I’ve always wondered about people in Iowa. Only a little less than those in Idaho, specifically the northern part. Why, I wonder, should this state be our early warning system, our barometer of coming political shitstorms?
Just as a historical note, the caucus is concerned mainly with choosing state electoral delegates. In 1972, it was altered slightly to become a bellwether process in early presidential showings. Altered by the Democrats, who sponsored the first early January caucus there. By 1976, the Republicans opted for the same model, and it’s been rumbling along that way ever since.
Interestingly, though both parties participate, national attention is almost entirely on the Republicans.
This year’s caucus may tell us why.
I admit, before today I knew very little about Rick Santorum’s stands on issues unrelated to sex. So I Googled him. There’s a link to Where I Stand/Rick Santorum. When you click it, you are taken immediately to a donation page. Right up front, before you find out one more thing about him, his hand is out. I suppose this is all right, since I frankly can’t imagine anyone but those who have already decided that he’s the one will go there, so why not get the business out of the way first?
Click the next link and you get to his main campaign page and then you can click on the Where I Stand button. Here’s the page. As you go down this list, you find almost nothing overtly related to the topic that has become the chief identifier for Santorum since he was thrown out of his Pennsylvania senate seat, namely his attitude toward sex. Instead we find a list that could be found on almost any mainstream politician’s roster of important talking points.
At the bottom, though, is a final section, 10 Steps to Promote Our Interests Around the World. Here it gets interesting. The first two are typically Republican—a call for broader “free markets” and the promotion of religious liberty. That one is worth quoting: “… religious pluralism where people of faith have the right to pursue their beliefs and not be abused by either their government or a majority. This is the only ground upon which we can truly live in peace with our differences and also advance the moral teachings which are essential for freedom to thrive.”
This sounds almost mainstream, doesn’t it? Nowhere on his site does he expound upon the basis of such religious egalitarianism, but he does advocate the traditional conservative backing of Israel (even though he states in another section that “housing” issues there should be on equal footing between Israel and Hammas. Not sure what that means). But you must also keep in mind that christian conservatives have for years been claiming that they are “under assault” by a godless government and majority, and that this is Santorum’s constituency.
You have to go to his public speeches to realize that his moral universe is driven by an almost Old Testament view of morality, which requires the rolling back of personal liberties that do not fit within such a framework. He’s a vocal opponent not just of abortion but of birth control and on more than one occasion he has claimed that he opposes birth control because it promotes multi-partner sex, which is a guaranteed path to horrible diseases. He is a forceful opponent of gay marriage, something that has already become a fact in this country, though not federally. So right there he has stated his moral position, which will require him to strip rights from people.
As you continue down his list of proposals, his focus is clearly on the Middle East and a little bit on China. There’s a strong whiff of the Cold War in his specifics—missile bases, increased intelligence operations, and a pronounced suspicion of Iran.
In short, most of this is mainstream Republican. He’s opposed to Obamacare, but that’s no distinction, they all are—even though as the law works its way into practice it is becoming increasingly clear that much of it will be popular, and possibly even radical enough to work to the nation’s benefit.
There is something that bothers me, but it bothers me about all of them, not just Santorum. One of his proposals states: “…we need to change our information operations abroad to promote our core values of freedom, equality, and democracy — just as we did with the Soviet Empire in the 1980s.”
That in itself doesn’t trouble me so much—it’s a debatable bit of propaganda, since we always maintained as part of our efforts against communism an information component—but when combined with this:
- Finally, we need to have a national effort to restore the teaching of American history in our nation’s schools. It is our children’s worst subject — they simply do not know their own story and thus when they are told ours is a history of aggression and immorality, they have no counter-narrative to refute it. It is worth remembering that Ronald Reagan’s final wish in his farewell address was to ask America to instill in our youth a renewed “informed patriotism.” Unfortunately, we ignored this lesson, and we are reaping the consequences.
If you are going to advocate a deeper understanding of our history as a core principle, then you should also present that history accurately throughout your platform. The implication of the information quote is that it was our strong advocacy of core ideas that brought the Soviet Union down, and this is simply not true. Reagan did not crush them by showing them the error of their ideas. The United States spent the Soviet Union into bankruptcy and it collapsed under its own unsustainability.
