Reaganite Revolt

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It's been clear for a while that Richard Viguerie, one of the fathers of the right-wing direct-mail empire and one of the godfathers of the New Right, hasn't been happy with the Bush administration's free-spending ways. But now he's turning his guns directly on the Republican leadership:

In "Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause," Richard Viguerie…says it's time for radical action to save the Republican Party from itself.

His plan includes the following actions, which would spell bad news for the GOP in the 2006 midterm congressional elections and in the 2008 presidential election:

* Withhold financial support from Republican committees and most Republican incumbents.

* Withhold support from all 2008 presidential candidates.

* No longer call yourself "a Republican" but rather a Reagan Republican or a Reagan conservative.

* And work for wholesale change in Republican leadership.

The same article says that Viguerie is "not advocating GOP defeat." Maybe his position is too subtle for me, but it sounds like he is advocating GOP defeat—not that there's anything wrong with that—arguing that "conservatives should not fear the loss of Congress in 2006, since the biggest gains usually follow a defeat. He points to 1976 when Gerald Ford's loss made possible Ronald Reagan's victory in 1980 and to 1992 when George H.W. Bush's loss made possible the Republican congressional victories in 1994."

Viguerie surely remembers, since his fundraising was an important part of the effort, that Reagan and the then-New Right wouldn't have ascended to power without first challenging the centrist Republican establishment of the '70s. Of course, to do that they had to run in the presidential primaries, and Viguerie seems to have ruled out that route. Guess I'll have to read his book to see what he proposes instead.

Elsewhere in Reason: I reviewed Viguerie's earlier book, America's Right Turn, last year.

Elsewhere not in Reason: David Franke, the other author of America's Right Turn, calls for a Democratic victory in 2006 and impeachment of Bush right afterwards.

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  1. The same article says that Viguerie is “not advocating GOP defeat.”

    I think he’s advocating an electoral purge of the current Republican leadership, which will only occur (as he well knows) if they are personally voted out of office or, at a minimum, reduced to a minority.

    So, yeah, he’s advocating a short-term defeat in hopes of seeding a later revival.

  2. That’s my reading too, R.C. (Though as you know, I’m not wild for the “purge” locution… :>)

  3. Dream on. The only way to prevent Congress from spending until the absolute brink of bankruptcy right up to the point of their credit not being any good, is to have term limits. It doesn’t matter who you put in power they are going to eventually succumb to the temptation to loot the public trust in order to get their friends and supporters rich and leave a “legacy” of their pet projects. It is just human nature. Hell put this dumb ass in charge long enough and he will be doing the same thing. Unless, this guy can figure out away get Jesus to come back to earth and led the Congress, changing the Republican leadership isn’t going to change anything for very long. The leadership will promise to do the right thing and within a few years be just as bad as or worse than the previous one. That is why you have to have term limits and kick them out before they get too bad.

    That said, the deficit and the debt, as a percentage of GDP is not that high and lower than most countries. It certainly could be better and it would be great to get rid of it, but it is far from being an emergency.

    One other point about the national debt is that there is a very real upside to the 100s of billions of dollars spent servicing the national debt each year; every dollar spent servicing the debt is one less dollar the dumb greedy bastards in Congress can take and waste. Debt servicing is really just another income transfer program from taxpayers to bond holders. Granted, that is not a particularly desirable thing, all things being equal. However, at least the money goes back into the economy to be used productively. The money and resources spent to the build the new Robert Byrd highway to nowhere doesn’t go anywhere except to be wasted.

  4. “Debt servicing”…goes back into the “economy”…to be used “productively”?

    What color is the tequila on your world, John?

  5. So, uh, hey guys, glad to be back…

    Do I get a party or something?

  6. Unless, this guy can figure out away get Jesus to come back to earth and led the Congress…

    Nah…they’d just crucify him all over again.

    That said, the deficit and the debt, as a percentage of GDP is not that high and lower than most countries.

    They existence and current size of the deficit/debt is not the issue. The trend, rate of growth and the likely reactions by the banks holding our paper are. Current price increases and weak domestic spending run the risk of bogging down growth, making the deficit and debt very dangerous factors.

    every dollar spent servicing the debt is one less dollar the dumb greedy bastards in Congress can take and waste.

    Nice if it worked that way. Unfortunately, they keep borrowing more dollars to spend and waste.

