Conservatism & the Three-Legged Stool

17 01 2008

Filed under: Election, 2008, Politics, Conservatism

This came in an email today from FRC and I thought it was accurate portrayal of the presidential race as it stands today:

The simple truth is that the conservative coalition–a three-legged stool–stands when social, economic and defense conservatives work together on an interlocking agenda. The coalition collapses when any of the legs is missing. Armey and others, especially the early enthusiasts for Rudy Giuliani, suggested that the social conservative leg of the stool is dispensable, or at least that it can be appreciably shortened without impact on the greater stability of the coalition. This thesis is not only false in theory, it now has been decisively shown not to represent what the conservative coalition actually believes. The three winners of the contests to date are each emblematic of one of the legs of the stool, and each is attempting to shore up his standing with the other two “legs”:

State Winner Emblem
Iowa Mike Huckabee Social leg
New Hampshire John McCain Defense leg
Michigan Mitt Romney Economic leg

In Michigan, these three individuals, now leading their party’s nomination race, won more than 85% of the vote. The remainder went to Ron Paul (who represents the small, doctrinaire libertarian portion of the coalition), Fred Thompson (who has all three legs but is struggling to interest voters in them when his manner suggests his own lack of passion for them), and Rudy Giuliani (trailing badly now because each leg of the coalition has a much better option than he is). Giuliani’s crushing last-place finish in Michigan only underscores the larger point: the GOP coalition is looking for coherence on all three parts of the message and the base constituency of the party is fairly evenly split among those who hold each of these legs highest when forced to choose among them.

In case these top three candidates haven’t figured this out yet, this is the cause of the difference in enthusiasm between the Republican and Democrat parties. Each is under attack from different groups of conservatives and each is being crucified by being called a liberal for failing to wrap up the other two weaker legs. The candidate that does unify the party around all three legs will win the nomination.

GOP voters want the stool erected again and planted firmly and evenly. It’s not that conservatives aren’t voting because no conservatives are running. They aren’t voting because no conservative has unified the party. Seems lately the social leg is under the most attack. Whether mainline Republicans like it or not, social conservatives are not going away. Not only that, but they won’t win the election without that leg being the first and most important one affixed on the stool.




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