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What Do You Call A One-Legged Stool?

Mitch McConnell
As CHQ Chairman Richard A Viguerie wrote in his book TAKEOVER, the post-World War II Republican Party that the modern conservative movement faced in the 1950s, 60s and 70s was a “two-legged stool” composed of national defense conservatives and economic conservatives. “It could, and did, win some elections,” wrote Mr. Viguerie, “but with only two legs it wasn’t yet a stable, winning national coalition.”

It was Ronald Reagan who had the insight—perhaps genius is a better term, said Mr. Viguerie, to create his winning political movement by starting with two legs composed of the Goldwater supporters and, by adding a third leg, creating a stable three-legged stool.

Reagan did that by welcoming social conservatives into the Republican Party.  

The combined political power of the marriage of the California free market–oriented entrepreneurs, advocates of a strong national defense, and socially conservative pastors and social commentators who led the Reagan coalition wasn’t obvious in the beginning, and it certainly made establishment Republicans uncomfortable. But it worked, Mr. Viguerie observed, and as long as Republicans hewed to the principles that held it together, they won three landslide presidential elections: 1980, 1984, and 1988.

In 2009 a fourth leg was added to the Reagan coalition—the limited-government constitutional conservatives of the Tea Party movement, who were unfettered by ties to the old Republican establishment and represented the forgotten men and women of America whom Angelo Codevilla identified as “the Country Class” in his essay “America’s Ruling Class —and the Perils of Revolution.”

The rise of the Tea Party brought-in a new set of hitherto ignored voters to create what one might call the four legs of a “big table” coalition of constitutional conservatives, national defense conservatives, cultural conservatives and economic conservatives.

As a result of adding that fourth leg to their coalition, the GOP was swept back into control of the House of Representatives, came within striking distance of a Senate majority, and a reenergized Republican Party elected thousands of down-ballot candidates in the Tea Party wave election of 2010.

However, for Republicans to sweep a national election all four coalition members must be at the table, and when the GOP set those principles aside as they did in 1992, 1996, 2008, 2012, and 2018 they lost—big-time.

The Trump Revolution of 2016 was the first, and with the GOP leadership’s enthusiastic embrace of Obama-level deficit spending, it is starting to look like the only election, in which all four legs of that stable “big table” Republican coalition could be present and working full throttle to elect a President.

Conservatives considered it a given that Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy and the rest of the leftover Paul Ryan House leadership team would betray us on spending, but the President’s enthusiastic embrace of the budget deal is causing serious rumblings on the Right, especially among the fiscal conservatives in the economic conservative leg of the big table.

James Holman of The Washington Post reported Mitch McConnell told President Trump privately last month that “no politician has ever lost an election for spending more money.” It was this comment that put in motion the current “bipartisan compromise” to spend trillions more of our children’s and grandchildren’s tax money to assure the reelection of the incumbent members of the Swamp.

Does this mean we are abandoning our support for Donald Trump and his policies?

Not at all, especially when Election Day 2020 rolls around and we are faced with the alternative the increasingly unhinged Far Left Democrats are likely to nominate to oppose President Trump.

But in a political environment where President Trump only won the Electoral College by something like 170,000 votes, losing any one of the four legs of the big table could spell disaster for Trump and right-leaning candidates down the ballot.

As President Trump goes forward into the 2020 campaign, he would be well advised to remember that Mitch McConnell is the Senate Majority Leader who has lost the majority at least twice by insisting his Republican candidates run principle-free campaigns. Principles matter in elections, and with all four legs of the 2016 big table coalition working full throttle on his behalf Donald Trump is a shoo-in for reelection, but a stool or table supported only by the one leg of Donald Trump’s outsized personality is likely to crash on Election Day.

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