  7. For some reason, this reminds me of all the folks who want the pledge and the platform removed from the LP so that they can win more elections.

  8. “Debt servicing”…goes back into the “economy”…to be used “productively”?

    What color is the tequila on your world, John?

    Think about it Ed. They take your tax money and use it to pay the interest on the debt. Who recieves that money? Bond holders. What do they do with that money? They don’t bury it in the backyard. They either reinvest it in more U.S. securities or they take it and invest or spend it somewhere else. If we could balance the budget, the reinvestment would not be an issu. If there wasn’t any more debt being created, then for every security bought, there would be one sold and that seller would spend or invest that money into the private sectore. Spending or investing the money in the private sector is using the money productively. Granted, there are a lot of forgeign bond holders so the money may go to other economies, but that is still not all bad since the U.S. economy benifits from other economies’ growth. To put it in simpler terms, the government doesn’t create any wealth, it just redirects it. Often it redirects the money into completely unproductive things. I trust the private sector bond holders to spend the money in a productive manner a lot more than I trust the Congress.

  9. Madpad,

    The deficit peaked in 04 and is coming below estimates for 05 and 06. Revenues are booming. If the Congress could just stop spending, the deficit would solve itself. Further, every year the deficit remains constant or falls and the economy grows, the deficit and debt, as a percentage of GDP, the really significant figure, goes down. I don’t see the trend of the deficit being up. Yes, if you look way down the road it is up, but I don’t beleive in out years. Congress and the economy are so unpredictable that any estimates of the deficit more than two or three years out is meaningless speculation.

  10. All-in-all some fine ideas he has … lots of Republicans I know are already not giving money this year. When the GOP calls me I say “can’t you just borrow some?”

    The Big Problem I see: Reagan is dead and he was a “one man army” I can’t think of anyone who can replace him. Perhaps Rudy is a distant hope ….

  11. Debt servicing is really just another income transfer program from taxpayers to bond holders.

    In roughly the same way that vandals who smash shop windows are merely transferring income from store owners to glaziers.

  12. If his point is that the Republican Party “leaders” have concluded that they may do anything they wish and never expect any sort of negative consequences, I would say he is correct. If truly conservative (insert your definition here) Republicans said, “Fuck off” when the fundraisers called to invite them to dinner with some Party bigwig, somebody, somewhere, might begin to detect unhappiness.

  13. “If truly conservative (insert your definition here) Republicans said, “Fuck off” when the fundraisers called to invite them to dinner with some Party bigwig, somebody, somewhere, might begin to detect unhappiness.”

    PBrooks, that is a great idea but that is not where the money comes from. The money comes from people who want something from the government, whether that be relief from an onerous regulation or sticking an onerous regulation on a competitor or getting a fat government contract. The ideologues telling incumbants and parties to fuck off won’t stop that flow of money and that is really all that matters to Congress anyway.

  14. Revenues are booming.

    Up – not ‘booming’ – and confined to sectors (oil, mainly). Booming gets people & Wall Street excited and currently they are not. Slowdowns in domestic spending are down and sector booms won’t counter that.

    If the Congress could just stop spending…

    Well now that’s just mine and everyone else’s fucking point now, isn’t it?

    the deficit would solve itself…

    That’s the mentality that got us here. The deficit will rarely solve itself. It requires action and good leadership – qualities in short supply in both parties.

  15. The only “limits” during my lifetime that restrained federal spending were the pay-go rules and restraints Congress and George H.W. Bush imposed during the early 1990s. Old Bush lived by them, Clinton lived by them, the Democratic Congress lived by them, and the Gingrich/Dole Congress lived by them. George W. Bush and the Delay/Frist Congress so spectacularly did not. Dick Cheney has stated that “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.” I’d have to say that who is in power matters quite a bit.

    “The deficit peaked in 04 and is coming below estimates for 05 and 06.”

    If it weren’t for the rest of George Bush’s term, the 2006 deficit would be an all-time record. Those “estimates” were inflated by the Bush administration itself to make the actual (record) deficit appear to be good news – it’s a sleazy trick they’ve been playing every year, and the media never catches on.

