A leading conservative stalwart, whose career in politics dates back to the 1960s, told Human Events the conservative movement in America will not succeed until it gets new leadership—including the replacement of Speaker John A. Boehner.
“We’re not going to get to the political promise land until we get new leadership,” said Richard Viguerie, the author with Jenny Beth Martin Tea Party, the president of Tea Party Patriots, of the new book: “Takeover: The 100-Year War for the Soul of the GOP and How Conservatives Can Finally Win.”
“We’re going to have to get rid of all these people,” he said. “They’re an impediment. The American voters do not like the leadership of Eric Cantor, Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, Lamar Alexander, Mitch McConnell.”
Viguerie said he is encouraged that House conservatives are working to unseat Boehner, but he is not happy with the possible replacements, such as House Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor (R.-Va.) and is waiting for someone to emerge.
“Whether it’s against Boehner or Eric Cantor, they’re just planning what their moves will be after the 2016 election,” he said. “The leadership doesn’t seem to be obvious there in the House. There may be people there, I don’t know. It’s not as obvious as it is, as it should be.”
“Conservatives who have been mostly blocked from the levers of power for as long as I can remember except under Reagan and that’s because we’ve had our political guns pointed at the wrong target,” he said. “We’ve been focused on Pelosi, Reid, Obama, you know, whatever Democrat is front and center there.”
The enemy of conservatives is not the Democrats, it is the Republican leadership, he said.
Conservatives have proven that they can beat Democrats, he said.
“In terms of the voters don’t like them, in my lifetime, which is a long time, there’s been four and only four, big Republican victories,” he said. “In all of those, the face of the opposition to the Democrats was Conservative smaller government, limited government.”
Those victories were the two elections in 1980 and 1984 of Ronald W. Reagan, the “Contract with America” election led by former speaker Newton L. “Newt” Gingrich in 1994 and the Tea Party revolt of 2010, he said.
When the establishment Republicans have power given to them by conservative victories, they never use it the way they promised when they were campaigning, he said.
“When they’re in power, they grow government, they expand government and they walk away from our issues. They want nothing to do with them,” he said.
“They don’t believe in a smaller government. They believe in a bigger government. They demonstrate that with the legislation that they pass when they had the power,” he said.
“In 2006, the Republicans lost to Congress, lost the White House in 2008, in my opinion, having nothing to do with Nancy Pelosi, Reid, Obama but everything to do with failed, corrupt, immoral leadership of Karl Rove, George W. Bush, Danny Hassert, Bill Frist, Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, et cetera,” he said.
Then the conservatives stepped up, he said. “After those two terrible loses there, big loses, two years, four years later in 2010, they scored the biggest victory in 75-80 years for the Republican Party.”
Even if conservatives do not think of the GOP leadership as the enemy, the GOP leadership sees conservatives as the enemy, he said. “Remember in The New York Times just a couple of weeks ago, Mitch McConnell said: ‘We must try to crush the Tea Party,’ his word: ‘Crush the Tea Party!’ They see us as the enemy and we see them the same way. We’re at war.”
The key is leadership, he said. Americans are not happy with the current leaders, which makes it impossible to win big elections.
“Reagan said in 1976 when he ran for president, he ran against the entire Republican establishment, the Nixon wing, the Ford wing, the Rockefeller wing of the party, and said we need new leadership: ‘Leadership unfettered by old ties and old relationships.’”
“They reject those leaders. We’re going to have to put a different face because they’re all part of crony capitalism,” said Viguerie, who revolutionized political fundraising with his direct mail and other campaigns, which raised more than $7 billion for conservative candidates during his more than 50 years in the arena.
Vigeurie said today’s Republican and conservative leaders are part of the system they are supposed to be fixing.
“We need this new, young leadership out there that’s not an appendage, not an arm of the Republican Party. The country will, I think, respond very favorably to an appeal where people are coming in here in an honest way and not going to be part of a corrupt, immoral system,” he said.
“They’re part of the rooting class and Republicans are part of the rooting class just like the Democrats are. The whole idea of crony capitalism and we’ll rig the rules to advantage ourselves and our friends, we’re just sick of it,” he said.
The 80-year-old Texas native said much of the problem, which he details in his new book, goes back 100 years ago, when Theodore Roosevelt split the Republican Party by forming his own Progressive Party. “We’ve been battling that wing of the party ever since.”
Early in his career, Viguerie said he saw the struggle between the conservatives and the GOP establishment, when he was a political operative in Texas.
“When I was in Houston, back in the late ’50s, I was chairman of Harris County Houston Young Republicans and we had a split there between the grassroots populous and the Texas establishment there,” he said. “I remember I had a mentor who was part of the establishment and one day at a county convention, I chose the populous side and he walked over to me and told me that was it. We were splitting at that point and it would no longer be associated with me. And so, fine with me because this is where I belong with the country class not the ruling class.”
Later, Viguerie said he moved to New York City to become part of the burgeoning conservative movement there as the executive director of Young Americans for Freedom in 1961.
“I used to sit in my bosses’ office conference room, Marvin Liebman, and leadership of the New York Conservative Party would come over a couple of times a week and sit there and plot,” he said.
“I was just kind of a little fly on the wall there, listening to all that back in ’61-’62 when they were fighting and battling the Rockefeller wing of the party there in New York,” he said. “Of, course, then the whole Goldwater thing was a battle against the big government Republican establishment. So I’ve been battling that wing ever since.”