Santorum’s Sham Conservatism
Michael Barone titled a recent column “Romney Appeals to White Collars, Santorum to Blue.” Santorum’s appeal to blue-collar workers—at least those who believe in hard work, small government, personal responsibility, and self-driven upward mobility—is highly suspect.
Santorum woos primarily conservative voters who obsess over opposing abortion and gay marriage. These voters would gladly hand over the country to a big government “compassionate conservative,” so long as he channels his policies on social issues from holy men in white collars.
Mitt Romney downplays social issues relative to Santorum (which isn’t hard) and focuses on economic issues, emphasizing his private sector business experience running Bain Capital and the Salt Lake City Olympics.
How are “blue collar voters” supposed to get excited about a candidate whose strongest campaign positions are outlawing abortion and gay marriage rather than stopping the federal government from micromanaging our economy via taxes, regulations, and shovel-ready-job-killing “green” initiatives?
Santorum boosts “faith-based initiatives”—basically welfare redirected toward religious rather than secular agencies. He calls for expanding Medicare, and authored a “Social Security Guarantee Act” that promises never to cut seniors’ benefits—in fact increases them every year.
As a Pennsylvania Senator, Santorum earmarked record amounts of money for public education and proposed more funding for the demonstrably worthless Headstart program.
Santorum sponsored a “Fair Care” act that would require taxpayers to subsidize continued health benefits for laid-off workers, and a “CARE Act” to deal with drug addiction, and wants more federal funding for organizations like “Healthy Start” and “Children’s Aid.”
He corralled federal funding to pay for low-income Americans’ heating bills. He blocked federal legislation that would have made tiny cuts to food stamps.
He wants the U.S. to spend even more millions we don’t have to fight AIDS in Africa and genocide in the Sudan. (Bono’s a big Santorum fan.)
He proposed a “Gasoline Affordability and Security Act” that would ban gas “price-gouging”—in 2005, years before the economic crisis and $4-a-gallon gasoline caused liberals to lose their minds over the fact that our gas prices were only moderately less expensive than Europe’s instead of much less expensive.
He bailed out Pennsylvania dairy farmers via the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program.
Why, Santorum is positively Reaganesque!
As Jonathan Rauch noted, Santorum favors “national service, ‘individual development accounts,’ publicly financed trust funds for children, community-investment incentives, economic literacy programs in every school in America, and more. Lots more.”
And Santorum brags about all of this, on his website and in his campaign literature and in his books and on TV and in radio appearances and at voter rallies. And then he has the temerity to lecture the GOP that he is the most conservative of the 2012 lineup.
In case you were wondering, Santorum dabbles in environmentalism when he has the time. He secured $100 million in earmarks to build an expensive, inefficient “clean coal” plant in Pennsylvania. He diverted funds to pay for restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and preservation of farmlands that could otherwise have supported greater commercial fishing and agricultural activity.
If Santorum were merely a garden-variety big government type, I would call him a “Democrat” and move on. But Santorum claims a different mantle.
Santorum has been making the rounds expressly rejecting the libertarian brand of conservatism, going so far as to say he has “real concerns” about the Tea Party, because they focus too much on economic and not enough on social issues.
Rauch notes that Santorum favors “promotion of prison ministries, strengthened obscenity enforcement, and covenant marriage”—all hot-button issues at the top of voters’ priority list this year.
In a disgusting interview with NPR in 2006, Santorum lamented, “[T]he left has gone so far left, and the right in some respects has gone so far right, that they touch each other… This whole idea of personal autonomy—well, I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low…”
Take away his opposition to abortion and gay marriage, and Rick Santorum doesn’t have a conservative bone in his body.
Santorum’s followers see his crusade as blinding white and pure, because it centers on the moral absolutes of two narrow religious issues on which at best half the country agree with him.
Given his 18-point loss in his senatorial reelection bid in his home state of Pennsylvania and his spiritual inclinations, it seems that Santorum’s true calling—and most suitable vocation after he loses the Republican presidential nomination—is that of a small-town preacher, or perhaps a Salvation Army volunteer.
While Rick Santorum courts evangelicals in a holy war to save fetuses and the exclusive legal status of opposite-sex marriage, Romney focuses on the issue that interests conservatives, moderates, and independents—our next president’s handling of the economy.