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Opinion

Opinion

Santorum finding a constituency

January 5, 2012

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The complaint that Iowa is not a typical American state is true but trivial because there is no such state. Can you name one whose political culture, closely considered, is more like than unlike any other state’s? Anyway, someplace has to go first, and it should be somewhere the natives are receptive and media are not decisive, so marginal candidates have a sporting chance to become central.

Rick Santorum has become central because Iowa Republicans ignored an axiom that is as familiar as it is false: Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line. Republicans, supposedly hierarchical, actually are — let us say the worst — human. They crave fun. Supporting Romney still seems to many like a duty, the responsible thing to do. Suddenly, supporting Santorum seems like a lark, partly because a week or so ago he could quit complaining about media neglect and start having fun, which is infectious.

He can, of course, be tenaciously serious. On Sept. 26, 1996, the Senate was debating whether to ban partial-birth abortion, the procedure whereby the baby to be killed is almost delivered, feet first, until only a few inches of its skull remain in the birth canal, and then the skull is punctured, emptied and collapsed. Santorum asked two pro-choice senators opposed to the ban, Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., this: Suppose the baby slips out of the birth canal before it can be killed. Should killing it even then be a permissible choice? Neither senator would say no.

On Oct. 20, 1999, during another such debate, Santorum had a colloquy with pro-choice Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Santorum: “You agree that, once the child is born, separated from the mother, that that child is protected by the Constitution and cannot be killed. Do you agree with that?”

Boxer: “I think that when you bring your baby home ...”

Santorum is not, however, a one-dimensional social conservative. He was Senate floor manager of the most important domestic legislation since the 1960s, the 1996 welfare reform. This is intensely pertinent 15 years later, as the welfare state buckles beneath the weight of unsustainable entitlement programs: Welfare reform repealed a lifetime entitlement under Aid to Families with Dependent Children, a provision of the 1935 Social Security Act, and empowered states to experiment with new weaves of the safety net.  

White voters without college education — economically anxious and culturally conservative — were called “Reagan Democrats” when they were considered only seasonal Republicans because of Ronald Reagan. Today they are called the Republican base.  

Who is more apt to energize them, Santorum, who is from them, or Romney, who is desperately seeking enthusiasm?

Romney recently gave a speech with a theme worthy of a national election, contrasting a “merit-based” or “opportunity” society with Barack Obama’s promotion of an “entitlement society,” which Romney termed “a fundamental corruption of the American spirit”: “Once we thought ‘entitlement’ meant that Americans were entitled to the privilege of trying to succeed. ... But today the new entitlement battle is over the size of the check you get from Washington. ... And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing — the government.”

Romney discerns the philosophic chasm separating those who embrace and those who reject progressivism’s objective, which is to weave a web of dependency, increasingly entangling individuals and industries in government supervision. Santorum exemplifies a conservative aspiration born about the time he was born in 1958. Frank Meyer, a founding editor of William F. Buckley’s National Review in 1955, postulated the possibility, and necessity, of “fusionism,” a union of social conservatives and those of a more libertarian, free-market bent.  

If the Republicans’ binary choice has arrived, and if new technologies of communication and fundraising are repealing some traditional impediments to fluidity in political competition, Santorum can hope to win the nomination. Yes, in 2006, a ghastly year for Republicans (who lost 30 seats and control of the House, and six Senate seats), Santorum lost by 17 points in his bid for a third term. But, then, Richard Nixon was defeated for governor of California six years before being elected president, carrying California.

Even if Santorum is not nominated, he might galvanize a constituency that makes him a vice presidential choice. For Obama, getting to 270 electoral votes without Pennsylvania’s 20 is problematic. But so, just now, are Republican prospects of getting to 270 with their narrowing choice of candidates.  

  DISCLOSURE: This columnist’s wife, Mari Will, is an adviser to Rick Perry.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. His email is georgewill@washpost.com.

Comments

Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

Santorum like Brownback represents Wreckanomics sponsored by Reaganomics which has thus far cost the country millions upon millions upon millions of jobs.

How you say?

