CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Santorum and the Road to the White House

Jan 5, 2012

As we get closer to November 2012, the field of aspirants seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Obama gets further thinned down. Last month Herman Cain bowed out, and yesterday Michele Bachmann decided to step down following the Iowa primary results.

Since then Rick Perry has been sending some mixed messages about his future, but the man to now watch as the most consistently Christian and conservative candidate is Rick Santorum. He lost to Romney by only 8 votes (out of over 122,000 cast). And given that he spent only $22,000, while Romney forked out $1.47 million – that is an impressive result.

The Iowa vote results were as follows: Romney, 24.55%; Santorum, 24.54%; Ron Paul, 21.5%; and Newt Gingrich 13%. The 2008 Republican contender, John McCain has just thrown his hat in with Romney. As we get fewer candidates, we can get closer to seeing who may be the best choice.

There are various ways of doing this of course. One must not only assess a politician’s public statements and speeches, but look at his voting record as well. Where has he stood on the issues and how has he voted on them? Voting records as well as the opinions of friends and foes are part of the means of how we can judge a candidate.

For example, on the issue of abortion, we can look at how a candidate has voted, and also look at pro-choice and pro-life assessments. Thus NARAL (the US pro-abortion lobby group) has given Santorum a 0% rating. As to his voting record, he has done quite well.

Also consider just some of the important life issues he has voted on during the past 15 years:
-He voted yes on banning partial birth abortions.
-He voted yes on banning human cloning.
-He voted yes on notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions.
-He voted yes on banning partial birth abortions except for maternal life.
-He voted no on $100M to reduce teen pregnancy by education and contraceptives.
-He voted yes on criminal penalties for harming an unborn foetus during other crimes.

Abortion is of course only one important issue of concern to Christians and conservatives. But in addition to his speeches, voting patterns, and so on, Santorum has also given us a full-length look at his worldview and policy preferences. Back in 2005 the Pennsylvania Senator wrote a 450-page manifesto, outlining his beliefs and political preferences.

The book, It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, is still worth getting and reading today. The volume elaborates on his core beliefs and provides detailed arguments for his version of conservatism. He uses the noted phrase of Russell Kirk to argue that “the fundamental conservative disposition in politics is the ‘stewardship of a patrimony’.”

That is, conservatism is about conserving, preserving and being a good steward of our inheritance. “We know that the good things in American life that we are tempted to take for granted are not necessarily ours by nature or by chance, but are the result of the constant efforts of those who came before us.”

He argues that there are various kinds of capital that have been given to us and we are to be good stewards of. He speaks of social, economic, moral, cultural, and intellectual capital. All five must be championed in order for a healthy and strong nation to continue.

In all this he sees the family as the fundamental building block of society. The family “creates, strengthens, nurtures, and replenishes each of these stores of capital. And each of these kinds of capital directly affects the strength and stability of family.”

I like his very strong emphasis on family, which tends to go missing, if not minimised, by some libertarian candidates. Santorum knows that the rights and goods enumerated in the American founding documents applied not just to isolated individuals, but to communities as well.

Says Santorum, “The framers clearly stated that the purpose of the Constitution – and, therefore, of all these individual rights – is to promote the general welfare, not simply the welfare of the individual. The men who wrote the Constitution gave us, in the Preamble, a purpose for these personal freedoms – a purpose greater than the needs, wants, or dreams of any one person. Freedom’s goal in their mind was not individuals pursuing whatever end fits an individual’s desire, but the general welfare, the common good.”

But it is not the abstract society of the leftists which Santorum has in mind. His book title is of course a swipe at Hillary Clinton’s earlier book, It Takes a Village. “Liberals like Senator Clinton see ‘the village’ as society as a whole – influenced by, directed by, supported by, the supposed goodness of the Bigs in general and big government in particular. Forty years of liberal social policy have been built on the notion that the national government in conjunction with the other Bigs can improve the lives of individuals from the top down, and the village elders have spent trillions of dollars trying to do just that.”

In contrast, conservatives “see ‘the village’ as, well, the village: the local community, with the family at the center of it. We believe that only strong families can improve the lives of individuals, especially children, and make for healthy communities.”

Leftist statists distrust families and mediating structures. But as Santorum rightly notes, “social capital is generated at three levels: the family, the intermediate institutions, and the larger community.” And religious congregations “are, by an overwhelming margin, the most important intermediate institution outside of the family for the vast majority of Americans.”

