Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Santorum's Time

Rick Santorum is the latest Anybody but Romney. The Bachman, Perry, Cain and Gingrich boomlets are over. Each was tried and found wanting. Can Santorum do any better?

The argument that he can't make it is that he is too socially conservative. The guy is a serious Catholic who gives social issues more than a nod an a wink. To be sure, some of his positions on these issues will be misrepresented or misunderstood (see the comments to my post about Alan Colmes) but Santorum is at odds with elite sensibilities about matters of faith, sexuality and family in a way that most national politicians are not. He will get "Tebowed" (in a different sense) by Saturday Night Live, sneered at by Maureen Dowd and generally portrayed as the second coming of Torquemada. Again, much of it will be unfair but his moment at the top is going to test the proposition that a someone who is seriously religious and fundamentally committed to traditional values can be successful on a national level.

How he handles this criticism is going to be important. To be sure, he needs to point out the differences between what he has said and what he will be accused of saying, but he's also going to have to adopt a reassuring tone that reflects his own commitments without being seen as censorious. Can he do it? We'll see.

But there is more to this guy. He is not out of touch like Bachman, uninformed like Cain, compromised like Gingrich and, shall we say, challenged like Perry. This is a guy that Bono likes. He can be portrayed as many things, but mean is not one of them. Although there are going to be questions about his commitment to limited government, there is nothing about him that will turn off the conservative base and certain things about him that could appeal to independent voters who think that humility, responsibility, constancy and care are important attributes for a President. Whether he can communicate any of that is anyone's guess.

You wonder about new entrants although I suspect that the timing of the primaries precludes that. But there is blood in the water and, if Romney falters at all in New Hampshire (i.e.. does not win by "enough"), we could be in uncharted territory.

25 comments:

John Foust said...

And the Santorum jokes never get old.

Dad29 said...

We're told that Santorum very elegantly connects morality, family, and economic prosperity.

Perhaps that will hold up under the shelling of both Cato and the Left.

Nick said...

The problem isn't that he's Catholic, or socially conservative, but that he has said that the Constitution does not give you personal freedom, and that the government ought to have a role in keeping you from doing things you want to do, just because he doesn't think they're good, even if they don't harm anyone.

http://networkedblogs.com/slh82

John Foust said...

Aww, Nick, you know how to make "href"s. Lots of people don't know copy-paste and might never visit your link.

Visit the Prof's post from yesterday, where he and Dad29 plug their ears to the notion that Santorum would smile upon a ban on birth control.

muttmutt said...

Santorum's candidacy will be the very first undone by a simple Google search.

John Foust said...

What, Muttmutt? The Google headlines say he's surging from behind in Iowa, in a three-way race with Romney and Paul.

Rick Esenberg said...

Well, if you believe in an extra-textual right of privacy to do things you want to do as long as they don't result in certain types of harm (all activities result in some kind of harm), then that you would have a problem with Santorum.

But that is different from saying that he would ban birth control. The distinction might not be evident to Foust but it is actually quite critical as a matter of both law and policy. It goes to how we read our constitution and the nature of the relationship between the federal government and the states.

As President, of course, he'd lack the ability to either eliminate the right of "privacy" or ban birth control.

John Foust said...

Psst! Professor! The birth-control comments are on your Colmes post, not this one.

I'm sharp enough to understand that elementary difference, of course.

It was you who asked "Please show me where Santorum has called for banning birth control", and I granted your wish.

I didn't think this was a debate about exactly how Santorum thinks his Utopia will be carried out, but it is clear from that video'd interview that he'd like to see it happen, and he's willing to toot that dog whistle to attract votes.

Dad29 said...

I can think of at least one combox fly who should have been birth-controlled.

Anonymous said...

I wish my Maytag had a similarly active spin cycle Rick.

Let's take a look at the statement:

"One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country,” the former Pennsylvania senator explained. “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

OK. So you claim he wouldn't vote that way. So let's imagine the follow-up question:

Press: So, Senator, you'd vote for or sign a bill that banned contraception?

Santorum (in your world): No.

Any halfway intelligent person: "Well then, if given a chance to vote to ban something you just said is "dangerous" and "not okay", you wouldn't do it?"

Santorum (in your world): Uhhh...spin spin spin....

That makes no sense Rick. You know it, I know it.

I've always found this dichotomy fascinating:

Can we regulate water pollution so the neighboring population doesn't develop cancer and birth defects?

You guys: NO! JERBS!! ECONOMY!!

Ok then, I assume we ought not tell Steve and Phil who they can or cannot marry or tell Sally and Joe not to buy condoms right?

You guys: YES! IT'S EVIL! Protect our liberty by banning it!!

Do a post explaining that, please.

Anonymous said...

And Dad29 calls himself a Catholic with his last retort??? Shame, shame, shame.

Regardless of who the GOP nominates, they, like Obama, have flaws. Big-time. And Dad29 will vote for whomever is nominated on the right...including Romney! So much for his "principles".

John Foust said...

As for his wish to see someone eliminated for their beliefs, Dad29 will humbly admit that he is flawed and he will soon go to confession, and hopefully sin no more, in a combox or not.

Dad29 claims to be opposed to the Party In Government no matter which party it might be, but he does not care to reveal why he's voted Republican over and over for decades.

Anonymous said...

In EsenbergWorld, as in DisneyWorld, not everything is as it appears. Esenberg twists and turns, so that up is down, wrong is right, and backwards is forward.

A wise man once observed that you can always tell when a lawyer is lying: his or her lips are moving. Or, in this case, when his fingers are typing.

In recent years scientists have begun to use lawyers instead of monkeys for scientific experiments. There are so many lawyers that their services may be procured cheaply (as Justice Gableman's retainer aptly demonstrates). Also, the scientists find that they don't get as emotionally attached to the lawyers. Finally, and most importantly, there are some things that you just can't get a monkey to do.

