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Santorum and Obama

Ronald Radosh

There is a reason that the United Automobile Workers and its troops are urging its Michigan members to vote Tuesday in the crossover Michigan primary, and to cast their vote not for Barack Obama, but for Rick Santorum. They understand, as evidently many conservatives and Republicans do not comprehend, that Santorum as the Republican nominee would be nothing but a wonderful gift for the Democratic Party.

In an election year in which by all measurable standards Barack Obama should be toast, and when his major policy “achievement” of ObamaCare is detested by the public in all the polls, he is ahead in the same polls when pitted against any of the current crop of Republican candidates and gaining strength with every passing day. And even with rising gas prices — which of course will fall by November — and high unemployment, it is more than likely that the current occupant of the White House will indeed have a second term in office. If Rick Santorum is the nominee, it is a certainty that Obama will win.

Certainly, one can admire a great deal of Santorum’s firmness in standing for what he sincerely believes, as even Joe Klein admirably points out. True, Klein writes, he has been over the top, especially arguing that America today is more under the rule of Satan than in any of its past history. But, as Klein writes:

When you leave Hitler and Satan aside, there is something admirable about Santorum's near Tourettic insistence on bringing up issues no one else wants to talk about. His position on education — that parents need to spend a lot more time supervising their children's schooling — draws stifled groans from the overworked parents in his audiences, but he's right: parents know best how their children learn. His emphasis on the importance of intact families is undoubtedly correct as well; every major study since the 1960s has shown the disaster that results from out-of-wedlock births. Even Santorum's use of prenatal testing raises uncomfortable issues for many people. It was a sonogram that helped determine that the Santorums' son Gabriel needed microsurgery in the womb to clear his bladder. Rick and Karen decided to fight for Gabriel's life, which nearly cost Karen her own, and they passionately embraced the child during his two hours on earth. They have spent the past three years caring for their daughter Isabella, whose genetic defect, trisomy 18, is an early-death sentence.

And, as our colleague Michael Ledeen has reminded us, Santorum has a strong understanding of the major threat Iran is to the national security of the entire West, not just Israel and the United States. And he had that comprehension before anyone else, when saying this out loud was not particularly popular. As Ledeen writes:

Mr. Santorum believes the United States must lead the struggle for freedom throughout the world, on grounds of morality and national security, which he believes go hand in hand. He does not like the drift away from leadership and engagement in that struggle, especially under President Obama.

For these reasons, I would hope that if Mitt Romney becomes the nominee and somehow wins the presidency, he would appoint Santorum head of the National Security Council and John Bolton secretary of State. The two would be a strong and tough team that could change our disastrous foreign policy and finally develop one that would gain respect for our country throughout the world. But such a comprehension does not mean Santorum can win the White House in a general election.

The point has been well made by Kathleen Parker, who writes:

He's so far out of step with the majority of Americans that he can't hope to win the votes of moderates and independents so crucial to victory in November. The Republican Party's insistence on conservative purity, meanwhile, will result in the cold comfort of defeat with honor and, in the longer term, potential extinction.

You can agree with Santorum’s total opposition to abortions for women in any case whatsoever, but if you look at how so many Republican women bolted in anger against the GOP when informed last week of the proposed Virginia legislation that would have forced vaginal insertion of a probe into a woman’s body, you get an indication of how national adoption of Santorum’s policies would create a storm. As Parker wrote:

When did Republicans, who supposedly believe in less government intervention, begin thinking that invading a person's body against her will was remotely acceptable?

The debate with a Santorum candidacy would focus on his social views, and be about contraception, Catholic views of birth control, state enforced vaginal penetration of women’s bodies before abortion, and generally about Santorum himself. Forgotten will be the economy, jobs, unemployment, and foreign policy. The Democrats will simply make sure of this. Democrats will charge, falsely of course, that Republicans are campaigning against birth control, and to bolster their charge, they will pull out of the hat Santorum’s own complicated and difficult-to-understand views that he has expressed in the past. As Parker says, just look at the math. Sixty-seven percent of women are Democrats or independents, and more of them vote than men.

By nominating Santorum, it would make the election about cultural issues and cultural war, precisely what the Obama administration wants. Another woman journalist who calls Santorum on this is Jennifer Rubin, who once wrote at PJ Media and now is the conservative blogger at the Washington Post. As Rubin writes:

[Santorum] fumbled the contraception issue, going from a slam dunk (don't mess with the First Amendment) to a dead-bang loser,'contraception harms women'. Then he really lost it — telling us college access is a plot and JFK's vow not to take orders from the pope made him 'throw up'.

What Kennedy was trying to do — many decades ago, when it was thought impossible for a Catholic to become president — was to assure voters that his religious faith and the beliefs he held would not interfere with his ability to keep church and state separate, and not make decisions that were not in the nation’s interest, even though they may conflict with his personal religious views. That assurance was necessary to make in that time and day, when people worried that a Catholic president would inflict Catholic dogma on the majority of non-Catholics. That Santorum saw reason to “throw up” at such remarks says that he does not subscribe to the perfectly reasonable standard that Kennedy professed.

Kennedy did not say, as Santorum argued, that “people of faith have no role in the public square,” but rather that the “separation of church and state is absolute” in the United States. To argue against JFK’s words, as Santorum does, is to give credence to the left-wing charge that Santorum and the Republican Party want a theocratic state.

How many women, not to say men, will want to vote for Santorum in a general election when he promises, as he did, that “one of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about. … It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be”? Doesn’t he know that most people, including many Catholics, use contraception? Hearing such words, doesn’t he raise the specter of growing state intervention on personal issues of morality, in which most voters do not want Big Brother looking into their bedrooms? Do they really want their president talking about this at all?

The truth is, if Romney does not come out of Michigan with a big win, the race will go on, and both Santorum and Gingrich will continue to blast Romney in as tough and nasty a fashion as they can, and Romney will in turn do the same to them, especially to Santorum. With months to go until all the delegates are elected, the harm will be done, and even if somehow the party comes together to stand behind Romney, it will be difficult by then to escape the damage that has been done. Democratic commercials will be filled with video of what Santorum and Gingrich had to say about Romney, and the only one who will have gained an advantage will be the present incumbent.

Should Romney not win, the election will not even be close. In any case, as it looks to me from our present vantage point, our nation is faced with another four years of President Obama. And yes, I hope I am wrong.

Update Tuesday morning:
According to news reports, the Santorum campaign is now encouraging the crossover vote in the Michigan Republican primary…with a robocall targeted at Democrats asking them to send a message to Mitt Romney because of his opposition to 2009 auto bailouts that kept thousands of Michigan workers employed.”

This is particularly reprehensible and moreover dishonest, given that Santorum’s position on the issue of opposition to bailouts is the same as that of Romney. Moreover, a Michigan Democratic strategist admitted that “Santorum is completely radioactive and will bring an electoral disaster to Republicans- he could deliver Obama in a landslide,” which is why he admits that he “has launched one of the efforts to help Santorum.” The article continues to point out that a Democrat vote for Santorum in the Republican primary could give him “a big win.” 12,000 Democratic activists indicated interest in voting for him.

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