These religious groups “are virtually unequal in creating huge amounts of social capital” but they are opposed by the leftists. That is because “religious institutions stand between [the statists] and the individuals they seek to fashion in their own image.”

The importance of moral capital is also most significant. I have already mentioned abortion, which Santorum says is “the great moral issue of our time”. (Recall in contrast how our former Australian PM said that climate change deserved that title.)

Says Santorum, “Abortion is a toxin methodically polluting our fragile moral ecosystems. It poisons everyone it touches, from the mother and her ill-fated child, to the mother and father’s families, to the abortion provider, to each of us who stands as a silent witness to this destruction and debasement of human life.”

Wow, imagine a major Australian political leader speaking so forthrightly. Indeed, in marked contrast to Australian politics a good part of the time in the lead up to the Iowa vote was spent on the various candidates seeking to prove how pro-life they were. If we only had such a ‘problem’ here in this country.

As stated, I encourage you to pick up a copy of his book. It really is a solidly Christian and conservative tome, and helps explain where Santorum is coming from. Needless to say, he is not perfect. All the front runners have their strengths and weakness.

Thus this article is not necessarily intended to suggest that Santorum is my main man. It is still early days yet, and much can and will change in the upcoming months. But of those who remain to get the Republican nomination, Santorum is looking to be among the best choices available for those who are concerned to get a strong Christian and conservative to stand up against Obama in November.

[1236 words]

28 Responses to Santorum and the Road to the White House

  • And Bill, I believe he authored the bill to ban partial birth abortion. The youtube video of him arguing with Senator Barbara Boxer over partial birth abortion is a classic. He does not back down. He wins. That’s what I want. A leader.
    Anna von Marburg

  • Thanks Anna

    Yes quite right. You can see the two-part video here:
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoTjb9rzyEo
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjEGIlZ7Us0

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hmm, “President Santorum” – how does that ring? Three syllables – is it euphonic? I think it’s more “solid” than “Obama”, more deliberate than the punchy “Bush”…
    John Angelico

  • It’s the economy, stupid. That line from the former President Bill Clinton will basically decide how people vote. With the economy the way it looks like heading, I don’t see how the Current President will be voted out.
    Ian Nairn

  • Thanks Ian

    But I am not sure why a lousy economy will get Obama re-elected. Just the opposite. As one commentator rightly states:

    “In 2011, President Obama expressed a desire to be re-elected on the grounds that he inherited a mess from George W. Bush that he needed more than four years to clean up. That story requires believing that growing the government, putting far more regulations on businesses, and forgoing new sources of gas and oil are making things better rather than worse. But Barack Obama’s last federal budget was almost $1 trillion larger than was Bush’s in 2008. We owe over $4 trillion more than we did in 2008. And the unemployment rate for the last year of the Bush administration averaged 5.8 percent, but in 2010 averaged 9.6 percent. Never have more Americans been on food stamps. Presidents are rarely re-elected on the grounds that ‘otherwise it could have been worse’.”

    townhall.com/columnists/victordavishanson/2012/01/05/2011_out_with_a_whimper_not_a_bang

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill

    Have you read “Santorum’s Big-Government Conservatism” over at National Review? They argue Santorum is a “big-government conservative”. It may be that his emphasis on moral and social capital and communities and families might be just another way to increase the role of the intervening state to favour social conservatism. It is not the role of the federal gov’t to infuse society with moral values. I know Santorum says that he believes this but his record may say otherwise;

    “When Hillary Clinton was justly excoriated by conservatives for her book It Takes A Village, which advocated greater government involvement in our lives, Rick Santorum countered with his book, It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, which advocated greater government involvement in our lives. Among the many government programs he supported: national service, publicly financed trust funds for children, community-investment incentives, and economic-literacy programs in “every school in America” (italics in original).

    Santorum’s voting record shows that he embraced George Bush–style “big-government conservatism.” For example, he supported the Medicare prescription-drug benefit and No Child Left Behind.

    He never met an earmark that he didn’t like. In fact, it wasn’t just earmarks for his own state that he favored, which might be forgiven as pure electoral pragmatism, but earmarks for everyone, including the notorious “Bridge to Nowhere.” The quintessential Washington insider, he worked closely with Tom DeLay to set up the “K Street Project,” linking lobbyists with the GOP leadership.

