Conservatives fear increase of dissent in the ranks
Some say divisions could weaken party
By Nina J. Easton, Globe Staff | October 24, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Conservative leader Paul M. Weyrich says membership rolls and donations to groups on the right have fallen off. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich worries that the reformist movement he helped godfather has been hurt by corruption allegations surrounding some of its leaders.
The chairman of the American Conservative Union, David Keene, normally a White House loyalist, proclaims that activists are fed up with President Bush. And among conservative books in the works are these sour titles: ''Can This Party Be Saved?" and ''Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy."
The conservative movement that reshaped modern American politics is in its deepest funk since 1992, when the right rejected Bush's father and was blamed for Republican losses. After displaying unprecedented unity last year, a range of leaders -- from antitax activists to the religious right -- now say they distrust the White House and worry that internal divisions could sap the movement's strength.
The conservative movement was ''on an upward path, even after the 2004 elections, but the growth has stopped," said Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation. (snip/...)
Some analysts say disenchantment on the right could double the number of House seats considered competitive from 40 to 80.
''People now say, 'I'm not sure that this is the right gang to belong to,' " Weyrich, who runs a weekly strategy session, said last week. That ''gang" is the White House and GOP leadership, both of which rely on a loyal cadre of self-described conservatives to win elections. A disgruntled base that stays home on election day could fuel Democratic gains in Congress.