  16. While taking money from taxpayers and giving it to other taxpayers (bondholders) keeps money away from the road builders and the department of defense, which is good, its arrival distorts the behaviors of taxpayers. Thus, taxation is damaging even if no public spending occurs and 100% of the collected revenues are returned as cash transfers. Some think that it is a good idea to impoverish people that way to the point where they no longer are willing to support the public spending (i.e. the starve the future beast argument that Reagan supporters use to justify his debt build up), but I think that is a worse equilibrium that we ought to try to avoid.

  17. For some reason, this reminds me of all the folks who want the pledge and the platform removed from the LP so that they can win more elections.

    I’ll bite: And that reason is?

  18. If truly conservative (insert your definition here) Republicans said, “Fuck off” when the fundraisers called to invite them to dinner with some Party bigwig, somebody, somewhere, might begin to detect unhappiness.

    The ideologues telling incumbants and parties to fuck off won’t stop that flow of money and that is really all that matters to Congress anyway.

    Nothing matters – even money – if the dingus doesn’t get elected. That’s Viguerie’s point.

  19. Current GOP is a direct descendant logical conclusion of Reagan Republicanism. Repub problems won’t be solved as long as they’re servicing old myths.

  20. John: As an advocate of term limits, I would like your thoughts on this:

    It seems to me the heart of the problem is with Congressmen granting favors in exchange for money to run for election or re-election. If that is the case, I don’t see where term limits get us anywhere, since the dynamic will be the same–just a new face every couple of years. I have long thought that we need fewer elections, i.e., longer terms. This would at least allow a legislator the opportunity to make a decision that wasn’t directly influenced by the need to raise campaign funds. The problem is particularly acute in the House of Representatives, where you have to start running for re-election as soon as you are in. We would be a lot better off with four-year terms.

    In Kansas a few years back, a constitutional amendment almost got introduced that would have imposed term limits in exchange for longer terms, but the term limits supporters backed-out at the last minute. It turned out they were less interested in ending the “gravy train” than they were in just making sure there was a new person ladling out the gravy every couple of years.

  21. “The deficit will rarely solve itself. It requires action and good leadership – qualities in short supply in both parties.”

    Madpad, that is just pig Latin for raise taxes. Yes, we could solve the deficit and run a surplus if we are willing to go back to the mid 90s and have the government steal 20% of the country’s output. To hell with that. Set a hard cap of say 17% of GDP at most that can be collected in taxes. If you raise taxes the Congress will just spend it. What really happened in the 1990s is that Clinton raised the crap out of taxes in 1993 and the Republicans took over in 1994 cut some taxes but the divided government kept spending down. If the Dems took over Congress, Bush might grow a set of balls and start vetoing the inevitable spending orgy that would ensure. Of course he would be portrayed by the media as a baby killer looking to throw grandma out on the street, but the resulting paralysis might do something about spending. As long as the same party controls both Congress and the Presidency the spending will never stop. Without that, the only hope is to have lower taxes and hope the financial markets put a stop to it. One thing is for sure, nothing good will come out of the government taking more of your money.

  22. I think you make a good point Ron. I think you have to combine longer terms with limits to do any good. I would say four year terms in the House and the current six year terms in the Senate with a two term limit for both and absolute lifetime cap of 16 years in Congress. I can’t see how things could get any worse by trying it.

  23. Madpad, that is just pig Latin for raise taxes.

    Wrong. It’s pig latin for cutting spending and not running up new debts on idealogical follies. And maybe waiting to cut taxes when we’re not in the midst of a rising debt, a war and a government restructuring might be a good one too.

    Basically, it’s the same advice you give to people hoping to avoid bankruptcy – reduce your spending, pay down your debt and stop using your credit cards to buy things you can’t afford.

  24. I’m a Reganite Republican from way back–too young to vote door to door variety, and I’ve been rebelling since Bush the Greater’s stab in the back on taxes.

    My rebellion took the form of registering Libertarian and continuing to vote Republican straight through the Gingrich revolution, right up until the Bush the Lesser abandoned what I regarded as the central pretexts of the Reagan Revolution, from free markets to spending to foreign policy. …that’s when I started voting Libertarian across the board.

    Withdrawal of support is the first step. Then comes the transition period. Real rebellion is when you start endorsing and working to advance third party candidates. Come to the dark side, Mr. Viguerie. The water’s fine.

  25. Many states of the USA give lie to the idea that party-divided gov’t restrains spending. NY is a longstanding example.

