The Three-Legged Stool

This article was originally posted February 4th, 2008 on my Facebook “Notes”. It is reprinted here because I am moving some of those posts over to the blog site.

This is certainly not my original thought, but it does seem appropriate to bring it up on the eve before Super Tuesday.

True Conservatism can be likened to a 3-legged stool. The first leg is National Security/Foreign Policy. Conservatives are for a strong military, an enforcement of legal immigration, a strong stance against terror, and a belief that America should take the lead in foreign policy, protecting American interests and sacrificing our sovereignty to no one.

The second leg is fiscal conservatism (which actually has a lot in common with Libertarianism.) The basic gist is lower taxes, smaller government, less intrusion and regulation – get government out of the way and let people prosper.

The third leg is social conservatism. Everyone knows what this means. It is the moral center – the conscience of a conservative. It is what causes us to be pro-life, to fight injustice, to promote families and protect people’s right to practice their religion. It influences what kind of judges we appoint and where we fall on issues like embryonic stem cell research.

This three-legged stool metaphor is the foundation of modern conservatism as taught by Barry Goldwater, and flawlessly applied by Ronald Reagan.

As I see it, there is only one candidate remaining which can make a credible claim to each of the three legs. McCain has actually said in interviews that he is not interested in attracting fiscal conservatives or social conservatives. The only leg he can claim is National Security. Huckabee is strong on the social issues, but is weak on the fiscal ones and is non existent on Foreign Policy. Ron Paul owns fiscal conservatism, but he stops there. But Mitt Romney could make a legitimate claim to all three.

But even so, I still have my problems with him. He is slick and polished and totally reeks of established politics. He is totally whitebread and appears clueless about the cultural world I relate to. He is a Mormon, which gives me pause. I am not sure I can trust him all the way – and I’m not even so sure why that is. There is just “something” about him…

But stepping back a bit, selecting Presidents is not supposed to be like American Idol, where you vote for the good-looking superstar. It’s not like the Oscars where you reward people who major in superficiality. We are not selecting a spokesperson or a poster boy or a mascot. Looking good on television and delivering the wittiest 10-second soundbite should not be the highest qualities on our list. We are choosing a leader who is supposed to have the undeniable gift of leadership, principled and firmly-held beliefs that he can articulate, an optimistic vision for the future of all Americans, and impeccable personal character.

I wish we could find one like that.

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