    He voted against NAFTA and has long opposed free trade. He backed higher tariffs on everything from steel to honey. He still supports an industrial policy with the government tilting the playing field toward manufacturing industries and picking winners and losers.”

    www.nationalreview.com/articles/287068/santorum-s-big-government-conservatism-michael-tanner

    Damien Spillane

  • Hi Bill,

    I like Jim-Bob Duggar’s endorsement of Santorum:

    “He supports traditional marriage, he is pro life, pro gun and someone we can whole-heartedly get behind”

    www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/01/04/duggar-familys-prayers-for-rick-santorum-come-true-in-iowa/#ixzz1icVMtJjb

    Mansel Rogerson

  • Dear Bill, My Mormon relatives in Utah may prefer Mitt Romney. We can only observe from this side of the Pacific Ocean.
    Regards, Franklin Wood

  • Wow, thanks Bill, I’m not at all up to date with the election happenings in the US but this book seems to touch on many points I’ve been thinking about lately.

    I see all the names flying around on twitter and except for Romney and McCain I do not know much about the other candidates but this has certainly triggered my interest.

    Servaas Hofmeyr, South Africa

  • That exchange with Barbara Boxer disgusts me. The propensity for an adult to evade a simple yes/no question repeatedly because they don’t want to face up to the truth, is frightening. Then when that doesn’t work, she repeatedly tries emotional manipulations based on lies. Evil.

    Santorum’s record apparently may not be perfect as far as some economic principles go, but someone who understands how foundational a principle right to life is, is certainly looking better than the Barack Obama, who voted down the Born Alive Infant Protection Act multiple times and considers children a ‘punishment’. There isn’t a political policy in the world that makes a difference to dead people. I suspect his campaign will likely gain a little momentum now from Bachmann’s supporters also.

    However, we must also now expect the leftist mainstream media to mobilise, turning over every single pebble of his life (and his family’s) to the most ludicrous levels of scrutiny. We can look forward to hearing such riveting and relevant discussions as whether his wife went to a checkout without having quite enough money 10 years ago or the day he went into the office with odd socks. We already know what sick and depraved levels these people will stoop to based on the recent controversy surrounding a smirking commentator Alan Colmes who attacked Santorum for giving his family time to grieve the loss of a new-born child. “Once [voters] get a load of some of the crazy things he’s said and done…” I’ve no doubt the fact he has six children will subtly be painted as abnormal in this anti-family climate we live in.

    newsbusters.org/blogs/scott-whitlock/2012/01/03/only-cbs-skips-alan-colmes-cruel-attack-rick-santorum-and-his-dead-c
    moonbattery.com/?p=6537
    newsbusters.org/blogs/brent-bozell/2012/01/06/bozell-column-santorum-vs-meat-grinder

    If only Obama had been subjected to even a tenth of this level of investigation, the US probably wouldn’t have the travesty that is the current administration.

    Mark Rabich

  • ‘At the same time, the same-sex marriage issue will play a part in the 2012 presidential campaign. The reason for this is quite simple. The issue of same-sex marriage is about far more than marriage as a legal institution and about more than sexuality and personal autonomy. It is the great inescapable issue, and we will know in fairly short order what all the candidates believe about the issue.’ (Bill Moehler – USA)

    Whilst I agree that as ever, for the UK and the USA in any election year “it is the economy stupid” that matters, nevertheless I believe social and particularly this ethical issue may well play a substantial role in USA political debates.
    It is noticeable that Obama will not commit himself one way or another on this matter as yet – and IMO a dangerous prevarication for such a deeply emotive and hugely important issue for so many Americans, whether or not they are Bible believing Conservatives.

    Likewise in 2012 it will be an important issue for the UK as PM David Cameron intends to ‘legalise’ homosexual marriage this year.
    If Santorum emerges as the nominated candidate, I believe he would be on safe electoral grounds to challenge Obama on this issue.

