we are a country in irreversible decline. Too many Tea Party speeches sound the same note, even as they invoke Ronald Reagan's name.
Bennett's column is a strong warning to
the conservative movement that helped oust him and demonstrates the
rift between the Tea Partyers and the GOP political establishment.
Tea Party-backed candidate Rand Paul (R) won the Kentucky Senate primary over Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) this week, showing the political power of the movement.
since then, Paul questioned the legality of the Civil Rights Act of
1964 and canceled an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" as a result
of the fallout. Observers have said Paul's recent problems underscore
his political inexperience.
Here's an excerpt from Bennett's column in the Washington Post to be published Sunday:
Like those who voted for Carter because they were fed up with Nixon, the Tea Party is made up of people who are fed up with Washington profligacy. The combination of the Obama stimulus package, a bloated budget, stubbornly high unemployment and an expensive new health-care entitlement program has fueled their anger, convincing them that the federal government is out of touch and not listening. To a large extent, they're right.
Their two strongest slogans are "Send a message to Washington" and "Take back America." I know both very well because they were the main tools used to defeat me in Utah's Republican convention two weeks ago. They also worked in Kentucky on Tuesday. They are more powerful than most pundits inside the Beltway realize.
Yet when the new members of Congress whom these slogans elect in November take office, the question becomes: Will they be Carter or Reagan?
Will they stand firmly on partisan sidelines continuing to shout slogans? Or will they reach across the aisle in the interest of the country? Will they offer constructive proposals to help solve our problems?