Of course, that’s not sexy. But it’s true and consistent with historical accuracy.
But this is a charge that can be leveled equally at all presidential candidates of either party.
On the face of it, Rick Santorum’s proposed policies are not that different from any other candidate currently making a viable bid for the Republican nomination. Ron Paul is distinct on his foreign policy positions and his economic ideas, but not so much on anything else. It appears that Rick Perry is about to go back to Texas to lick his wounds and Michele Bachman has finally become the mediocrity she has always been. (She’s been one of the worst offenders of historical accuracy in this campaign.) John Huntsman is about to become a footnote. (Which is a shame, as he seemed to have been the only one of the bunch who had the most traditional conservative viewpoint.)
What is there to say about Newt Gingrich? He will still run, but he will talk his way out of more and more victories.
So we have Romney, Santorum, and Paul going into New Hampshire. You could probably mix and match among them and come up with one pretty good candidate, but—
Santorum has made his reputation as an advocate for marriage, absolute monogamy, and a repudiation of homosexuality as a legitimate state of being. He has made a political fetish out of sex and abortion. And his pronouncement upon the results of the Iowa Caucus that the cohesion of the family is the source of economic progress is a pompous oversimplification and distraction about the nature of economies and the variety of human experience and potential. He makes a big deal about supporting religious pluralism, but has been clear about his aversion to human pluralism.
Why am I harping on this? Is it just about the sex?
Well, no. But the sex is a marker for the problem. It’s about freedom of association.
The personal liberty movements of the 20th Century—civil rights, racial equality, gender equality, gay rights—all share one common feature: they are all concerned with the freedom of association. With whom may we associate…and how?
To say to people that their choices concerning with whom and in what way they will spend their lives must be limited by a particular social convention is perhaps an underappreciated cost of this conservative war on gays and women. It is in a very real sense telling people that they may have only certain kinds of conversations with only certain kinds of people.
Santorum might be very surprised by this notion. In his view, and the view of the GOP lo these last few decades, barring gays from marriage and women from full equality is supposed to free people from being forced to make choices they don’t wish to make. I’ve never understood how that works—by expanding rights, how is it that we therefore limit them?—but it really was never about controlling one’s own life, but about controlling the choices of others. If people are kept in neat, distinct boxes—husband, wife, toddler, preteen, teen, and young adult, christian, working-middle-upper middle class—business can operate more confidently, predict trends, guarantee profits. If everyone is running around messing with the categories, who knows what the future will bring?
(You think I jest? Expanded freedoms bring expanded expectations, which takes control from one group and gives it to another. Why do you think business is so keen on busting unions and shipping jobs overseas?)
I didn’t see anything on Santorum’s site about energy policy or, beyond his pledge to end Obamacare, anything about public health—except a safe commitment to the AIDS epidemic in Africa and a concern for fraud in MediCare. I didn’t see anything there about his commitment to science, but given the distortions he has indulged in his war on abortion I doubt he has much use for it—that and his vocal advocacy of a religious temperament.
I would like to know how any of these people think they can enlarge and advance the cause of freedom by taking it away from groups they don’t like.
It’s no secret that I won’t be voting for any of these people next November. I rather doubt that, in the unlikely event that he somehow snags the nomination, I’d vote for John Huntsman. The problem is not so much them as candidates as the fact that they are tied to a political party that has gone completely off the rails in my view. Since 2010 the GOP in congress has managed to be on the wrong side of almost every issue, simply in their blind hatred of Obama. They have repudiated programs that originated with them simply because Obama advocated support for them. I haven’t respected their social agenda for decades and now their unwavering and idiotic support of tax cuts and regulation rollbacks in the face of one of the worst failures of laissez-faire policy since 1929 doesn’t show so much their love of the rich as it does their complete lack of common sense.
But I had to go look, since the good Republicans of Iowa have elevated Mr. Santorum up to the status of a real contender, because I really didn’t know. His reputation has been so colored by his pathological obsession with other people’s sex lives that I knew nothing about his other positions. Now I do.
I think I can confidently predict that Obama will be reelected. I don’t say that’s a good thing. But the thought of Rick Santorum in the White House is a very sobering thought.