Copyright 2004 WHYY.
All Rights Reserved

SHOW: Fresh Air 12:00 AM EST NPR

December 15, 2004 Wednesday

HEADLINE: Richard Viguerie discusses his efforts to move America further to the right



This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest Richard Viguerie has been called `the funding father of the conservative movement.' After the conservative Republican candidate for president, Barry Goldwater, lost his presidential bid in 1964, Viguerie pioneered a new form of political fund-raising through direct mail. This proved particularly effective in building the conservative movement that elected Ronald Reagan. Viguerie helped create the Moral Majority and has raised money for many conservative politicians and organizations. His ambition has been to move the Republican Party and the country further to the right. In this past election, Viguerie's company sent out an estimated 100 million pieces of direct mail. He accuses the media, with the exception of talk radio, of having a liberal bias. Now he has a new book, co-written with David Franke, called "America's Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power." Direct mail is one of the forms of alternative media covered in the book.

You point out in the book that there are several things that you think were very effective about direct mail, above and beyond actually getting money. You were able to reach people with your message who didn't read conservative journals. You saw it as a way to bypass the liberal--the media that you considered to be liberal and not interested in your message. And you saw it as a way to bypass the Republican hierarchy. Why did you feel you need to do that? What was the difference between the message you wanted to put across and the message that you thought, you know, the Republican hierarchy, as you've described it, wanted to put across?

Mr. RICHARD VIGUERIE (Co-author, "America's Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power"): Well, back in the 1950s, the 1960s and well into the 1970s, and actually probably through until 1994, the Republican leaders in the House of Representatives and in the Senate were not conservatives, and they weren't conservatives in the White House until Ronald Reagan was elected. Eisenhower was the Republican big government establishment candidate. Nixon was a big government Republican.

So conservatives had to decide on--if they were gonna be politically effective, they had to operate, of course, within one of the two major parties, and we selected the Republicans as being closer to our point of view. But we were a small, distinct minority in terms of the leadership, and so we had to challenge the Republican leadership back in the '60s and the '70s, and we used direct mail to communicate to the voters. In the '60s and the '70s, we felt, again, that we were blocked from the microphones of the country. Walter Cronkite would go to his CBS office in the morning, put down his coffee cup, pick up his New York Times, and an hour later, he and he alone had decided what was the news and information that would be told to the American people that day that was important. So there were literally a handful of gatekeepers, the three networks--NBC, ABC, CBS--The New York Times, Associated Press, Time magazine, etc. Just a handful of people who basically had a very similar world view, who belonged to the same clubs, socialized together, and that did not include people with a conservative point of view.

So it was only by using direct mail that we could begin to communicate with the American people that there was a different world view than they were hearing from, not only the people in the media, but in the leadership of the two political parties, the Republicans and Democrats.

GROSS: What was the difference between the--as you put it--you know, the Republican leaders who weren't conservative and your conservative agenda? What was the difference?

Mr. VIGUERIE: Well, the Republicans--and there's still those Republicans in different positions of leadership today that--you know, we've come a long ways, but we've still got a long ways to go. The Republican leaders in the '50s and '60s and, as I said, even to this day, many of them have a big government, corporate approach to governing. And we as conservatives believe in keeping government as small as possible and as close to the individuals as possible. We like government to be operated as much as possible at the local level. And many Republican leaders are very comfortable with a big government approach. One of the battles that we had to fight back in the '60s and the '70s and the '80s was big business because big business was very comfortable--many of them--with dealing with the Soviet Union, and they were doing what they could to prop up the Soviet Union, do business with them, and our goal was to bring down the Soviet Union, not to strengthen them, not to do business with them. So that was a fault line in the Republican Party in decades past between the conservatives, who wanted to bring down the Soviet Union, and those who wanted to do business with it.

GROSS: In your new book, you said basically that it's easier to raise money if people are angry about something. You write, `People vote against long before they vote for. People aren't interested in sending money for good government. That's something they expect. They will give money quicker to defeat someone who is opposed to their beliefs.' And I'm wondering how that understanding affected the issues that you use to raise money around in your direct mail campaign?

Mr. VIGUERIE: Well, Terry, that was true when I started in direct mail back in the '60s, and it's true to this day, and it's not something that's unique to conservatives or Republicans, but the Democrats certainly understand that. But it's just a fact of life that people are motivated by anger and fear much more so than positive emotions, and that's not all bad. You know, sometimes, it's very good to have anger. Abraham Lincoln was very angry about slavery and Martin Luther King was very angry about how minorities and African-Americans were treated back in the `50s and the '60s. And even to this day, there's a lot to be angry about and a lot of injustices out there. And so when you speak to those injustices, you get people's attention more stronger than you would if you speak in a more positive way.

