Thoughts on Rick Santorum

In what looks like the wide-open Republican nominating process for 2016, word is that Rick Santorum is once again considering a run.  Santorum is a genuinely decent guy, and though I think he’d be a disaster as a nominee, having him up on the stage would add a lot to the debates.  Better than anyone else, Santorum made the connection between social issues and economic ones.  The state, by adopting policies that deliberately undermine the traditional family, ends up creating welfare and entitlement dependencies that hobble the economy and create additional dependencies.  And as the welfare check replaces the father, the corrosion turns back on itself in a cycle of decay.  Historically, this has been seen as a problem in minority communities, but in 2012, the number was 40% nationwide.  The idea that this problem would stay contained in the easily-ignored black community was always a mirage.  Santorum, almost alone among national politicians, has been effective in drawing these connections.

He’s also the only Republican candidate that I had a chance to meet personally.  I went to the 2011 debate in Sioux City, Iowa, representing Who Said You Said, and Santorum was the only candidate who personally came out to the media area to answer questions.  All the rest sent flacks to spin, but Santorum stood there and patiently answered my questions about free trade for five minutes.  He had no reason to do that, other than that to a retail politician, everyone – everyone – matters.

Santorum, a former US Senator from Pennsylvania, came in second in the delegate count in 2012, and if he runs, he’ll be thinking that he can repeat Romney’s route to the nomination, when Romney parleyed his second-place 2008 finish into “next-in-line” status.  I doubt that will work, for a variety of reasons.  The libertarian wing of the party is strong and better-organized than it was in 2012; Romney won in 2012 because he entered the race as the front-runner, and Santorum will not; Romney effectively positioned himself as most people’s default second choice, in large part by not going out of his way to offend segments of the party; it remains to be seen whether or not Santorum can pull off the same trick, and his recent comments about Rand Paul and Ted Cruz don’t bode well on that score.

If Rick Santorum were to run in 2016, I won’t be supporting him in the primaries.  His priorities aren’t mine, and I doubt he has much appeal outside of the breadbasket and the South.  The one electoral benefit he might bring to the party would be to weaken the equally socially-conservative Mike Huckabee.  But his presence on the stage will do a lot to remind the country of the mutually-reinforcing damage caused by the intrusive welfare state and a state not even neutral on, but actively hostile to, essential moral values.

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