Richard Viguerie is known as the “Funding Father” of the modern-day conservative movement for his pioneering success in harnessing the power of direct mail fundraising from millions of small-dollar donors in the 1970s and 1980s. So his thoughts on the current predicament conservatives find themselves in should be taken strongly into consideration.
“It’s obvious that conservatives have a GOP problem,” Viguerie writes in his 2006 book Conservatives Betrayed. “On the one hand, we have to work within the two-party framework of American democracy in order to be effective and not be marginalized. . . . On the other hand, putting all of our marbles on the Republican side hasn’t worked either, as we’ve seen since 2000. . . . 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.”
Gee, sounds an awful lot like Nevada, doesn’t it?
“Instead of creating a new party,” Viguerie continues, “we conservatives need to think of ourselves as a Third Force – an independent outside force that holds both parties accountable for their actions. This is not a pipedream – we’ve done it before.
“In the 1970s, the ‘New Right’ was becoming so successful precisely because its leaders thought of themselves – not the Republican Party – as the alternative to the Left and the Democrats. And during the second half of the 1970s and the early 1980s, this alternative New Right leadership planned strategy every Wednesday at my McLean, Virginia home.
“For six or seven years, the New Right independent operatives would meet for a breakfast session. For a couple of years, those sessions were followed by evening gatherings where we would be joined by six or seven key Republican congressmen, with Newt Gingrich as their leader. The organizational leaders thought of themselves as the ‘outside’ leadership group, with the congressmen as the movement’s ‘inside’ leadership.
“For another example, some of the greatest conservative successes over the years have come with independent single-issue groups that have managed to take liberal issues off the table – perhaps the ultimate in political success. Phyllis Schlafly’s ‘Stop ERA’ took the proposed Equal Rights Amendment off the table in the 1980s, and more recently, the National Rifle Association took the ‘gun control’ issue off the table.
“The critical strategic point is that they battled for bipartisan support of their aims, and held politicians of both parties responsible for their votes. The fact that the conservative cause triumphed on these issues is my interest, and I say it’s time to let 1,000 new conservative single-issue organizations bloom.”
Hmmm. Breakfast at my house next week?