GROSS: Well, the issues early on that you organized around--or at least these are some of the issues that I think you would agree made people angry who you were writing to were the end of prayer in the schools, the legalization of abortion and homosexuality. You organized a lot around homosexuality. Did you choose those issues because you knew that for a certain part of America, it would hit people in their gut, that you could really make them angry with this?

Mr. VIGUERIE: No. You chose those issues because that's what is your passion, that's what causes you to get up in the morning. And I've spent all my adult life trying to solve problems. My generation of conservatives, Terry, almost entirely--in fact, the generation that came after me and the generation before--before we were anything, before we were concerned about the social issues or the role of government in our life, we were anti-Communist. We were concerned about the evils of communism, and we saw them as a threat to mankind.

And after the Soviet Union came down, we didn't have that threat to the extent we did before. We began to focus on other issues. And many conservatives these days feel that we have a--there's a war going on against Christians, that there's the secular community here, many of the institutions of this country are secular, and that there's an open war on Christians and our beliefs. We are relegated to churches on the weekend, but that's it, and we're not supposed to participate in the political process. The Democrats have sent that message almost, that if you are, say, a practicing Catholic, that you're not going to serve on the courts--in the federal courts. So a lot of conservatives feel that there's--institutions in this country have declared war on them. And whether it's Christians or people who want to educate their children and inculcate them with certain views and values, they feel the education establishment has declared war on them. So there's a lot of problems out there that conservatives feel need addressing, and it just--people might interpret it as being negative, but we feel that we're trying to protect our values.

GROSS: My guest is Richard Viguerie. He pioneered the use of direct mail for political fund-raising. His new book is called "America's Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Richard Viguerie. He pioneered the use of direct mail for political fund-raising. He helped create the Moral Majority and has been a key figure in grassroots fund-raising for conservative causes. His new book is called "America's Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power."

You know, we were talking before about your comment that people are more likely to send money when direct mail is about something that is opposed to their beliefs. In other words, if you point out something that is opposed to somebody's beliefs and then they get upset about this, they're more likely to send money to your cause. So I'm wondering if you found homosexuality a particularly effective issue to organize around? I mean, I remember some of the direct mail of the '70s was about how homosexuals were going to be recruiting, you know, in your neighborhood, and, you know, how to--that there was a real danger to our youth because of homosexual recruitment. Now, you don't really hear much about homosexual recruitment anymore, but that seemed to be an effective fund-raising issue in the '70s, and I'm wondering what--like, if that was effective because it scared people?

Mr. VIGUERIE: Terry, quite frankly, that wasn't the case then and now. I can speak with firsthand knowledge that in the past year or so that we've been dealing with the gay marriage issue, it has not been something that, quite frankly, has worked in the mail. It is something that people feel very strongly about, and they've expressed that opinion at the ballot box. But from a marketing standpoint, there hasn't been much in the way of a successful mail program by any organization that I'm aware of.

Americans are enormously tolerant. And the homosexual agenda--everything that I read in the liberal press--acknowledges that the homosexuals have made enormous progress that nobody could have predicted just years ago much less decades ago, how much progress that they have made. But what has happened recently is that the homosexuals, the activists, have really gotten much of America's attention, that they have an agenda and they're coming forward to promote that agenda, and it's an anti-religious agenda, and in many ways they're mean-spirited. They have some really just tough, aggressive tactics. They try to demonize people who disagree with them and say they're homophobic, that they're bigoted. Many people feel that homosexuals are not being honest, that their agenda is not whatever it is that they're talking about today because every time that they've had a victory, they have now gone on to push the envelope even more. And many of us feel that their goal is not to marry. They don't really want that, very few homosexuals really want to marry. What they really want is the destruction of marriage, some of us feel, and that they would really--they feel that there is a moral equivalency between homosexuals and heterosexuals, and we reject that.

GROSS: So let me see if I understand correctly. What you're saying is that Americans who oppose homosexual rights are very tolerant people. It's the homosexuals who are intolerant, mean-spirited and want to destroy marriage as we know it.

