Bryan Fischer
The conservative movement: a three-legged stool
By Bryan Fischer
March 2, 2009

Genuine conservatism is a three-legged stool. We believe that reclaiming America requires spiritual renewal, political reform, and social relief. Not one or the other, but all three. Take away one leg or the other, and the stool falls over. True conservatives do not have to choose between them, but willingly and gladly embrace all of them and want each leg to be strong and steady.

Conservatives know and believe, for instance, that it is impossible for America to be great again without a renewal of its faith. We must have a fresh spiritual awakening to counter the decay and rot that have settled into the American soul and our public life.

Conservatives agree wholeheartedly with John Adams, who said, "We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions which are unbridled by morality and true religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

Conservatives have always led the way in social relief efforts, whether the issue is feeding the poor, healing the sick or rehabilitating the wayward. People of faith have always set the pace and the standard when it comes to directly touching the lives of the hurting with the compassion of Jesus, pulling drowning people, so to speak, out of the river.

And conservatives also believe we need public policy that is consistent with the overarching values of the Judeo-Christian tradition so that we keep as many people as possible from getting thrown in the river in the first place.

Believing as we do that God has granted unique gifts and abilities to us all, we recognize that each of us will have a different role to play in restoring America to greatness. And at different times, our energies may be focused on a different dimension of this battle for the soul of our culture.

In my own case, for instance, I spent 25 years as a pastor, working directly and intensely for spiritual renewal. I've spent the last 3 ½ years working on public policy reform and on promoting and defending our values in the public arena. Other good friends of mine spent a decade or more in public policy work and now are focused on social relief efforts.

And while our particular calling may be in one specific arena of these three, we can and must support and commend those who are working faithfully to advance the cause in the other two dimensions. It's time for all of us to pull on our own oar and cheer for those who are pulling theirs.


In evangelical circles, this is a time of transition as Dr. James Dobson has stepped down from his role as chairman of Focus on the Family, although he will continue his radio presence and public advocacy for traditional values.

Dr. Dobson has been a faithful champion of the Judeo-Christian tradition in public life, and in my judgment was the single most important American in the decade of the 1990s.

It is not yet clear who will take Dr. Dobson's place as the most principled, visible and influential evangelical leader, but that individual must be found.


In political circles, there has been much bloviating about the role and influence of Rush Limbaugh in the conservative movement in general and the GOP in particular. There is little question in my mind that, when it comes to thinking about public policy, he is the single most influential voice for conservatism in America today. The conservative movement is, in large measure, Rush Limbaugh and the Seven Dwarfs.

His supposed pomposity, in my judgment, is nothing more than a part of his entertaining shtick. Even he refers to himself frequently as a "harmless little fuzzball," indicating he's just having fun. But his political philosophy is dead serious.

GOP leaders tied themselves up in knots over the weekend trying to figure out how to position themselves vis-à-vis Mr. Limbaugh and his thunderous reception at CPAC, with party chairman Michael Steele suicidally calling Limbaugh's remarks "incendiary" and "ugly," and Eric Cantor trying to finesse the "I hope he fails" position Limbaugh has taken with regard to President Obama's policies.

But if they have a problem with Limbaugh being the leader of the conservative movement, then they had better get busy finding another champion. Limbaugh has become the de facto leader of conservatives because there is a vacuum at the top and he's the one filling it. Steele certainly forfeited his chance to be that guy by using the leading exponent of conservatism for target practice on national TV.

If for some reason they want to distance themselves from Limbaugh, they need to zero in on this question: What public policy positions has Limbaugh ever advocated that they disagree with? I'm guessing they won't find any.

As the constant stream of critical press releases from the RNC prove, Limbaugh's critics do not want President Obama's policies to succeed any more than Limbaugh does. Obama's policy prescriptions are bad for the country, bad for our economy, bad for the moral fiber of the American people, and contrary to virtually every element of principled conservatism.

Until they can come up with someone better, they'll need to be content for Limbaugh to be the spokesman for the movement, and cheer Mr. Limbaugh while he pulls the oar. After all, he's got 20 million people a day listening to him. How many people are listening to them?

If they distance themselves from Limbaugh, they risk alienating his 20 million listeners (read: voters; read: conservative base). Does that make any sense unless he's just flat wrong on the issues?

If they like Rush's message — and they better, because it is undiluted, unapologetic conservatism — then they'd better get past the superficial issue of the way he presents himself and become his biggest cheerleaders. The bigger his audience is, the better for the conservative movement in America, the better for America's future, and incidentally the better for the GOP. And the sooner Michael Steele gets it, the better.

© Bryan Fischer


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