GOP Groundswell Stems from Party Discontent Conservative Republicans are expressing their unhappiness with recent policies of the White House and the Congress. Melissa Block talks with Richard Viguerie, a conservative leader and marketing consultant, about how the Republican Party can win them back. Viguerie has a forthcoming book: Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause.

GOP Groundswell Stems from Party Discontent

GOP Groundswell Stems from Party Discontent

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Conservative Republicans are expressing their unhappiness with recent policies of the White House and the Congress. Melissa Block talks with Richard Viguerie, a conservative leader and marketing consultant, about how the Republican Party can win them back. Viguerie has a forthcoming book: Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

Those involved in politics are of course looking ahead to November and interpreting some political messages sent this week. There was the special election in California for the seat vacated by Republican Randy Duke Cunningham, who's now in prison for bribery. A Republican won that seat, but not by much.

There were also the bills in Congress for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages and the repeal of the estate tax, both of which died as expected in the Senate. Some conservative Republican leaders have made no secret of their displeasure with the Bush administration and the Congressional leadership.

And Richard Viguerie has been among the most vocal critics. He's a pioneer of conservative direct mail and he joins us in our studios. Thanks for coming in.

Mr. RICHARD VIGUERIE (Author, Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause): My pleasure, Melissa.

BLOCK: What does your own informal polling say about the level of conservative dissatisfaction right now?

Mr. VIGUERIE: Well, I go to two, three or more conservative functions in a week of conservatives at the national, state and local level. And at this point in time the frustration, disappointment, even anger, is so deep and palatable among conservatives that about 40 to 50 percent of the conservatives that I talk with are either ambivalent about who wins the fall election or they prefer the Republicans lose. Because we feel that we are very poorly led and no one really understands how we're going to make any progress forward until the present leadership is basically passes from the scene.

BLOCK: Have you seen anything like this before?

Mr. VIGUERIE: Never. I've been involved in national politics since the early '60s and at different times we were disappointed and discouraged, but these days it goes beyond that. It's just actually anger.

BLOCK: Now, when you say that they might prefer that Republicans lose in the fall, you've been saying much the same thing. You've been saying look, if you don't clean up your act, conservatives are going to stay home. Maybe you'll lose in November and maybe that's not such a bad thing. How can that not be a bad thing for Republicans if the Democrats take over?

Mr. VIGUERIE: Well, I'm not advocating it. What I've been doing is just reporting what I hear and see at the national, state and local level. And one thing I do tell conservatives, though, that we should not respond to the big government Republicans' message of yes, we're bad, but the other guys are worse. So that if you don't vote Republican, the boogey man's going to get you. Well, we've been threatened with that as long as any of us can remember and it's been my experience that we don't usually have growth until we do have losses.

BLOCK: What is at the root of this Republican anger. You say the president has betrayed his base. Is it on social issues, economic issues, both?

Mr. VIGUERIE: Across the board. The conservative movement has sat for many years on a three-legged stool, economic issues, social issues and foreign policy. And in all three of those, he basically has abandoned the commitments and promises he made to the voters.

Foreign policy, he campaigned in 2000 saying he would not engage in nation building. And he's done that more than any president in memory. And economic issues, he's never vetoed a bill. No president in 200 years has failed to veto any legislation. So, that means he acquiesces to all of the out of control, in my opinion, spending that's been going on.

And then in the social issues, his people pleaded with conservatives to register votes, get out to vote and certainly vote on Election Day, and then we will address the issues of concern to you. They delivered wonderfully for the Republican Party. And since then there's just been silence.

BLOCK: So what do you think happens come November?

Mr. VIGUERIE: The $64 question. I don't want to sound like I'm wimping out by saying it's too early, but it really is. So much can happen. But if the Congress and the White House doesn't recognize that they have a serious problem with the base of the Republican Party, then I would expect the Republicans would lose the House and possibly even the Senate.

BLOCK: Richard Viguerie, thanks for coming in.

Mr. VIGUERIE: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

BLOCK: Richard Viguerie is author of the forthcoming book Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause.

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