Mr. VIGUERIE: Well, Terry, I think you said the homosexual rights. I don't know if you think they have a right to marriage. I disagree that they have a right to marriage. Americans are enormously tolerant. We just don't feel that the homosexuals should be out there trying to reorder society. We have lived a certain way for thousands of years, and we don't feel that we're bigoted and mean-spirited because we want to continue practicing our religion, our faith. They're saying if we believe the Bible, if we believe what our religious leaders have taught us for thousands of years, that we're bigoted and prejudiced, and we must be taken out of the political process, and let's not have a role in politics. Well, we just reject that mean-spirited approach.

GROSS: So, again, you're saying it's the homosexuals who are mean-spirited and that people who oppose homosexuals either having certain jobs or marrying or having civil unions, they're tolerant. It's the homosexuals that are mean-spirited.

Mr. VIGUERIE: Well, there has been a great deal of mean-spirited homosexual activity in the recent years. They go into our churches, desecrate--I'm a Catholic--and they desecrate the Holy Eucharist, and they disrupt our services.

GROSS: I'm sorry, how do they do that? How do they desecrate the Holy Eucharist?

Mr. VIGUERIE: They go into St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York and take communion and throw it on the floor and stomp on it. That's how they do it.

GROSS: I'm sorry. I'm not familiar with the fact that that was part of the homosexual movement.

Mr. VIGUERIE: Well it's part of the homosexual activists--leaders act up and others have desecrated the Holy Eucharist.

GROSS: You're talking about maybe one political protest that happened, but it makes it...

Mr. VIGUERIE: Well, it's...

GROSS ...sounds as if it's all gays go into churches and desecrate communion because they're gay.

Mr. VIGUERIE: No. All gays don't go in there, but there is in the leadership, too many times, a mean-spirited approach. And it's interesting, the liberals for each cause that comes along, they just have a hard time understanding that all of America doesn't agree with them. But it's interesting how now, liberals are lining up, saying, `Well, let's just drop the gun issue. The Second Amendment battle is costing us too many elections. We called these people all kinds of names in the '70s, '80s and '90s, and we got hurt by doing that. Let's drop that. We've also done the same on abortion. We've vilified the pro-life people, and it's costing us election after election. So let's drop that issue.' And probably it will take a couple elections before the liberals will see that trying to change marriage as it's been established for thousands of years is probably not a good idea. But the liberals are probably going to fight that battle for the next few elections and pay a heavy price for it.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Richard Viguerie, and he's considered the king of political direct mail campaigns. He was very important in the formation of the Moral Majority and in the first election of President Reagan. And he has a new book co-written with David Franke called "America's Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power."

Correct me if I'm wrong, you were in on the creation of the Moral Majority, and you--is that incorrect?

Mr. VIGUERIE: I missed that meeting, Terry.

You missed the meeting.

Mr. VIGUERIE: I missed that meeting, literally. Some of my friends, Ed McAteer, who just passed away in the last month or two, and Paul Weyrich and Howard Phillips went down and met with Jerry Falwell in the late '70s. And basically, when they left the meeting, they had formed the Moral Majority there. And it's interesting and exciting for me to hear that Dr. Falwell is reconstituting the Moral Majority.

But I was very involved with the whole formation involvement of the religious right back in the late '70s and early '80s, and it probably did as much to bring conservatives to power starting in the '80s as anything that I can think of. Before the religious conservatives began to get involved in politics, Republicans would win 43, 45, 47, 48 percent of the vote, but not very often did we get 51, 53 percent. But in the late '70s, when we began to reach out to the conservative Protestants, conservative Catholics and involve them in the political process, starting in 1980, then we began to elect people and get 52, 53 percent or more. It's kind of like a three-legged stool. We had two legs of the stool through the '50s, '60s and '70s, but the stool wasn't very supportive. One leg of the stool was foreign policy, opposition to communism. Second stool was economic, lower taxes, less government. And only when we added the third leg of that stool did we really start winning elections, and that was bringing the religious community into the local process.

GROSS: And what did that add? What was that leg exactly?

Mr. VIGUERIE: Well, it brought into the political process first off people who were afraid in the late '70s that Jimmy Carter had an agenda to destroy the Christian schools. The Christian school movement--Protestant school movement was really starting to explode in growth, and they were starting three, four or more a day new schools. And Jimmy Carter's commissioner of IRS in the late '70s issued a ruling that if you had started a private school after 1953, which was Brown vs. Board of Education, that you were presumed to have started the school for racial purposes to avoid segregation--to continue segregation and avoid integration; therefore, you would lose your tax deductible status. Well, that was an outrage to people who wanted to practice their religious faith, and so they saw it as a threat by government. And so that's when people like Reverend Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and others began to pay attention to the political process, and that frightened them, and they prevailed, and Jimmy Carter's IRS commissioner had to withdraw that ruling. But then they began to look and say, `Well, we've got a problem with abortion. We've got a problem with schools driving God out of the schools and out of the public square.' And so it was a wake-up call for Christians back in the late '70s.

