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This Is Rick Santorum

The candidate goes to eleven on the culture amplifier.

by
Jazz Shaw

Bio

February 10, 2012 - 12:00 am

Up until this week we had been faced with a few different possibilities in terms of potential challengers to President Obama in November, none of which seemed overly pleasing to clucking tongues in conservative sewing circles. It always had the appearance of a choice between Mitt “Mr. Inevitable” Romney and any one of a series of cracked, flawed, or otherwise questionable alternatives. Even the latest in this series, Newt Two Point Oh, brought with him worries as to whether his airport caravan sized train of “baggage” might allow Barack Obama’s reelection team to make the race an archaeological dig into the former speaker’s lengthy history rather than a referendum on the wreckage left in the wake of Obama’s first three years in office.

But following his impressive hat trick on February 7th, we are now faced with a different possibility in the person of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. (Or, as he was known through the course of the first 349 debates, “that guy at the last lectern who never gets any questions.”) And if the seas part at precisely the right moment and he somehow becomes the nominee, we may find ourselves with the opportunity to conduct a long-awaited and fascinating experiment in American political theory.

One of the chief sources of internecine scrapping and grumbling among Republicans has come from the ranks of the social conservatives, or Socons as they are frequently known. We have already spent time speculating what would happen if Mitt Romney becomes the nominee. If he loses to Obama in November, the Socons will once again say that it was because cowardly, establishment party leaders failed to push forward a sufficiently conservative warrior who would fire up the base as a champion of socially conservative principles. If he wins, the Socons could quietly grumble that he’d simply gotten lucky against a deeply flawed president running on a failed record and bide their time until the next open seat in the Oval Office came up for grabs.

Similarly, if Newt Gingrich were to lose to Obama, the blame could be heaped on his own shortcomings and extensive, frequently controversial biography. After all, his three marriages and “complicated” history didn’t exactly make him a darling among evangelical Christians. The same excuses could be applied with slight modifications.

But Rick Santorum is a horse of an entirely different color who could serve as the ultimate test of this theory and put the question to rest once and for all. Is the secret to electoral success truly found in a take-no-prisoners, hard-core, rock-ribbed conservative? Is this truly what America is pining for?

We can, for purposes of this experiment, think of conservative values like the volume dial on a musician’s stage amplifier. A totally muted value of one would produce some amalgam of Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, and Fidel Castro. At the top end of the range, a setting of ten would give us an ideologically conservative Cerberus, its three heads being John Bolton on national defense issues, Grover Norquist on fiscal policy, and Pat Robertson on social matters. Many observers, including even some of the media elite these days, seem to feel that America is a “center-right” nation, perhaps carrying a value somewhere in the range of six. But reminiscent of that classic scene from the movie Spinal Tap, Rick Santorum goes to eleven.

If, for example, we’re talking about the issue of contraception – much in the news of late – President Obama has stumbled badly, providing a tremendous opportunity for Republicans to attract Catholics worried about excessive government overreach into matters of faith. But as much as these voters are rightly concerned about the recent HHS ruling and Washington intrusion on the sovereignty of the church, there are still a huge majority of people in the country – including a massive portion of Catholic women – who employ birth control technology. Santorum, on the other hand, has not only said he favors the right of states to outlaw birth control, but is on record saying that he personally feels it is “dangerous” and should be outlawed.

On birth control, Rick Santorum goes to eleven.

On the always dicey topic of abortion, America also seems to be a center-right nation, with more than half believing that it should be restricted in a number of cases and minimized as much as possible. But when you ask if it should be a criminal offense in every single instance, support plummets for the idea. There is a massive library of video clips of Rick Santorum saying that the procedure should be illegal even in cases of rape or incest and that any doctor performing one should be prosecuted.

On abortion, Rick Santorum goes to eleven.

When it comes to the subject of biological evolution, there are plenty of Americans of faith who feel that creationism or intelligent design should be offered in schools alongside Darwin’s theories so students and families can make their own choice. But in poll after poll they cite a preference for keeping everything on the table and handling it at the state and local level. Mr. Santorum has not only pushed to mandate this at the federal level but essentially claimed that the idea of biological evolution is bunk.

On evolution, Rick Santorum goes to eleven.

The list goes on from there, and it’s lengthy indeed. For social conservative warriors who are tired of RINOs and squishy moderates and are seeking a candidate who will truly reflect their values up and down the line, Rick Santorum appears to be a Socon’s dream come true. And if we nominate him, the great question I posed at the top of this column could finally be put to a real-world test. But what would happen?

Here’s where we roll into the arena of prognostication, so each of you can make your own call, but the outcome looks fairly clear from where I’m perched. If you were worried that Team Obama could turn a Gingrich nomination into a referendum on the speaker’s history, Santorum would make that look like child’s play. Gone would be discussions of the president’s paltry record on job growth or the disastrous downstream effects of his environmental regulatory policy. The DNC would dump hundreds of millions of dollars into running 24/7 advertisements in the fall featuring grainy, black and white clips of Rick Santorum reading off the quotes I cited above and many, many more. Tens of millions of moderate and independent voters who are currently looking with dismay at Obama’s record and are kicking the tires of a possible Republican alternative would thunder for the exits. In short, I believe a campaign such as that would lead to Barack Obama winning in a landslide.

But perhaps that’s just me and I’m reading the temperature of the American public entirely wrong. Socons have been complaining for ages about the propensity of the establishment GOP to back social conservative geckos when they seek a Komodo dragon. With Rick Santorum we could, at last, put forward the social conservative Godzilla, destroyer of worlds. And when the dust settles in November we would finally have the answer to the question once and for all. But it might be a very expensive experiment to run.

Jazz Shaw is a heretical, Northeastern former RINO and the weekend editor at HotAir.com He can be reached at jazzshaw@gmail.com. Or you can follow him on Twitter @JazzShaw
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