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Limited-government conservatives have battled big-government Republicans for control of the party for more than a century, and after losing most of the internal battles, conservatives need to control the party and win elections soon if the nation is to be saved.

That’s the contention laid out by conservative icon Richard Viguerie in his new book, “Takeover: The 100-Year War for the Soul of the GOP and How Conservatives Can Finally Win It.” Viguerie changed the political marketing landscape by pioneering direct mail for political purposes. He is now the chairman of ConservativeHQ.com.

Viguerie minces few words in his book or in his analysis. When asked to explain the difference between conservatives and the GOP establishment, Viguerie’s answer landed nowhere near conventional wisdom.

He claims that despite the posturing and rhetoric seen from Republican Party leaders, there’s actually a wider gulf between the GOP leadership and grassroots conservatives than between the establishment Republicans and Democrats.

“There’s not a great deal of difference between an establishment Republican, a big-government Republican and a Democrat. They both believe in growing government. Democrats believe in growing government faster than the establishment Republicans. People like John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, George Bush, Karl Rove all have been significantly involved in significantly growing government,” Viguerie said. “The principled, limited government, constitutional conservatives believe in reducing significantly the size of government.”

Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Richard Viguerie:

Viguerie asserts the ongoing battle for control of the GOP started in 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt challenged Republican President William Howard Taft and split the vote in a way that allowed progressive Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the White House with less than 42 percent of the vote.

“Conservatives have been battling that wing of the party ever since but they haven’t known that they’ve done it, and you’re likely to lose any war you don’t know you’re engaged in,” he said.

There were limited-government Republicans in that era, such as William Howard Taft and later Calvin Coolidge, Viguerie noted, but Theodore Roosevelt altered the GOP outlook on the role of government permanently.

“The establishment of the Republican Party bought into the progressive ideas of growing government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more. They would talk a different game to the grassroots, but as they governed, they governed in cooperation with the Democrats to grow government,” Viguerie said. “For the last 100-plus years, the Republican establishment is much more comfortable with growing government than they are keeping government the size it is much less reducing it.”

In “Takeover,” Richard Viguerie details the storied history of the battle for the soul of the Republican Party and outlines the steps for conservatives to win the civil war in the GOP and govern America by 2017.

While Viguerie is passionate about his cause, he freely admits that conservatives have mostly lost the battle for the GOP over the past century. He argues, with the exceptions of Ronald Reagan’s two landslide wins, the 1994 Republican Revolution and the 2010 tea-party uprising, the establishment has dominated the Republican Party. And he said the results are devastating.

“We’re about to lose our country. We have massive debt. We’re engaged in one no-win war after the other. America is more divided and without strong leadership than any time in our country’s history. We’re in very perilous times because we’ve not had good constitutional leaders for a long time,” he said.

Viguerie accuses Republican leaders of lacking backbone for tough fights against Democrats and for simply coming to accept the growth of government. He also believes too many are making the wrong decisions in a futile attempt to be liked by the press.

“They certainly want to please the mainstream media. The mainstream media [are] advocating bigger government and the reduction of liberty and freedom. The effect has been growing government of any number of reasons, but we can say for certain they do not believe in increasing liberty for the citizens of this country,” Viguerie said.

Despite that gloomy assessment of politics past and present, Viguerie said he is very bullish on conservatives rising soon and rescuing the U.S. from its present course.

“A lot of conservatives are discouraged now, but they should not be. I think within three years conservatives can take over the Republican Party and govern America. I was there after (Arizona Sen. Barry) Goldwater’s loss in 1964 and after (President Richard) Nixon’s resignation in 1974, when it was darkness for conservatives of a biblical proportion,” he said.

“We have assets that we didn’t have back in those days. We didn’t have talk radio, the Internet, cable television. We didn’t have people like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and others leading us out there like Scott Walker and Mike Pence. This is a very exciting time for us. I’m very excited about the future.”

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