  26. John: I agree. I think it would be easier to try to implement the idea at the state level first, though. The more I think about it, the more I am comfortable with term limits if the terms were substantially longer. Under the current system, what we have is essentially an ochlocracy. I don’t believe the founders would have picked two year terms for the House if they had anticipated universal suffrage and direct election of Senators.

  27. Robert: So, over its history, New York has been more free-spending under two-party rule than under one party? Can you refer me to any sources? I am currently generally in favor of divided government, but I can be convinced otherwise if the facts point another direction.

  28. Ron, this should make you feel better. From the New York Tims:
    U.S. Rushes to Screen Liquids at Gates
    WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 ? For the near future, the American strategy to deal with liquid explosives is to ban liquids; the longer-term plan is to discriminate among liquids. At least some of the tools for doing both are already in place.

    THE FIRST TOOL IS BIG PLASTIC GARBAGE BAGS, which screeners were using to accept containers of shampoo, hand lotion and beverages that the Transportation Security Administration said were being ?voluntarily surrendered? by people who packed their bags on Wednesday night, when those items were considered innocuous, and arrived at security checkpoints this morning, when they were considered ?threat items.??

  29. the inevitable spending orgy that would ensure

    Would ensue? John must not read the papers much, the spending orgy has already started and the American taxpayer is getting screwed.

    You are also aware that many of the largest debt holders are Asian countries. What a great recipe for success, transfering money to China in exchange for a rainforest in Iowa. Great.

  30. In case anyone is not aware, David Franke was one of the two co-founders of Young Americans for Freedom in 1961. YAF was America’s original conservative youth movement, and the firs organization I became active in.

  31. I am currently generally in favor of divided government, but I can be convinced otherwise if the facts point another direction.

    I wouldn’t argue that divided government is in and of itself capable of controlling spending. …just that undivided government is less capable of discipline on that issue. …or any other issue I can think of off the top of my head.

    It’s like arguing that markets in the real world are efficient–they’re not. They’re just more efficient than the other options. Democracy doesn’t make for good government either–it’s just better than the other options. …and so it is with divided government in regards to spending.

  32. Ron,

    Yeah, if I were a newly elected Representative, I’d be shitting my pants worrying how I’d raise enough money to keep my gerrymandered district from voting me out in 2 years. What’s the reelection rate in the House, 95%?

    It seems to me that a more likely explanation for Reps getting corrupted is that they’re anxious to curry favor with their colleagues, so as to get on the right committees, and to solidify their chances at launching a campaign for governor or for the Senate. Term limits might discourage the former, but lengthening the term won’t help either case…they practically serve 20 year terms as it is.

  33. NY state has had a Republican senate and Democratic assembly for decades, the same period of time in which its spending has taken off. Most states have not had such a long period of divided gov’t, and most states haven’t spent as much.

    Chambers elected by the same electorate and being in control of different parties for a long period of time is indicative of extreme gerrymandering, which produces uncompetitive elections, which means long incumbency, which means $.

  34. Withhold financial support from Republican committees and most Republican incumbents.

    Ok, but what you don’t give to the committees, give to genuine limited government conservatives. If you want to keep your bucks in your own state, and if you can’t find a congressional candidate that fits the bill, give em to limited government candidates for state offices. (We have some good ones here in Colorado)

    Withhold support from all 2008 presidential candidates.

    What about Chuck Hagel of Nebraska? He’s a pretty strong fiscal conservative whose spending votes earn him B+’s and A’s from the NTU.

    http://www.ntu.org/main/components/ratescongress/details_all_years.php3?senate_id=82

    He is also quite skeptical of the neocon foreign policy agenda.

    No longer call yourself “a Republican” but rather a Reagan Republican or a Reagan conservative.

    Good. I call myself a limited government Republican. (like very limited) Or, free- enterprise, non-interventionist Republican. Also, point out that Bush is no conservative.

    And BTW, we should let everyone know, if our party nominates that big-government liberal, Giuliani, we will work to ensure his defeat. He is totally unacceptable.

    And work for wholesale change in Republican leadership.

    And the installation of libertarian oriented Republicans.

  35. Gene Berkman:

    YAF was America’s original conservative youth movement, and the first organization I became active in.

    Me too. I was the Colorado state coordinator circa the early to mid 70’s. For me, back then, “conservative” was just another way of saying “libertarian”.

  36. What Mo said!

    …the spending orgy has already started and the American taxpayer is getting screwed.

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