As the interminable GOP Presidential contests proceeds, I’m rooting for Rick Santorum.
Now, I realize that statement requires some explanation.
With the probable exception of Ron Paul, all the other candidates can be counted on to moderate their current positions if and when they cinch the nomination—to pivot from the shameless pandering to the nut-job base that has characterized the primaries thus far—in an effort to woo the sane Republican and independent voters needed for success in a general election. Since the great majority of Americans don’t really focus on the Presidential campaign until a month or two before the election, candidates can usually distance themselves from much of their more intemperate primary rhetoric.
A Santorum primary victory, however, would provide voters with a candidate who is steadfast in his extremism. A Santorum candidacy would be a golden opportunity for the public to really see and understand the fundamentalist Christians who, for all intents and purposes, now control the GOP, and who have recently come together to endorse Santorum in a (probably futile) effort to derail Mitt Romney’s progress toward the nomination.
What do Santorum and his supporters believe? Well, there’s the obvious hatred of gays—a hatred that has often seemed more of an obsession with gay sex than a policy position. There are the well-known quotes comparing homosexuality to “man on dog sex,” the frequently repeated assertion that same-sex marriage will “destroy the fabric of society,” and the “slippery slope” argument that recognition of such marriages would necessarily be followed by legalization of polygamy and incest.
But it isn’t just gay sex. A cursory review of his quotations paints a picture of a man who—not to put too fine a point on it—doesn’t seem too comfortable in the 21st Century. Consider a sampling of recent quotes:
- “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country…It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” (October 18, 2011)
- “In far too many families with young children, both parents are working, when, if they really took an honest look at the budget, they might find they don’t both need to…Here, we can thank the influence of radical feminism.” (From his 2005 book, It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good in which he decries working mothers).
- “All the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis, they’re not Palestinians. There is no ‘Palestinian.’” (On the campaign trail in Iowa, Nov. 18, 2011). (Even the Israeli government doesn’t go this far!)
- “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them someone else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.” (Iowa again, Jan. 2, 2012).
There is a lot more along the same lines.
Santorum is a poster child for the small but noisy segment of American society that is still fighting science and the Enlightenment—a spokesperson for the contemporary Puritans who reject evolution along with the idea that liberty means the right to live your life in accordance with your own conscience and beliefs. They believe instead that liberty means “doing the right thing” as they interpret their bibles to define the “right thing.”
They believe it is government’s job to legislate their version of “Godly” behavior.
You have to give Santorum credit: unlike the other candidates, when he’s been challenged about his controversial views, he hasn’t evaded or backtracked. These are his beliefs and he’s forthright about them. He doesn’t “do” complexity, or nuance, and he obviously doesn’t see shades of gray. His views about the past may be ahistorical and retrograde, but he doesn’t let distractions like facts or evidence—or humility—shake his certainty in his own righteousness.
He’s the perfect representation of today’s Republican base.
Now, I don’t think Rick Santorum is going to be the Republican nominee, but what if he were? What if the American public had to choose between that black “elitist” Barack Obama, with his fancy Harvard education, and this anti-woman, anti-gay Christian Zionist who believes global warming and evolution are myths, and black people are taking “someone else’s money”?
Given the number of crackpots we’ve elected to public office, I’ve lost a lot of my previous faith in the wisdom of the American public. But I have enough left to believe that—given a choice between the 14th Century and the 21st—Americans would overwhelming choose the latter.