Shocking news yesterday: Rick Santorum has suspended his campaign for President. That in itself is not so shocking, but I still can’t believe that it happened before a sex scandal destroyed his personal life. As of this writing, I can only conclude that he has no personal life to destroy. Where a normal person would crusade against gay rights and contraception because he is raw-dogging it six days a week in the bathroom at Wal-Mart, Santorum seems to genuinely believe the words that emerge from his mouth. In this way, he was an anomaly in contemporary politics. I would say that he will be missed, except everything he said—sincere or no—was insane. It’s like if there were a bird that, instead of singing, made extremely realistic farting sounds at high volume, and then it became extinct.
Santorum made the announcement in his home state of Pennsylvania, just two weeks before a primary that even Mitt Romney thought he would win. The timing suggests that the former senator might finally have begun considering the fortunes of his party—an idea that gets a little objective-correlative backup from this paragraph in the Washington Post report:
“We made a decision over the weekend that, while this presidential race for us is over—for me—and we will suspend our campaign effective today, we are not done fighting,” Santorum said at a campaign event in Gettysburg, Pa., the site of the historic and pivotal Civil War battle.
Ah, yes—the old campaign-is-over-but-we’ll-keep-fighting speech, made all the more uplifting by its association with the Civil War. It’s understandable that Santorum would choose Gettysburg, since there’s no way he could get to a chain of Pacific islands in time. But his campaign/fight dichotomy doesn’t just acknowledge the grisly refusal to accept defeat that has characterized the last few months of his campaign, along with the beginning and middle months—it also alludes to the crack he opened up in the GOP.
At no point was Rick Santorum a serious contender for the presidency. The sheer absurdity of putting him in a general contest against Barack Obama was one of the major obstacles to his campaign and, coincidentally, the strongest argument in favor of Mitt Romney. Santorum found that argument infuriating, of course. In his insistence that his own party’s front-runner was not a true Republican, he forced a referendum on what the contemporary GOP—brutally effective in the enforcement of its ideology—actually believes. Is it the party of winning elections? Or is it the party of winning elections so that it can make a bunch of reactionary changes?
Unfortunately for nuts, the simplest answer is usually correct. The Republican Party of 2012 is single-mindedly focused on removing Barack Obama from office, and as with all great obsessions, the question of how has fully displaced consideration of why. For all the talk of how nutty the 2012 Republican nominating contest was, Rick Santorum picked the wrong year. He campaigned for the nomination when his party was campaigning for the generals. He ran to be a symbol against a guy who was running to be President. With his ultra-conservative rhetoric and his refusal to consider any concerns of electability, he demanded a gut check from his party, and they went with the candidate who may not have internal organs.
So the brave experiment is over. Rick Santorum will stop campaigning but keep fighting, which probably means pursue a Palin-style career as a public scold. The GOP will stop fighting but keep campaigning, which probably means a shift from issue-related arguments to a full-bore attack on Barack Obama. It was kind of nice to see them talking amongst themselves for a while, even if what they talked about was insane. Now we can return to the familiar politics of Us against Them. I for one will miss Us against Them against Him, which I guess means I will miss him.