Introducing the Republican Job Killing Plaftorm Written In Stone:

  1. TABOR is Coming by Grover Norquist and Koch Bros sells out state governments, public schools,SRS services etc etc to private industry = Grab Your Wallets! http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2005/0705rebne.html

  2. The Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan Heist aka home loan scandal sent the economy out the window costing taxpayers many many $$ trillions (Cost taxpayers $1.4 trillion), Plus millions of jobs, loss of retirement plans and loss of medical insurance. http://rationalrevolution0.tripod.com/war/bush_family_and_the_s.htm

  3. Bush/Cheney Home Loan Wall Street Bank Fraud cost consumers $ trillions, millions of jobs, loss of retirement plans and loss of medical insurance. Exactly like the Reagan/Bush home loan scam. Déjà vu can we say. Yep seems to be a pattern. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2009/0709macewan.html

  4. Bush/Cheney implied more than ONLY 3 financial institutions instead of several were at risk so why $700 billion in bail out money? One of the biggest lies perpetrated to American citizens. Where did this money go? Why were some banks forced to take bail out money? http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/10/good_billions_after_bad_one_year

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 9 months ago

You've got to be getting close to the 1000th copy/pastings of this same dreck, merrill. Will you have a celebration when you break into 4 digits?

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Getaroom 2 years, 9 months ago

And you sir must surely be topping out at well over thousands of one-liner sound bites by now and mostly aimed at Merrill. The creativity is stunning indeed!! One of the faithful blind are you, picking up the refuse created by the Free Market GOP'ers and Ron Paul'er junkies. Must be blind faith because it sure makes no sense to keep blasting holes in your own feet day after day by following those rampant preachy ideologues. No wonder so few turned out to cast meaningless votes in my beloved Iowa. Well, as Sanitorium said, "thank god they clung to their guns and bibles" as if to make a jab at Obama when really he simply told on himself. Hang on to your guns gabby snappy you may need them to fend off the Plutocrats as they overtake politics in droves and steal all you have. But I forgot you will just hand it over willingly in blind faith.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

My fiscal conservative republican father in law did NOT vote Santorum and would never do so. Fiscal conservative republicans should follow suit in not supporting Reaganomics/Wreckanomics.

Tax cuts the ENTITLEMENT program for the wealthy which do nothing to make an economy strong or produce jobs. Tax cuts are a tax increase to others in order to make up the loss in revenue = duped again.

Still A Bad Idea – Bush Tax Cuts - The ENTITLEMENT program for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class = duped one more time. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2001/0301miller.html

In the end big debt and super duper bailouts were the results which does not seem to bother Republicans, as long as they are in power.

In fact, by the time the second Bush left office, the national debt had grown to $12.1 trillion:

  • Over half of that amount had been created by Bush’s tax cuts for the very wealthy.

  • Another 30% of the national debt had been created by the tax cuts for the wealthy under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

• Fully 81% of the national debt was created by just these three Republican Presidents.

http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2010/0111orr.html

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mloburgio 2 years, 9 months ago

Abortion is a relevant medical procedure, just ask Rick Santorum OUR ABORTION WAS DIFFERENT: WHEN THE ANTI-CHOICE CHOOSE

The procedure, whereby labor is induced to remove the fetus before it has any chance of surviving on its own, is considered by Mr. Santorum to be a ‘partial-birth abortion’, and he is correct. He also personally authorized one to save his wife, whom he loves.

Mr. Santorum is opposed to any and all forms of abortion. Incest? Too bad. Rape? Too bad. Twelve years old? Too bad. Wife, mother, daughter, lover, friend dying? Too bad.

This hypocrite needs to be kept out of all elective offices for the rest of his life.

“Abortion in any form is wrong,” said Santorum in 2000, three years after the tragedy. “Except for my wife. If your wife’s life was at stake and the only thing that could save her was an abortion, well, too bad. Your wife will have to die. It was different with my wife. You see, I love her. I don’t even know your wife’s name.”

http://early-onset-of-night.tumblr.com/post/6502308112/our-abortion-was-different-when-the-anti-choice

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Ragingbear 2 years, 9 months ago

Santorum wants to outlaw all forms of birth control. Even for married couples. In his opinion, non reproductive sex is a sin.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

Gee, whooda guessed it-- another litany of straw men disguised as a "commentary" from Georgie.

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Kirk Larson 2 years, 9 months ago

Hmm, the consistency of Santorum... Sorry, couldn't help myself.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

Probably the same reason you are so "intimately" aware of it.

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