Dad29 said...

Any halfway intelligent person: "Well then, if given a chance to vote to ban something you just said is "dangerous" and "not okay", you wouldn't do it?"

Santorum (in your world): Uhhh...spin spin spin....


Like most bitter Lefties, you invent the dialogue. "Facts not in evidence? No Problem!!"

John Foust said...

Anony did say "imagine," Dad29.

So what do you "imagine" Santorum would answer?

Tom said...

@Anon 6:07 - that's one of the major differences between liberals and conservatives. Liberals think that if they believe something is wrong, government should ban it (or that if something is better, government should mandate it). Conservatives don't think the government should automatically ban/mandate everything that is bad/good.

That doesn't mean conservatives never want to ban anything they think as bad, just that the ratio is much farther from 1:1 than it is for a liberal.

So no, I don't read a statement that "X is bad" as an actual call for government to ban X.

John Foust said...

Tom, nice little just-so-story, but look at the facts. Conservatives might bow to the libertarian "X might be bad, but we shan't make a law about it" but they also turn away when their fellow religious-right conservatives are eager to make those very same sort of laws they claim to oppose.

The left is not immune from this, either.

John Foust said...

Gee, Santorum wants to regulate personal choices saying all "traditional conservatives" do, and Cato did attack Santorum for it.

Anonymous said...

Tom:

Anon 6:07 here. Respectfully you're full of it to a degree.

First, liberals do not want to mandate or ban everything they think is good or bad.

Second, you are right to this one small degree: conservatives don't necessarily want to use the power of the law to mandate or ban that which they think is good or bad; in general they prefer stifling societal pressure, backed up by government.

I was dumb enough to listen to Mark Levin in the car tonight for about 2 minutes, and he went on about how our greatest society ever is based on individual sovereignty.

Doesn't individual sovereignty necessitate to some degree something dang close to a right to privacy?

But I don't think that's accurate. Conservatives think everyone should be sovereign, so long as they don't have pre-marital sex, don't want to gay marry, question our greatness, show concern for our environment, have long hair, etc. I think you get my drift.

Rick Esenberg said...

No, Tom has a point. One of the reasons that people become conservative rather than liberal is skepticism about the government's ability to perfect the world. The reason that you might not ban something that you think is bad or mandate something that you think is good because the mandate itself has unintended consequences. Liberals tend to downplay unintended results and costs that are not as readily seen when to do would get in the way of goverment trying to make the world better.

One of the issues that will now arise in connection with Santorum is whether he is that kind of conservative.

John Foust said...

Professor, your explanation doesn't explain all the laws that conservatives have made that appear to be an attempt to perfect the world.

Your explanation also doesn't mention that inaction itself is a kind of response with often foreseable consequences.

Downplaying consequences or expected results is not unique to one party or the other. It is common to anyone in power.

It is also commonly found among partisans who devote a fraction of their professional or personal life to downplaying the consequences or easily foreseeable results of a lawsuit or a law, or the unethical actions of a Supreme Court justice, or the blatant power-grabs of a state's political party.

Yes, Santorum is one of those conservatives who is attempting to perfect the world. Vide supra.

Play the Devil's advocate with me. If Santorum helps ban federal funding of contraception and anything close to abortion (excepting, of course, that which he thinks his wife deserved), what might be the consequences or unintended results?

Dad29 said...

Doesn't individual sovereignty necessitate to some degree something dang close to a right to privacy?

Griswold supposedly addressed that.

But there are credentialed folks who dispute that the Constitution grants a 'right to privacy.' Prima facie, it does not.

That said...

It is irrational for any Government to allow, under "privacy" aegis, action(s) deleterious to the State. The question is "to what degree will X action serve to undermine the rightly-ordered State?"

This is the question which underlies the discussion of 'marijuana v. alcohol', for example.

It's not bumper-sticker discussion. We know virtually all the arguments in the marijuana/alcohol question, but marijuana is still illegal because there is no broad-based political consensus to do otherwise.

Similarly, while Griswold "invented" a right-to-privacy specific to use of birth control, it HAS been accepted through consensus.

Santorum argues that the use of birth control is wrong, and the several States have the right to declare so. That certainly does not mean that he will Mullah-like ban it; he can't.

How-some-ever: he CAN prevent the Government from funding it (and abortion.)

Is that "wrong"? Not according to Libertarians, who claim that Gummint spends too much. Not according to a growing group of taxpayers who categorically disapprove of abortion, but are forced to pay for it. (And one suspects that Libertarians would agree with the principle there, too.)

The question of gay "marriage" has been settled in the negative in every State which has voted on it save one (IIRC); the judicial resolutions have been the opposite. IOW, the broad political consensus on the question is "No."

Santorum happens to agree with that consensus. Is that "wrong"?

John Foust said...

There's your trouble right there, Dad29. How many men and women do you know who have never used contraception? A consensus, you say? So it would still be a good thing for a state to outlaw contraception, you say? If Santorum did have a route to ban it, do you think he would?

I think his statements show he would.

Rick Esenberg said...

I don't think that Santorum's comments show that he would try to ban contraception but it is certainly legitimate to ask him if he would. If his answer is yes, he's done.

If Roe were overturned, the various states would decide how to regulate abortion. My guess is that some would ban it and others would permit it. Many would, I think, move to a more European approach which generally permits more abortions than staunch pro-life advocates would want but many fewer than pro abortion folks would permit.

As with any criminal statute, there would be costs of enforcement and some people would try to avoid the ban by seeking out illegal abortions. The extent of that would depend on the nature of the ban. I think those costs and consequences would be far less than you think they would.

Anonymous said...

"...but many fewer than pro abortion folks would permit."

What is meant by this?