Stephen Kokx
March 3, 2012
Santorum's political suicide
By Stephen Kokx

Anyone familiar with the Matrix films knows that Neo — played by Keanu Reeves — is able to dodge bullets. It's not that Agent Smith, Neo's archenemy, is a bad shot or that his vision is so impaired that he's unable to see what he's shooting at. Rather, Neo's evasiveness is due to the fact that he is able to move faster than the shots being fired at him.

The same, however, cannot be said of Mitt Romney.

Though he was able to win his native state of Michigan and thus, sidestep a huge setback in seeking the GOP nomination, Romney's victory was hardly due to his political maneuverability. As Charles Krauthammer recently wrote, it was in large part a gift handed over by the increasingly clumsy Rick Santorum.

"It's been a wild ride, but the story line of the Republican race remains remarkably simple and constant: It's Mitt Romney and the perishable pretenders. Five have come and gone, if you count the Donald's aborted proto-candidacy. And now the sixth and most plausibly presidential challenger [Santorum] just had his moment — and blew it in Michigan."

"Rather than sticking to his considerable working-class, Reagan-Democrat appeal, he kept wandering back to his austere social conservatism. Rather than placing himself in "Grandpa's hands," his moving tribute to his immigrant coal miner grandfather as representative of the America that Santorum pledges to restore, he insisted on launching himself into culture-war thickets: Kennedy, college and contraception."

Being a conservative Catholic, Santorum's default positions place him at odds with the values espoused by society. Yes, Catholic social teaching supports liberalism's affirmation of a right to private property, economic liberty and religious freedom, but Catholicism does not support a desecularized public square, social engineering in the form of an increasingly biased education system or a woman's right to an abortion.

This is what prompted him to proclaim his disagreement with the absolute separation of church and state, the liberal bias found on college campuses and the affront to human dignity that contraception provides to the human person.

Inasmuch as some of Santorum's assertions are correct, it's hard to understand why he chose to publicize them during a presidential race when the economy is far and away the easiest issue to run on. After all, he is not a novice when it comes to running for elected office. He was a Congressman during the 1990s and a two-term Senator from Pennsylvania thereafter.

Ostensibly he was using his popularity to speak on issues he feels strongly about while simultaneously courting social conservatives in Michigan. Granted he was able to raise $ 9 million in the month of February alone with his new message, but he did more damage to his image, especially with women, than he predicted.

In a strange way it feels like Santorum is fine with becoming a political martyr for his socially conservative views, unnecessarily I might add. He's unabashed in defending them, as anyone running for president should be, but, as The Daily Caller's Matt Lewis already pointed out, he's making a miscalculation.

Citing Morton Blackwell, president of the Leadership Institute, Lewis reminds us of the parallels between now and 1964.
    Goldwater supporters tended to believe that being right, in the sense of being correct, was sufficient to win.

    We firmly believed that if we could prove we were right, if we could logically demonstrate that our candidate was of higher character and that his policies would be better for our country, somehow victory would fall to our deserving hands like a ripe fruit off of a tree.

    That's not the real nature of politics. I call that misconception the Sir Galahad theory: "I will win because my heart is pure."

    Do you know what was the most used slogan of the Goldwater campaign? It was this: "In your heart, you know he's right."

    Unfortunately the real world doesn't work that way, as we who supported Goldwater found out when Lyndon Johnson trounced us. Johnson got 41 million votes and Goldwater got 27 million votes.
Though Santorum should be applauded for trying to inject faith back into mainstream politics, there are more effective ways to accomplish that. Writing a book, something that he has already done, is a great way to do that, as is giving lectures and making television appearances — where the real culture wars are fought. But bringing up some up of the most controversial issues in our country when you're campaigning for the presidency, at least in this economy, is just bad politics. It engenders division and puts you on the defensive — as was seen during the last GOP debate, a debate that, by all accounts, Santorum lost.

Perhaps, for now, it would be wise for Senator Santorum to heed the words often attributed to St Francis of Assisi: preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.

© Stephen Kokx

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)