    Graham Wood

  • Santorum’s beliefs regarding the family were echoed by Sir Robert Menzies in his last book AFTERNOON LIGHT, when he described the 1949 election campaign as being one between the Labour party’s big government and Liberal Country party’s alternative.
    Santorum rightly notes religious groups creating social capital and I cannot help remembering something John Smith said about welfare and Australian churches, in that if the Christian churches walked away from providing welfare, the system would fall in a heap. (Not that they ever should or would, but must look at the strings attached to Govt funding from a Scriptural perspective).
    Wayne Pelling

  • As Brent Bozell states: ‎”The media will demand Santorum move to the center on all of the issues: economic issues, defense issues and social issues. But they think he’s especially vulnerable as “extreme” on the social ones. Conservative viewpoints are extreme, but the liberal counterpoints never are so. It’s extreme to criticize contraceptives, but not extreme to give them to 12-year-olds in public schools. It’s extreme to oppose all abortions but not extreme to favor every one of them (even partial-birth abortions) and want them funded with taxpayer money. It’s extreme to believe in traditional marriage, but it’s not extreme to support poly-amorous groupings of three or five lovers in loose “family” arrangements.”

    townhall.com/columnists/brentbozell/2012/01/06/santorum_vs_the_meat_grinder

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I freely admit I am no political scientist, but I have a theory I am prepared to submit to criticism even though it possibly a little tangential to the topic here:

    Personally I see the painting of conservatism as ‘right-wing’ very misleading. I would argue that it is conservatism that is actually the middle point of politics.

    Allow me to explain:

    If we imagine the political spectrum of theoretical positions to go from full government control to no government control, this becomes clearer. One can see that it is parties like the Greens that advocate full government control of people’s lives, and then you have the other end, which would be complete anarchy.

    A true conservative simply approaches the spectrum and asks how much government is enough for society to function, and how much is too much when they start to meddle in my affairs to the point of full control – AND also have no respect for my property?

    So, on the one hand you have need for the establishment of sufficient rule-of-law and defence of borders to maintain and protect the system indefinitely, but on the other side you want to minimise its cost as much as possible so as to maximise the principle of keeping the fruits of your labour. This also maximises personal freedoms.

    It seems to me that the reason that conservatism gets seen as ‘the opposite’ is because the part of the spectrum beyond it towards anarchy is never going to work for any significant duration of time and can easily be dismissed as purely theoretical. Within the paradigm of government, only the line between conservatism and socialism is ever considered. Hence the perception, but nevertheless inaccurate view that it is ‘extreme’ or ‘right-wing’.

    So I submit there is never anything ‘extreme’ about conservatism – it simply wants to pass on the same freedoms enjoyed today to the generations to come. It actually is the middle road. And this is also why I think many Christians end up taking such a political point of view. It is the balanced view between two extremes.

    It also explains what I think of those who would claim to be ‘moderates’ between conservative and socialist ideals. I think it is analogous to only turning your steering wheel a little to the left rather than full lock. You will still run off the road eventually, because the propensity for big government to grow itself and encroach on hard-won freedoms is an ever-present danger that must be kept in check.

    As Ronald Reagan expressed:
    “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

    “But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government.” — Andrew Jackson, Farewell Address, March 4, 1837

    “No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.” — General Douglas MacArthur

    “Free government is founded in jealousy, not confidence. It is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind those we are obliged to trust with power…. In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in men, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” — Thomas Jeffferson, 1799

    There are many more here:
    freedomkeys.com/vigil.htm

    I do not think it is insignificant that Israel was given one of the keys for its longevity very early on within the context of the reading of the law: In Deuteronomy – in fact from the very same section Jesus used for answering the devil in the wilderness – this is what it says:
    “”These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Dt 6:6-7)

    Mark Rabich

  • Thanks Mark

    I am just writing now an article on ‘ordered liberty’ which ties in to what you are saying, so stay tuned.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • If you can tell who your friends are based on their enemies, Santorum is looking better all the time:

    townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2012/01/06/cair_accuses_santorum_of_being_islamophobic

    (BTW, why do I suspect CAIR would never say this about Ron Paul?)

