By Rick Manning
The Republican Party winning coalition has traditionally stood on a three legged stool consisting of God, guns and economic freedom with the economic freedom part of the equation being the glue.
The God part of the equation tends to revolve around social issues. Many of those in this category hold a strong belief in a sovereign God who manifested Himself through Jesus Christ. This religious belief is not something held by every, or even, quite possibly, a majority of Republicans, but it is a fundamental part of the Party’s winning political equation. In 1976, Jimmy Carter, a practicing Christian, broke this part of the coalition off from the Republicans and squeaked by to win the presidency.
In Pennsylvania, the late Democratic Governor Robert Casey, Sr, and to some extent his son, Senator Robert Casey, Jr., broke this leg of the stool by standing out from their Party and supporting right to life issues winning impressive majorities in the process.
The guns portion of the coalition is a combination of Second Amendment and strong national security voters, many of these voters are veterans who can be identified by the American flags flying in front of the homes year round. This middle class voter fervently believes in the idea of America and tends to be a constitutionalist.
Reagan’s famous “Bear in the Woods” 2004 television ad appealed to this voter’s sense that defense of country is the government’s first and foremost responsibility.
For those who don’t remember, the bear in the ad is Russia and the Cold War was raging. Russian force capabilities in Europe exceeded our capacity to defend the West, and President Reagan was in the midst of changing the madness of the, “if you blow us up, we’ll blow you up” mutually assured destruction promise. There were those who argued for defense cuts, and appeasement, Reagan stood firm and the Soviet Union’s Gorbachev folded his hand as his economy collapsed under the weight of centralized planning.
Now, an entire generation has been raised without that bear in the woods, and our nation has fought small insurgent wars in the interim against an ideological enemy which transcends traditional nation states. An enemy, who for politically correct reasons, remains unnamed by our government officials.
The guns wing of the Republican Party is in danger of being fractured as very real concerns about abuses of national surveillance systems overwhelm the very real concerns about attacks by Islamists as well as the continuing rise of China and the re-emergence of a strong Russia led by Vladimir Putin.
However, while this patriotic wing of the Party is somewhat ignored, it is susceptible to breaking away over concerns about immigration, and free trade policies which seem to result in smaller paychecks, fewer jobs and a weaker America.
It is then the third, economic freedom leg of the stool that should be a great unifier as the current Administration attacks private property, individual initiative and prosperity on every front.
Over the past fifty years, American’s aspiration for better lives through hard work, personal initiative and the unique opportunities to pursue their dreams offered by the free enterprise system have been eroded by the growth of the dependency society.
However, with nearly fifty percent of Americans receiving a government check in some form, and the economy in a slow, steady decline with fewer and fewer people even participating in the labor force, the underpinnings of the economic freedom stool are being shaken to their core.
This leg of the stool has also been effectively used by Democrats to define Republicans as the Party of the rich among voters in the other two legs of the stool. Ironically, this deliberate miscasting of those who believe in limiting the size and scope of government as being tools of the corporate elite is now being used by some within the Republican Party to foment a civil war.
In the early 2000s, Washington, D.C. Republicans seemingly lost sight of their purpose to limit the size and scope of government. With regular increases in government programs and spending, along with scandals involving congressional Republicans playing the D.C. game and getting tax breaks and special favors for Wall Street and multi-national corporations, Republicans lost their right to govern, and in 2006 Democrats took control of Congress.
And it is clear as day now they do not favor getting government under control. They opposed taking any meaningful steps to stop Obamacare before it goes into effect. They oppose getting spending under control. They like quantitative easing that over time will destroy the dollar. They want corporate welfare subsidies and anti-competitive regulations that help them stay on top.
With this recent history, we now are learning that WalMart, Google and a multitude of other major corporations have been funding the far left Center for American Progress’ campaign to destroy the free market system.
This should forever end the myth that corporations are a legitimate part of the economic freedom leg of the stool. They are nothing more or less than funders who pursue their own interests outside of ideology and there is nothing wrong with that.
When contrasted with labor unions which are “all in” supporting the Democrat agenda, even when it hurts their own members’ interests (see the left’s war on coal and the impact on mine workers and the United Mine Workers union as an example), one wonders why Republicans bother defending big business interests at all.
Yet it is this professional big business class that seeks through hired guns to declare war on the legitimate economic freedom, God and guns legs of the Republican stool.
The corporate “Republican” class has come out of the closet, no longer content with attending all the parties and dominating the back rooms of D.C. They are now determined to permanently shatter the economic freedom leg of the stool by silencing those who actually believe in limited government and a free, competitive marketplace.
They somehow believe that with enough money they can trick voters in the other two legs of the stool to continue supporting them, while getting economic freedom voters because there is no other available choice.
Not fearing any political backlash if they fail, reasoning that those who don’t believe in using government as a tool to punish your enemies and help your friends will still vote their limited government principles.
But they forget that a Republican winning coalition depends upon getting the other two legs of the stool on board as well, and those voters really don’t like the corporate crony Republican and their funders who spend money attacking their core concerns.
It is somewhat ironic that the “funding” corporations and their lackeys are inciting and funding a civil war against the base of the Party that they depend upon to provide the votes to hold power.
The real question is whether a group that funds the opposition and only really spends a little more than half of their contributions on the Republican side of the aisle should even have a seat at the Republican Party table?
In the end, Republicans just might discover that they are better off shedding the Party of the Rich label by throwing these corporate welfare, government leeches to the curb altogether leaving them to commune with those on the left who hate them.
Perhaps then, everyone would be happy.
Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is the vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited government.