The surgery was a success and I am back in the Combat! blog offices, where each intern disguises his horror at my visage more poorly than the last. Seriously, I look like somebody drove a screw into my head. I feel like somebody drove my head into a screw, possibly because I have eaten nothing in the last 36 hours besides painkillers, half a cup of tapioca pudding and maybe two pints of my own blood. So the blog is going to be half-assed. Fortunately for us, Ben al-Fowlkes not only drove my semi-lucid ass home from the clinic yesterday, but also sent me this rad article about a speech Rick Santorum gave in 2008. In it, he warned his audience at Catholic University that “this is…a spiritual war” and that Satan was trying to subvert the United States of America. This man is now a front-runner for the Republican nomination for President.
Some caveats, here: Santorum was speaking at the somewhat redundantly-named Catholic University at a time when his entire claim to fame was leading moral crusades, so he likely played for effect. That’s maybe the only way to explain why he said that “we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country, and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.” He went on to criticize the NBA—no racial component here, I’m sure—rock concerts and movie sets. “They are peacocks on display,” he said, “and they have taken their poor behavior and made it fashionable.”
First of all, what’s better than seeing a paid speaker declare his own career a war against Satan before lambasting everyone else for their vanity? Second, as a politician then and a candidate for president now, Rick Santorum realizes he’s in a popularity contest, right? Once you’ve attacked mainline Protestantism—which is not called “mainline” because so few people believe in it—movies, rock n’ roll and pro sports, you’ve whittled your constituency to a fine point.
That point, then and now, is the narrowest end of conservatism. In a nominating contest where even Mitt Romney is trying to prove he’s more of a true believer than Mitt Romney, all the GOP candidates have moved far to the right. That makes sense, given that the most vital movement in contemporary Republican politics remains the Tea Party. But by clinging to extreme social conservatism ten years after it went out of fashion, Santorum has out-nutsoed even them. Yes, he wants to cut taxes on the rich and raise them on the poor. He also wants to triple the tax credit for having children and opposes contraception, even for married couples.
In the 2012 campaign for the Republican nomination, that’s probably a wise strategy. With the exception of libertarians—who want only to come close enough to Ron Paul to get some of his hair for a locket—few economic/constitutional ultraconservatives are going to be turned off by the addition of extreme social views. And now that Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann have returned to their molecular biology research, Charlie Church has only one guy to vote for. So Santorum has hit on a solid strategy for wooing an unusually kooky Republican Party, as his universally-described surge has shown.
Yet he has plotted a disaster course for the generals. So far, Rick Santorum has come out against most forms of popular entertainment, one of America’s largest religions, the definitive civil rights struggle of my generation, and sex. Somehow, he assumes that will make people like him. If the Republican nominating contest is dinner and the general election is the party, Rick Santorum is the guy who shows up wasted at 8:30 and can’t believe no one else wants to have an orgy.
The best/worst part is that he might take the GOP with him. I remain a Romney inevitablist—richest candidate always wins—but if Santorum can gank the nomination, he will effectively give Barack Obama another term. In a four-year recession, when income inequality, China and a crippling deficit vie for nightmare space in the American consciousness, he has told reporters that “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.” There’s a reason no one is talking about that, Rick Santorum. The adults who will vote in November have real problems. You and the kids can have Satan.