Friday, 23 March 2012

Santorum's Lack of Respect

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has made two particularly eye-catching comments in recent days.  It is important not to blow them out of proportion, but they do reveal a little about the man, his focus and his strategy.

The first quote comes from an answer Mr. Santorum gave when challenged as to why he has consistently lost the Catholic vote to Mitt Romney (Mr. Santorum himself is a Catholic):

"The bottom line is that we do well among people who take their faith seriously, and as you know, just like some Protestants are not churchgoing, they are folks who identify with a particular religion but don't necessarily practice that from the standpoint of going to church and the like."

Then, while on the campaign trail yesterday, Mr. Santorum said the following:

"You win by giving people a choice.  You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who's just going to be a little different than the person in there.  If you're going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk with what may be the etch a sketch candidate of the future."

Both of these quotes say something about the way in which Mr. Santorum perceives his own candidacy - he is the man for people who 'take their faith seriously' and 'take their conservatism seriously'.  Fair enough.

But the above comments actively portray other candidates, and also the millions of (avidly Republican) individuals who have cast votes for them, as being unserious about both faith and conservatism.  If you vote for Mitt Romney, you must not be serious about your faith.  If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are not a proper conservative.

This is disrespectful.  If Mr. Santorum truly thinks that Mr. Romney is only 'a little different' than the current occupant of the White House, then he had better take a much closer look at the former Governor's policies.  As Republican blogger Jennifer Rubin points out here, Mr. Romney's proposals mirror quite closely those of Rep. Paul Ryan, that unquestionable bastion of fiscal conservatism.

As Politico correspondent Jonathan Martin reports, conservative darling Sen. Jim DeMint yesterday only just stopped short of endorsing the frontrunner, and widely respected former Florida Governor Jeb Bush threw his weight behind Mr. Romney the day before.  If Mr. Romney is truly just 'a little different' than President Obama, it is certainly curious that such a legion of solidly conservative figures is continuing to coalesce in his camp.

It has been said that Mr. Santorum's 'holier-than-thou' attitude would turn off a huge number of voters in the general election, were he to become the nominee.  We have seen several exhibitions of this attitude in recent days.  By even going so far as to suggest that voters would be better off 'staying with what we have' instead of voting for a Republican other than himself, Mr. Santorum has progressed a step too far in his argument.

This merely demonstrates the desperation which now pervades his campaign.

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