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hey Bill,

    I could’ve buttressed my argument further by quoting a few verses earlier:
    “So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (Dt 5:32)
    But that might be seen as somewhat facetious! 😀

    But, just as predicted, the media zombie hordes have woken up. It’s no surprise they only go after anyone looking remotely like a true conservative since it is brains they want after all…

    newsbusters.org/blogs/scott-whitlock/2012/01/06/martin-bashir-stop-newt-gingrichs-food-stamp-talk-someone-gets-kille
    (mainly aimed at Gingrich, but Santorum also cops possibly the most ludicrous logical connection I have ever witnessed. What has a death in custody in England got to do with pointing out record food stamp recipients in the US? I dunno either, but clearly the Republicans are evil.)

    newsbusters.org/blogs/scott-whitlock/2012/01/05/chris-matthews-rick-santorum-wants-theocracy-will-trump-constitution
    (Chris Matthews totally misquotes Santorum to whip up baseless fears.)

    newsbusters.org/blogs/matt-hadro/2012/01/06/anderson-cooper-bashes-santorum-recycling-supposedly-racial-remark
    (Yes, Anderson Cooper whips out the trusty old race card yet again in a segment ironically called ‘Keeping Them Honest’…)

    bigjournalism.com/jpollak/2012/01/06/boston-reporter-taunts-rick-santorum-for-his-social-views-youre-not-in-arch-conservative-iowa-anymore/
    (Jon Keller asks a completely irrelevant question of Santorum and CBS goes to great lengths to edit anything in to a 2 minute hatchet job that makes him look bad.)

    As I read in a comment from one person, Obama and his extreme administration is destroying America economically and socially piece by piece, and the media want people getting upset over Santorum going to mass on Christmas?

    Honestly, if you watch mainstream news these days to get your information about politics and vote based on that, why don’t you just save the expense of raising your children for years and instead just buy them a one-way plane ticket to Pyongyang instead? Same result for your kids.

    Mark Rabich

  • Thanks again Mark. The article I mentioned has now been posted:

    www.billmuehlenberg.com/2012/01/07/ordered-liberty/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Mark Steyn;

    “The usual rap against the right is that they’re hypocrites — they vote for the Defense of Marriage Act, and next thing you know they’re playing footsie across the stall divider with an undercover cop at the airport men’s room. But Rick Santorum lives his values, and that seems to bother the left even more.

    Never mind the dead kid, he has six living kids. How crazy freaky weird is that? This crazy freaky weird: All those self-evidently ludicrous risible surplus members of the Santorum litter are going to be paying the Social Security and Medicare of all you normal well-adjusted Boomer yuppies who had one designer kid at 39. So, if it helps make it easier to “empathize,” look on them as sacrificial virgins to hurl into the bottomless pit of Big Government debt.

    Two weeks ago I wrote in this space: “A nation, a society, a community is a compact between past, present and future.” Whatever my disagreements with Santorum on his “compassionate conservatism,” he gets that. He understands that our fiscal bankruptcy is a symptom rather than the cause.”

    Read the whole column:

    news.investors.com/Article/596951/201201061452/Big-Governments-Debauchery-Of-Human-Capital.htm

    Damien Spillane

  • Did you see his defence of marriage here? It was an off-the-cuff answer to a question and I thought he was brilliant.
    Tas Walker

  • Hey Bill, you said that you can tell who their friends are based on their enemies. Here’s Dan Savage (who googlebombed Rick’s name)and Co. talking about raping Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachman.
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=HV5CY-pJmPk&feature=youtube_gdata_player
    Anna von Marburg

  • Hi Tas, what an amazing video of Rick making an argument for trad marriage. I can’t believe “Raw Story” posted it because it makes their case for gay marriage so weak. I love how Rick Santorum said that we must bring our case into the public square and be heard, all sides…just because we don’t agree with gay marriage does not mean that we hate gay people…at all. They are our brothers and sisters, I just don’t agree with gay marriage.
    Anna von Marburg

  • Bill,

    What’s your opinion on Mitt Romney? Do you think that his being a Mormon affects his electability or chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination?

    Ross McPhee

  • Thanks Ross

    He is not anywhere near as conservative as he should be. He is more of an establishment Republican, who has been weak on homosexuality and other key issues. He certainly won’t be able to challenge Obama on his Obamacare, since his state (Massachusetts) was the model for it. And many evangelicals of course will refuse to vote for him. So he certainly is not my first choice by any means.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Some of Mormonism’s opponents claim that they are closet theocrats with a secret plan to take over the US government. This is what I was alluding to.
    Ross McPhee

  • Unfortunately Santorum has dropped out of the race, meaning we are not left with a social conservative. It looks like 4 more years of bad social policy.
    Ian Nairn

  • Yes quite right Ian. It is a real worry indeed.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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