“When conservatives are unhappy, bad things happen to the Republican Party.”
With this sentence, Richard A. Viguerie begins his new book, “Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause,” a book destined to become a classic of conservative thinking.
This is a book that conservatives who have become comfortable after decades of supporting Republican Party candidates will find disconcerting to read. Still, “Conservatives Betrayed” may be the most important conservative book written in the last quarter century, a book whose arguments no true conservative can afford to ignore.
Viguerie’s main contention is that we should not necessarily assume that Republicans are conservatives simply because they are Republicans. As his title suggests, George W. Bush and those Republican politicians who continue to vote big government interests have deviated far from conservative principles, to the point where the Republican Party has just suffered a major electoral defeat as a direct consequence.
Viguerie does not mince words. He aims his criticism squarely at the top and he argues his case convincingly. Writing before the 2006 mid-term election, Viguerie observed:
Conservatives are unhappy right now because Big Government Republicans have hijacked our cause. We are questioning why we should continue to vote Republican if the GOP acts like Democrats on spending, corruption and lack of social issues.
In the next sentence, Viguerie predicts the 2006 mid-term election debacle, asking: “How many times does the GOP have to be hit on the head before it learns not to take conservatives for granted?”
Following in the tradition of Barry Goldwater’s defining classic, “The Conscience of a Conservative,” Viguerie aims to explain what conservatism means in the 21st century. To begin with, 21st century conservatism for Viguerie means limited government:
Republican lawmakers talk conservative but vote for bigger and more intrusive government. They’ve been getting away with this – so far – because they think conservatives have nowhere else to go.
Viguerie argues that we conservatives must think of ourselves as a “Third Force,” a force outside the Republican Party, much as the “New Right” that formed in the 1970s and early 1980s was successful precisely because its leaders “thought of themselves – not the Republican Party – as the alternative to the left and the Democrats.”
We are reminded that important victories came from independent causes, such as Phyllis Schlafly’s “Stop the ERA” campaign that took the Equal Rights Amendment off the table in the 1980s and the National Rifle Association’s more recent campaign that has taken “gun control” off the national agenda. Viguerie reminds us that these causes won because “they battled for bipartisan support of their aims and held politicians of both parties responsible for their votes.”
Viguerie notes that during President Bush’s first five years in office, the federal budget increased by $616 billion, a whopping 33 percent. To put this figure in perspective, the entire federal budget in Jimmy Carter’s last year in office was less than $616 billion. Viguerie concludes: “I haven’t spent a half century fighting Big Government run by liberals and Democrats, only to succumb to Big Government run by pork-barrel Republicans and pseudo-conservatives. I say let’s fight.”
And fight is just what Viguerie does. So hard does he fight that those among us who would like to argue for the president are going to find reading these pages difficult. Yet, Viguerie carefully documents his arguments. The problem is the administration’s record three-quarters through George W. Bush’s presidency is what has made true conservatives stand up and object, despite the objections from colleagues that we dare not criticize the Republican Party for fear of giving strength to our traditional enemy, liberal Democrats.
Yet, Viguerie is right – in 2004, over 90 percent of the new debt the U.S. issued was purchased by foreigners, largely by Red China, whose agenda is very different from ours. As long as we allow the Wal-Mart millionaires to pursue unbridled capitalism, we will be doomed to be in debt for importing under-market goods produced by slave labor or near slave labor, goods that in a different generation of free trade agreements would have been outlawed by “anti-dumping” or “no slave labor” provisions. Viguerie warns:
As long as we’re willing to finance the Chinese Communist Party, this is a marriage made in – well, not heaven, but at least it’s profitable. What happens, though, when the differences between the U.S. democracy and mainland China’s dictatorship come to a head – say, over the separate existence of the Republic of China (Taiwan)?
What will we do then to stop Communist China from switching a significant portion of their foreign exchange currency into Euros, precisely to punish the dollars and bring U.S. foreign policy around to the direction the Communist Chinese dictate?
With government spending now commanding more than a third of our economy, Viguerie argues we are headed in Europe’s direction where entitlement programs push us in a socialist direction while we see our NAFTA free trade market evolve into a European Union style regional bureaucracy. Again, Viguerie points out the painful truth:
President Bush and Karl Rove wanted a Medicare drug prescription bill for one simple reason: to bribe the nation’s senior citizens. To their way of thinking, a prescription drug bill, no matter how reckless it was economically, was the way to win over a voting bloc that traditionally has been up to the highest bidder in presidential elections.
As Viguerie explains, this “bribery strategy has boomeranged.” Big-spending Republicans will never be able to out-promise the original entitlement bandits in the Democratic Party.
Yet, Karl Rove still went to California to address La Raza, the radical pro-illegal immigration group whose very name is translated “The Race.” Similarly, Ken Mehlman was overheard openly proclaiming that the Republican Party had open arms to homosexuals, as long as they weren’t predators. Maybe, before he had to resign from the head of the RNC in defeat, Mehlman should have tried explaining that to Dr. Dobson and Rev. Falwell? Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove have never truly understood that true conservatives hold principles for moral reasons and are unwilling to compromise moral principles for the expediency of attracting marginal voters whose values truly are incompatible.
Carefully, Richard Viguerie explains how Big Government Republicans are in the pockets of giant corporations – the millionaires and billionaires of unbridled, unprincipled capitalism who only want to increase profits, even if it means exploiting Red Chinese slave labor and ultimately destroying the American middle class. As evidence, Viguerie argues that the Bush prescription drug plan allowed dozens of American corporations to dump their retirees into Medicare, shifting the responsibility for providing prescription drug benefits to their retirees onto the taxpayers:
Once again, we follow the money, and it leads us to one inescapable conclusion – that the Big Government Republicans owe their allegiance to the giant corporations, rather than to the American taxpayer. And they will put their own political interests ahead of the country’s – except, of course, when they are wrong about where their true interests lie.
Throughout, Viguerie points out that true conservatives value economic liberty and political liberty, seeing value in maintaining our Judeo-Christian heritage, not as a political strategy to get votes, but because of a genuine commitment to values that derive from the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Viguerie admonishes us that our support for the Republican Party should be reserved for when the GOP truly embraces and advances the conservative movement. In the final analysis, Goldwater and Viguerie agree – as conservatives our first purpose is to advance the conservative agenda, not necessarily to win elections for the Republican Party.
Reluctantly, we may finally have to admit that President George W. Bush has governed more like a liberal Democrat that the true moral conservative we all wanted to believe he was. If Richard Viguerie is right, more bad things will continue to happen to the Republican Party as long as conservatives remain unhappy. Given this analysis, pursuing a guest-worker amnesty bill hand-in-hand with Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy will be a very bad way for George W. Bush to begin the 110th Congress.
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