GROSS: Richard Viguerie's new book is "America's Right Turn." He'll be back in the second half of the show. This is FRESH AIR.


(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, Richard Viguerie talks more about his efforts to move America further to the right and the gut issues that have helped mobilize conservatives. And Ken Tucker reviews the new solo CD by John Davis, formerly of the punk pop group Superdrag.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Richard Viguerie, the pioneer of direct mail for political fund-raising. He was one of the key figures in the growth of the new right. He helped create the Moral Majority and has raised money for many conservative politicians and organizations. Now he's co-authored a new book called "America's Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power."

When the Moral Majority started, the founders of the group and the activists within the group, yourself included, had a vision of what this might mean for the present and for the future. So it's around--nearly 25 years later. How much of your vision that began with the Moral Majority has been accomplished, and what's left to be done?

Mr. VIGUERIE: Terry, it's a mixed bag. We've had successes, and we've had failures. It's easy for us, quite frankly, to focus on our failures, but I tell my friends, `If you think that things are going poorly for us, I don't know a liberal out there that wouldn't trade places with us 'cause they feel that we're winning everything, and we don't see it that way.' A major conservative leader, a fellow named Morton Blackwell, who has trained over 40,000 young conservatives to be effective and active in politics and public policy, said years ago that conservatives had three major challenges. Our first challenge was to nominate somebody for president, and we did that in 1964, Barry Goldwater. And then our next challenge was to nominate and elect a conservative to the White House, and we did that in 1980 with Ronald Reagan. And now our third challenge is to nominate, elect and govern from the White House, and we've not been able to do that so far. We've not had a conservative who has governed from the White House. Hopefully, that will be the present president, George Bush. That remains to be seen.

In a policy area, Terry, we've had success, obviously, in foreign policy, in the defeat of the Soviet Union, in terms of the role of government in our life. It's a very mixed bag, and probably we're coming out on the short end of that situation because government, obviously, is growing and becoming more prominent in people's lives. And, you know, we probably would have lost more ground there than we have if we hadn't have been active, but I think we're losing the ground--the war in terms of battling the growth of government.

And we're also losing the cultural war. I think that we have suffered a lot of setbacks. If you look at where the culture is now vs. where it was 30, 40 years ago, we're clearly losing that battle. The secular community is stronger than ever, and the religious effect has less effect on the culture than they did 10 years ago, 20, 30 years ago.

GROSS: You know, conservative are now--well, let's say Republicans 'cause maybe you would and maybe you wouldn't agree that they meet your criteria for a conservative. But the Republicans control the White House, the House, the Senate. And talk radio is very conservative, as you write about in your book. Parts of cable talk are very conservative. And so--yet you sound, really, like things are getting worse for you in some ways.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And I'm wondering like--it sounds like you still feel like you're part of this embattled minority group when, in fact, the religious right has gotten, like, so many victories in the past few years.

Mr. VIGUERIE: Well, Terry, we've had some successes at the ballot box, but those haven't always been turned into policy victories. For example, we have more abortions being performed now than we did 15, 20 years ago. We elected Ronald Reagan president in 1980, but we didn't take control of the courts or the Supreme Court. We have a majority of Republicans in the House and the Senate, but that's not a majority of conservatives. We know that government growth is out of control. Spending is, you know, just an embarrassment to everybody. It should be an embarrassment to the Republican leaders. I hope it is. But, anyway, we're winning some political victories, but we have not been able to turn that into policy victories.

GROSS: I want to talk with you more about media. Your new book, "America's Right Turn," is subtitled "How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power." Let's look, first, at talk radio. You attribute the success of conservative talk radio, in part, to the fact that in the '80s the FCC's fairness doctrine, which required stations to give time to different points of view politically--that doctrine was abolished. How do you think they end of the fairness doctrine helped create an environment for the success of conservative talk radio?

