Partial disagreement with one old-school conservative

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.

— Thomas Paine

Richard Viguerie’s bio calls him “a pioneer in the use of direct mail for political advocacy.” He’s also the author of the book “Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause.” With a title like that, it’s not hard to understand Mr. Viguerie’s vantage point.

This past weekend he had an op ed in the Washington Post giving advice to tea party supporters. It’s mostly good advice, but he misses a key point.

He introduced his topic this way:

“As an active participant in the conservative movement for more than 50 years, I’ve long thought that, even at the peak of our strength, conservatives could only slow the growth of government, not reverse it…

But with the emergence of the ‘tea party’ movement, for the first time in my life I sense that it may be possible for conservatives to actually shrink the federal government.”

He writes, “I have five suggestions for my fellow tea partiers…”

  1. Be independent.
  2. Go on a policy offensive.
  3. Pressure institutions to change.
  4. Get involved, then stay involved.
  5. Avoid the third-party trap.

He develops each point well enough. Under the first one – “Be independent” – he expresses his view that “perhaps the single biggest mistake of the conservative movement was becoming an appendage of the Republican Party.”

That viewpoint is half-right, half-terribly wrong. Conservatives have actually operated too much on the outside of the GOP structure.

For several years some of us have been addressing the widespread lack of knowledge and confusion about the purpose of the Republican Party. As we noted here, it’s supposed to be chiefly a message with messengers. The fact that our GOP leaders have failed to advance much-needed reforms for decades is due in part to the failure to grasp that uncomplicated notion.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to structure a local or state party organization, but we weighed in with ideas on what has been successful in some regions with our “GOP 101” series.

Viguerie writes that the tea parties “must take on policy initiatives that will fundamentally change America but that, because of crony politics, neither political party will touch.”

Actually, we need the Republicans Party to be forced to do just that. That’s the organization with the ballot line and is supposed to have a viable political structure in this two-party country.

An independent role is important and valuable especially where the GOP is so entrenched with political losers that an outside hammer has to be brought to bear. But this nation won’t survive with two misguided parties. We need the tea party people – as often as possible – to throw the bums out from within the Republican Party.

Cleaning up the GOP is not an impossible task, no more than limiting government is impossible. Difficult yes, but too bad, that’s life. It’s time for conservatives to learn politics – especially party politics – are realize that excuses for failure can no longer be tolerated.