Published on Sunday, May 21, 2006 by the Agence France Presse
In Open Split with Bush, Top US Conservative Calls for Independent Movement
The patriarch of US conservatives has urged his followers to halt their financial support of the Republican Party and start an independent movement, signaling a major political shift that could result in heavy losses for the US ruling party in upcoming elections.
Richard Viguerie, who was instrumental in cementing the winning coalitions behind Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George W. Bush in 2000, declared that conservatives were "downright fed up" with both the president and Republican-controlled Congress.
"At the very least, conservatives must stop funding the Republican National Committee and other party groups," Viguerie wrote in a lengthy essay in The Washington Post Sunday.
He suggested conservatives "redirect their anger into building a third force," which he defined as a movement independent of any party, and laying the groundwork for the 2008 election campaign.
Traditional conservatives, who abhor big government and excessive spending, equate abortion with murder and emphasize individualism over collectivism, have always formed the so-called "base" of the Republican Party and determined its viability as a political organizations.
The integrity and loyalty of this core is considered key to the party's success in any election.
The defeat of George H.W. Bush, the current president's father, in the 1992 election is largely attributed to being abandoned by conservatives.
Viguerie's public outburst and his suggestion that conservatives should sit out the next election is seen as another ominous sign for the party less than six months before the November congressional vote.
A Washington Post-ABC News opinion poll released last week found that Republican disapproval of Bush's presidency had increased from 16 percent to 30 percent in just one month.
Viguerie acknowledged that a conservative boycott in November will likely spell defeat for the Republicans, but insisted it would be for the long-term good of the conservative movement.
"If conservatives accept the idea that we must support Republicans no matter what they do, we give up our bargaining position and any chance at getting things done," he reasoned. "Sometimes it is better to stand on principle and suffer a temporary defeat."
Conservatives have privately grumbled about some of Bush's decisions, but his immigration reform, announced in a nationally televised address last Monday, appeared to have marked the breaking point.
The plan calls for a series of measures to bolster security at the US-Mexican border, including deploying up to 6,000 National Guard troops.
But Bush also called on Americans to allow many of the estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants to eventually become citizens, a move that most conservatives see as tantamount to a presidential pardon for lawbreakers.
Viguerie insisted that Bush only "talked like a conservative to win our votes but never governed like a conservative."
He lamented that the conservative movement has been rewarded by the president for its support with "an amnesty plan for illegal immigrants."
"We've been rewarded with a war in Iraq that drags on because of the failure to provide adequate resources at the beginning, and with exactly the sort of 'nation-building' that candidate Bush said he opposed," the conservative patriarch went on to say.
He also called congressional Republicans "unprincipled power brokers", whose agenda "comes from big business".
Often referred to as "the conservative voice of America", Viguerie gained prominence in the 1960s and 1970s when he pioneered political and ideological direct mail, an innovation that helped conservatives organize and gain their voice.
He is the author of numerous books and credited with forming dozens of political organizations.
© Copyright 2006 AFP