Mr. VIGUERIE: In 1987, Ronald Reagan and his Federal Communications Commission abolished the fairness doctrine. The fairness doctrine had been set up in 1949 to try to ensure that all views were carried on the media, and it didn't have that effect, quite frankly. It kept media--views from being aired because if you wanted to have a program that carried a liberal message or a conservative message, you would have to give equal time to someone with a different point of view. And no radio station could go out there and give away half of their time and stay in business. So the fairness doctrine was really misnamed. And when it was abolished in 1987, it allowed people with different viewpoints, whether you're conservative, moderate, liberal, to go on the radio and communicate those views to the American people. And Rush Limbaugh started literally the next year, in 1988.

And it's been a godsend, I think, for conservatives because, for whatever reason--and I've got some thoughts on that--liberals have not had much success on talk radio, and conservatives have had a great deal of success. And without talk radio, we probably wouldn't have had a Republican Congress elected in 1994.

GROSS: So what are some of the reasons you think conservatives have been more successful at it?

Mr. VIGUERIE: Well, first of all, talk radio is an emotional medium. It's something that people evaluate very quickly, and you come to a conclusion about how you feel on something very quickly. It's a populist medium. And most of these gut populist issues are conservative issues, not entirely but mostly. It's hard to say why we need higher taxes in a few seconds on the radio and convince people. People think that we should have traditional moral values and we should have a strong national defense and we should have a tough law-and-order policy and program in America. So most of these kind of gut issues are conservative issues, and so they're going to do better on television and radio.

And, also, liberals deal with a lot of nuances. They say, `Well, on the one hand, there's this. Then we must consider this.' And nuances don't work on the radio. Radio works for people who take strong positions and can do it in a few words or soundbites, if you would.

GROSS: Now you're obviously glad that conservatives dominate talk radio, and you think that that's happened, in part, as a result of the end of the FCC fairness doctrine. You criticized the media for being liberal, and yet you're glad that the fairness doctrine doesn't exist because now conservative radio isn't obliged to give other points of view. So is what you want conservative media?


GROSS: In other words, would that be the goal?

Mr. VIGUERIE: No. We want the marketplace to work. And back in the '50s and the '60s when I was getting involved in politics, the marketplace didn't work. You had a handful of gatekeepers, literally, people like Walter Cronkite, who controlled all the news and information that went out to people's homes. And when you abolish the fairness doctrine and then with technology, the average person literally has hundreds, if not thousands, of news sources available to them. Now with hundreds of TV channels with public policy news on them, the direct mail, the Internet, with thousands of bloggers out there, talk radio, people can search and find whatever news and information that they want out there. And it's the marketplace.

People didn't say, `Hey, there's this really smart, clever conservative named Rush Limbaugh. Let's put him on the air.' They put Rush Limbaugh on the air because he could sell advertising. And Sean Hannity, Ollie North, others--they could sell advertising. And the--talk radio is available to liberals. They're just not able to convince the American people to listen to them, and, therefore, they can't sell advertising. Liberals have a problem with the American people. They don't have a problem with conservative media. It's just the public doesn't like their views on the issues.

GROSS: My guest is Richard Viguerie. He pioneered the use of direct mail for political fund-raising. His new book is called "America's Right Turn." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Richard Viguerie. He pioneered the use of direct mail for political fund-raising. He helped create the Moral Majority and has been a key figure in grassroots fund-raising for conservative causes. His new book is called "America's Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power."

You argue in the book that a lot of, you know, the mainstream media is actually biased; it's actually liberal. And you include in that the broadcast television networks, public radio, some newspapers. Make the case for us.

Mr. VIGUERIE: Where do I start, Terry? Every poll that I've ever seen for the last 25, 30 years, I guess, that polls people in the national media about their views on issues--who they voted for in recent elections; how do they identify, as conservative liberal, Republican, Democrat--something in the area of 90 percent identify themselves as Democrat, liberal, voting for liberal candidates, taking a liberal position on issues. So that is well-established out there.

The Pulitzer Prize author David Halberstam wrote a wonderful book called "The Powers That Be" talking about how a handful of media properties dominate American politics. And he said that the bias in the media comes primarily not in lying or distorting things but in the selection of the news story. So over the years when the Walter Cronkites and the Dan Rathers and Tom Brokaws would talk about problems in the government, they would see problems in the military: the waste, fraud and abuse in the military. They almost never saw waste, fraud and abuse in social problems, in liberal programs. So it was very subtle, but it was very definitely there; that they would address these issues from a liberal perspective and not a conservative perspective.

And once the public had an outlet, once the fairness doctrine was abolished and we had thousands of conservative talk radio programs and then many conservatives on cable television and the Internet, people went to the conservative position because they felt they had been denied that point of view for decades prior to that.

