Today, writing in Roll Call, David Winston has a stinging retribution of Richard Viguerie’s Washington Post opinion piece: "Bush’s Base Betrayal."
Right off the bat, Winston asks, "how can Viguerie expect to be taken seriously when he advocates a strategy that would elect House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Speaker and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to Senate Majority Leader?"
Were this conclusion intellectually honest, it would indeed be an indictment against Viguerie. But Viguerie never advocates that conservatives sit out the upcoming elections. Nor does he wish that Democrats will control Congress. Instead, he merely advocates supporting conservative candidates directly, rather than working to fund the national party committee’s.
It’s fine for Winston to disagree with this assertion, but he should not misrepresent Viguerie’s position. Of course, his "out" is the word "strategy." He writes that Viguerie’s "strategy" would lead to Democrats winning control of Congress — but, of course, that is opinion being stated as fact.
Next, Winston is critical of Viguerie’s opposition to Bush’s "compassionate conservatism." I’m surprised that he takes such umbrage to this. After all, many fiscal conservatives have long been critical of what Viguerie cites as "the greatest increase in spending since Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society."
Again, you may disagree with Viguerie’s opinion, but he is certainly not alone is pointing out where Bush has strayed from a fiscal conservative orthodoxy.
Most concerning, Winston criticizes Viguerie’s position that conservatives should stand on principle, saying, "The last time Republicans suffered a temporary defeat, they didn’t regain the House for 40 years, and a lot can happen in 40 years."
This is where it becomes clear that these two men are coming from completely different worldviews.
Most likely, Viguerie views examples of "standing on principle" through the lens of a conservative. He remembers losses that the conservative movement suffered — like Goldwater in 1964 — or Reagan in 1976 — that ultimately made conservatives stronger. Most would agree these losses were extremely traumatic to conservatives (at the time), but they ultimately paved the way for conservative victories in 1980 and 1994.
At the end of the day, it is clear that the way you view Viguerie’s column depends on your worldview: If you are a conservative first, you agree with him. If you are a Republican first, you don’t.
Winston is entitled to his own opinion — but not his own facts. In this instance, he has misrepresented Viguerie’s position.
Winston may simply resent Viguerie’s willingness to break Reagan’s "11th Commandment" and openly criticize a fellow Republican (it does not escape me that the only way for a Republican to get a op-ed in the Post is to criticize a fellow Republican.)
But I think that debate is a healthy bi-product of Democracy and should be encouraged, not discouraged. I also find it odd for someone to attack Viguerie for merely re-stating positions that have long been advocated by many in the conservative movement.
Lastly, I think that as a founding father of the conservative movement, Richard Viguerie has earned our respect — even if we disagree with him.