BROOKE GLADSTONE: It wasn't just the Democrats who were crowing Tuesday. So were the conservatives on the far right who felt betrayed by the Bush Administration. Here's talk show host Rush Limbaugh on Wednesday.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: The way I feel is this: I feel liberated, and I'm gonna - I'm just gonna tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried.
Now, you might say, well, why have you been doing it? Because the stakes are high. Even though the Republican Party let us down, to me, they represent a far better future for my beliefs, and therefore the country's, than the Democratic Party does, and liberalism. And I believe my side is worthy of victory. And I believe it's much easier to reform things that are going wrong on my side from a position of strength.
Now, I'm liberated from having to constantly come in here every day and try to buck up a bunch of people who don't deserve it. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Bravo, says Richard Viguerie, who pioneered the use of direct mail campaigns and talk radio to further the conservative movement. His latest book is titled, Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause. And he says Rush is not alone in his disgust or his liberation. RICHARD VIGUERIE: I think Rush felt a quandary that many conservatives felt. We were really angry and disappointed, disillusioned at this Republican Congress, Republican White House, but we realized that as bad as they were, the Democrats were far worse. And we, you know, you can say we cut a deal with the devil. BROOKE GLADSTONE: How was it that the conservative commentators were so much on message with Bush? The Democrats have never had a single message. That's the most powerful criticism often levied against them. You're saying that many of these people were disaffected with Bush from the start, and yet managed to walk in lockstep? RICHARD VIGUERIE: Well, it's not that they walked in lockstep. I think that many conservatives decided that there were certain issues that were so important that we needed to keep our silence while they were expanding government and abandoning many conservative principles. Such as tax cuts, judicial appointments, were so important that many conservatives felt that it was important to, you know, make sure that the President and his party prospered.
Going forward in the last two years, you'll see a radical change among conservatives. It'll be a rare conservative that will stand up and defend this President if he continues to govern from left of center as a corporate big-government Republican. BROOKE GLADSTONE: But speaking as a conservative commentator, far to the right of the Bush Administration, do you think all of those commentators who failed to criticize the Bush Administration have something to answer for now? RICHARD VIGUERIE: Oh, absolutely. This disaster on Tuesday rests with conservatives – journalists, conservative leaders and organizations, etcetera, who were, quite frankly, too close to this Republican Administration. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Have you heard any other commentators, like Rush, who have now begun to lay their cards on the table? RICHARD VIGUERIE: I've heard a good number of local talk shows' hosts, who were always solid-principled conservatives, who did not drink from the Republican Kool-Aid. They're speaking out, and they have good credentials to do it because they were principled conservatives when it wasn't popular to be opposing a popular Republican President. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Looking at this dispassionately as you can, do you see the media landscape becoming more liberal or more conservative? RICHARD VIGUERIE: I think it's becoming more exciting, interesting, in my opinion. About 50 percent of the American people today get their news and information primarily from what I refer to as the new and alternative media, in essence, the below-the-radar media – direct mail, talk radio, cable television, the Internet. And that's exceedingly healthy. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Do you have data on that? RICHARD VIGUERIE: In a book I wrote two years ago, called America's Right Turn: How Conservatives Use New and Alternative Media to Take Power, I go into some detail as to how I arrive at that number.
I think that mainstream media is going to have to recognize that they are out of step with the American people, and they're going to have to become more fair and balanced or else they're going to continue to lose share of market. They are hemorrhaging listeners and readers. And if they don't correct their position on the issues, I think that they're going to see the alternative media clean their clock economically, and I think they're going to be dinosaurs pretty soon if they don't become more mainstream. BROOKE GLADSTONE: And so the results of this election don't suggest to you that the mainstream media may actually be more in step with the American people? RICHARD VIGUERIE: Not at all. This election result was a testimony to conservatives' success. Not one Democrat that I have heard of ran for office this year calling themselves a liberal. Not one. And very few would even use the euphemism for liberal, "progressive." They did everything they could to blur their liberal ideology and put forth no liberal program or policies for America. They were very smart. They saw their opponents committing suicide in front of them, so they smartly stepped aside and observed. BROOKE GLADSTONE: With regard to the media, you see this as a great opportunity rather than as a defeat. RICHARD VIGUERIE: Oh, absolutely. And at some period of time – it may be two years, it may be four, six, eight, ten years – conservatives will once again become the dominant force in American politics. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well, Richard Viguerie, thank you very much, again.
RICHARD VIGUERIE: My pleasure. Thank you. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Richard Viguerie is a pioneer in the use of direct mail campaigns and talk radio to further the conservative movement. His latest book is called Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause. [MUSIC UP AND UNDER]