Cellophane, Mister Cellophane
Shoulda been my name
'Cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me
And never know I'm there.
—Amos, “Mister Cellophane,” from Chicago
As we head towards next week’s Iowa caucuses and the kickoff of the 2012 campaign in earnest, the same question keeps popping into my gulliver:
Why can’t Rick Santorum gain any traction?
Actually, Hannity posed that very question to Santorum himself a month or so ago, so I can’t claim any originality there. But for those of us who fancy ourselves conservatives, it’s a serious question worth considering.
I suppose I have some sympathy for the old William F. Buckley philosophy of supporting “the most conservative candidate electable,” and if you subscribe to that school of thought the very fact that the former Senator hasn’t gained more momentum by now renders the question of why irrelevant. But as I began this blog back in July, if we cede the discussion to the center/left in the interest of just winning elections, we may as well pack up and go home. To that end, I am more inclined to fight the fight that needs fighting, and heed the words of Ronald Reagan, who encouraged us to stick to “certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency,” and to “raise a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues[.]”
So, what’s not to like about Senator Santorum?
I understand there isn’t going to be a perfect candidate. But Santorum appears to lack some of the warts that afflict the rest of the GOP field. He hasn’t shown a tendency to melt down during national TV debates like Governor Perry. He isn’t prone to factual gaffes and (fairly or unfairly) subject to criticism as a fringe extremist like Representative Bachmann (for the record, I like her a lot and don’t see her as a fringe extremist, but it’s unrealistic to ignore the fact that many peg her that way). He doesn’t have the national security blind spots and affinity for nutball conspiracy theories like Representative Paul. He doesn’t display the often overbearing intellectual ego (arrogance?) that I fear may make Speaker Gingrich a paralyzingly polarizing nominee.
If the idea is to present a party of bold colors distinguishing our guiding principles from those of the Democrats and the Left, what is needed is the most consistently conservative candidate we can find. Substantively, Senator Santorum has been as or more consistently conservative across the spectrum of issues than any other candidate on the menu. I don’t like to divide conservatism into subsets (social conservative, fiscal conservative, etc.); you are either a conservative or you aren’t. But I will do so here for ease of discussion. Consider the following:
For you Tea Party types and other fiscal conservatives, Santorum has your hymnal, and he’s singing away. He supports a cut, cap, and balance amendment to the Constitution limiting federal spending at 18% of GDP. He wants to eliminate agricultural and energy subsidies, and de-fund EPA and Planned Parenthood, and also United Nations programs that are contrary to U.S. interests. And he wants to reform—not eliminate—Social Security and Medicare.
Santorum supports massive reforms to the tax code, including eliminating the alternative minimum tax, death tax, and tax on repatriated income. He would reduce income taxes to two brackets—10% and 28%--and reduce the capital gains tax to 12%. Although not an executive function, Santorum support immediate de-funding and repeal of Obamacare. He wants to eliminate strangling government regulations that are hindering the growth of business in the U.S., and phase out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And while his advocacy of dissolving the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is a bit more over-the-top than is necessary—that’s another post—his underlying notion that the federal courts have gotten too big for their britches is spot on.
Santorum understands that we are not engaged in a war on terror, which is a term so P.C. that it wholly fails to explain what’s really going on. We are—whether we like it or not—in a war with radical Islam. The threats from jihadists and from a potentially nuclear-armed Iran are real, and for Santorum must be dealt with pro-actively. Santorum is a strong supporter of Israel and secure borders. While he has tended towards a more Bush-like nation-building policy than I’d like, the Paulian alternative of passive isolationism is far more dangerous.
Santorum is more solidly and consistently conservative on social issues than any candidate in the field with the possible exception of Ms. Bachmann. Senator Santorum understands—and lives—the idea that the traditional family and the sanctity of human life are at the core of what has made this a great nation. He is as pro-life as they come, supporting the elimination of federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and during his time in Congress he sought to ban partial-birth abortions. He wrote the original Federal Marriage Amendment, and as President would direct the Justice Department to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. You could argue, I suppose, that his social positions make him subject to charges of anti-gay bigotry; I submit, however, that anyone who is going to hang their voting hat on sexual orientation issues isn't going to vote for anyone in the GOP field anyway.
I figure Rick Santorum must be doing something right as a conservative to provoke the kind of vulgar, profane, and frankly just gross vitriol the radical Left spews about him on the Internet. Of course, the bright lights of national scrutiny may yet reveal some skeleton of which we're not aware--but that hasn't happened yet. If what you want is someone who will draw a sharp contrast from the current administration, who will represent the conservative position in bold colors and not pale pastels, I submit he’s worth a second look.
Editor's Note: I hope everyone had a terrific Christmas, and is taking some time to spend with family. I remain on vacation through the end of the year. Thanks for sticking with me, and here's to a safe, prosperous, and tide-changing 2012. RDW