GROSS: You said earlier in our interview that a lot of Christians feel like there is a war against them in the country. And then you also said in the interview that you feel there is a war in this country. And I'm wondering if you feel like, as part of the conservative movement, that you are waging a war, waging--or whether you--if you see yourself as waging the war or being the victim of war 'cause you also said that there's a culture war. So, like, who's initiating the war, in your eyes? Like, who's...

Mr. VIGUERIE: Well, we didn't start the war.

GROSS: You didn't start the war.

Mr. VIGUERIE: The other side started the war, and we either choose to participate or lose the war; same with the Soviet Union. We didn't declare war on mankind--starting maybe with Karl Marx and Lenin and others, and they said that there was a war going on and that they were going to be the wave of the future. And for many years, the West did not engage in that war, and we were losing once we got engaged. Beginning after the Second World War, we, you know, began to make some progress at some point. So you have to recognize that if someone else has declared war on you, you'd better participate or you're going to lose.

And the secular community here in America has declared war on Christianity, on traditional moral values, Judeo-Christian views and beliefs. And they're trying to radically change America. And those who take a traditional Judeo-Christian viewpoint are late to join the battle, but I'm optimistic that we will prevail, as we have throughout recorded history. But things are not going well for those with the traditional moral values and views here in the last few decades.

GROSS: Now you make it sound like evangelical Christians are the victims of a war and they're under attack, but, I mean, you've--evangelical Christians have been doing quite well politically right now. And a lot of people feel that it's the other way; that evangelical Christians want their point of view to be the only point of view that prevails politically or, you know, in the courts and Congress. And I'm wondering if you're aware of the fact that there are a lot of religious leaders in the Catholic Church and Protestant denominations in Judaism who are very religious, are very schooled in their religion and have different points of view on many cultural and religious issues; that there isn't one religion and there isn't one way even within religions of thinking of things; that there's diversity, and this is a diverse country with many different points of view and many different interpretations of Scripture.

Mr. VIGUERIE: Absolutely, Terry.
But that doesn't mean because you make that point or make that case that, therefore, people who have a different view than the national media, different view than Hollywood...

GROSS: I'm just talking about the country.


GROSS: I'm talking about priests and rabbis and nuns.

Mr. VIGUERIE: I understand.

GROSS: I'm not talking about the media.

Mr. VIGUERIE: I'm just saying that it doesn't mean that we should withdraw from the war that's been declared on our moral values. It's interesting that the people in the media, the establishment, did not have a problem back in the '60s and the '70s when liberal religious leaders were very involved politically, particularly in opposing much of the opposition to the Communists in Central America and other places. They thought that was very good that the religious people would get involved. But now that the conservatives are coming to the forefront and getting involved, people see a lot of danger, a lot of threat there.

Yes, the conservative religious community has had some political victories lately, but that has not translated into culture victories. I think most people would acknowledge that the views of Hollywood predominate in this country, and they, the liberals, have been winning the culture war. And it has not been the conservatives.

GROSS: You've made the comparison between the war against communism and the culture wars now. Do you see the people who you describe as liberals as being as grave a threat as you saw the Communists as being?

Mr. VIGUERIE: In some ways. As the Bible says, `What profited a man if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?' So that if our country loses its souls, if individuals lose their religious values, that is very threatening. Yeah, `Man does not live by bread alone.' And, yes, it is very, very important that we reclaim the culture, that we reclaim our traditional Judeo-Christian values.

GROSS: You've explained on the show that--talking about gut issues have helped conservatives catch on in the radio because liberals are too nuanced and that, you know, gut issues and that getting people--about things that upset them are very effective in fund-raising campaigns. And so I'm wondering if the language of war that you've used to describe, you know, the culture wars and the attack that Christians are under--I wonder if that, in part, comes from your knowledge of fund-raising and that language like that sells?

Mr. VIGUERIE: Well, I and everybody that I am involved with in trying to reclaim the culture and move America back in a small government, traditional moral values direction doesn't think of it from a marketing standpoint. We think of it as to how we can get up in the morning and improve our country and our world and bring it back in the direction that we would like to see it. We have come late to recognize that people have declared war against us out of Hollywood and many of the secular institutions in this country. And we're late to this contest, but we're engaged now. And based on our track record, I think that there's a good chance that we will prevail in the final analysis.

GROSS: Richard Viguerie, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. VIGUERIE: My pleasure.

GROSS: Richard Viguerie's new book is called "America's Right Turn: How conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power."