Rick Santorum Will Save The GOP

Rick Santorum

I like to think that I try harder than most people I know to understand Republicans. (Emphasis on “try.”) Whereas most of the people I know in my two adopted hometowns (New York and San Francisco) are content to believe that the folks on the right are the Earthly manifestation of pure evil sent to hold dominion over the weak, I always try to look a little deeper and to understand how and why they vote the way they vote.

The reason for that of course is that both of my parents and some of my extended family vote Republican, and I happen to know that they are all very intelligent, very compassionate, very pleasant people. They are not social conservatives, or fundamentalists, or strident pro-lifers. So there is a disconnect that I struggle to understand, because these are the issues that increasingly seem to define right-wing pundits and politicians.

It’s been my observation that in politics, people seem to be much more passionate about what they’re against than what they’re for. When I vote for Democratic candidates, am I affirmatively voting for a cradle-to-grave safety net and unlimited power to labor unions, or am I voting against the party that is historically most hostile to minorities, seems to relish sending people to war, clings desperately to economic policies that in the last 30 years have twice failed catastrophically, and appears to be in the grip of religious crazies?

I have no great love of Democrats or the Democratic Party, but as it is, they are the less unappealing option. I’m not particularly thrilled by the idea of paying higher taxes, or people abusing welfare, or corrupt unions killing our kids, or any of the other things that come with the Democrats, but I am definitely, strongly, actively opposed to outlawing contraception, or starting more wars in Asia, or letting the Old Testament guide foreign policy. I vote Democratic more as a vote against Republicans than a vote for Democrats.

My dad, on the other hand, worked in upper-middle management for a manufacturing behemoth for 35 years, took advantage of a very generous employee stock program, and came away with a great deal of negative experience with unions — he once caught an employee employing an escort on the hood of his car in an outdoor parking lot, and was prevented by the union from firing him — and made enough money to get pissed off about how much he paid in taxes. So while I have never known him to give a shit about gay marriage, drug sentencing minimums, abortion rights, or going to church, that’s not what he’s voting for — he’s voting against unions and against higher taxes. If the only guy available to carry that torch also happens to be pro-life, anti-gay, fundamentalist, well, politics makes strange bedfellows.

I have no doubt that there is an important role in the government for a strong conservative party to watch the money and curb the excesses of the hippies on the Left. I generally agree with the spirit and the goal of what Democrats do but they also seem to be chronic bunglers, unorganized and undisciplined, so I think it’s important that all of that be kept in check by someone sternly watching the money. And I don’t even have any money to watch — just think how strongly must people who actually have money feel.

It seems that they feel strongly enough to look the other way while a militia of religious nuts slowly infiltrated and gradually took over their party over the last 30 years. It was a marriage of convenience: the GOP needed their votes, the crazies needed the GOP’s power. For a long time it was possible to ignore and marginalize the ranting religious wing, but their ranks have increased within the party to the point that the tail is now violently wagging the dog.

Sure, every presidential candidate in modern history has bent over backwards to prove their piety and religious bona fides, but I think the less religious among us have always just assumed they were faking. Right? Not that they didn’t believe in God necessarily, but they’re more that lazy American kind of religious, where you believe but not enough to plan your life around.

Is anyone that ambitious, that consumed with work and obsessed with a goal, also super religious? I would think there simply wouldn’t be enough time in the day, and I’m sure all these guys are faking, including Obama. I don’t even believe that George W. Bush is really religious, even though he claims to be born again. I think that was just his “Get Out Of Jail Free” card to wipe the embarrassing first 40 years of his life off the books.

Anyway, of the Republican voters I happen to know personally, roughly 100% would still vote Republican if the party dropped the words “abortion,” “immigrant,” “marriage,” “drugs” and “Iran” from its platform and just focused on the money. But since there’s not a party like that, voting Republican will have to do.

(Also, when you boil it all the way down, Republicans just think liberals are pussies, an impression the Democratic Party has bent over backward to reinforce over the last 30 years. People who don’t want to be pussies vote Republican.)

But now the day of reckoning is arriving, because the religious crazies’ very own candidate, Rick Santorum, who is definitely not faking, might plausibly overtake nobody’s favorite Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination, putting the crazies’ views and agenda front and center for everyone, most importantly the non-crazies in their party, to see.

I think it’s important that they see it: that their entirely reasonable preference for low taxes and small government has borne a socially regressive political entity that is as far from “personal liberty” as one can imagine.  Consider these recent quotes by Mr. Santorum:

“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…. Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. 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.” — Rick Santorum, October 2011

“I understand why [Obama] wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.” –- Rick Santorum, February 2012

There are a couple things I find troubling here. The first is that anyone thinks that any part of society’s progress, good or bad, can be reversed is shockingly out of touch with reality. Drug use, sexuality, technology — a vast array of genies have left their bottles and it’s insane to think that any of them are going back in.  Second is that a contender for the Party of Individual Freedom’s nomination has a notion of “how things are supposed to be” and wants to impose it upon the rest of us. For all his sputtering about how Barack Obama wants to control all of our lives, there’s rather a sharp irony there.

When discussing gun control, serious conservatives always mention the “camel’s nose in the tent” argument — that absolutely no kind of restriction on gun ownership can be tolerated because once the camel’s nose is in the tent, we’ll never get it out, and gun laws will get more and more restrictive until the activist crazies are satisfied and the second amendment is abolished. I can’t think of a clearer illustration of the “Camel’s nose” principle than the way the Christian crazies got their nose into the tent and little by little have taken it over.  I sincerely hope that Santorum wins this nomination, and not just because Obama would beat him like a cheap drum.

Santorum’s nomination would force all those reasonable Republicans out there to really look at the increasingly crazy people they’re voting for just to keep the pussies and the hippies out of power.  I have no illusions that reasonable folks like mine would ever vote Democratic, and I’m not sure I’d want them to. As I said, I think we need small-c conservatives in government. Oddly, some of my favorite political analysis for the last few years has been coming from guys like Andrew Sullivan and David Frum — true conservatives disowned by their party when they stuck to principle rather than follow blindly on the party’s increasingly radical social agenda. I disagree with these guys frequently, but at least I know that they’re not toeing any kind of party line, and that their thoughts and ideas are their own, that they’re not working backward from “This is a Christian nation” or “Whatever Obama does, I oppose.”

Anyway, I’m hoping Santorum’s nomination will lead to either a fracturing or a restructuring of the Republican party, with actual hands-off, free-thinking small-government moderate conservatives given a seat at the table. You know, guys like Barack Obama.

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