It says quite a lot about the state of the Republican Party that the right-wing extremist Rick Santorum — a politician so despised by his own Pennsylvania constituents that he lost his U.S. Senate seat by an 18-point margin — is now the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination. And not by a little, I might add — by 10 points, according to that latest national tracking poll by Gallup.
As increasing numbers of people identify themselves as independent voters — independent of the major political parties, that is — the essence of the Republican Party has distilled into a toxic brew of resentment, prejudice, anti-intellectualism and misogyny. In truth, the party has been headed this way for a long time, but the election of Barack Obama — a moderately liberal African American man with an African-Islamic name — offered the perfect catalyst for the alchemists of the right to convert their everyday potion of pique into something far more fortified.
Enter Rick Santorum, a presidential candidate regarded as little more than a joke a mere month ago. Santorum presents himself as everything Obama is not, and represents the opposite of everything those anti-Obama right-wing tropes, the lies both whispered and shouted, purport the president to be. There are liberals who relish the possibility of a Santorum nomination; at the Daily Kos, founder Markos Moulitsas is urging liberals to vote for Santorum in open primaries, on the reasonably sound theory that Santorum is too crazy to win the presidency. Perhaps.
“The longer this GOP primary drags on, the better the numbers for Team Blue,” Markos writes. Fair enough, but is it good for America? If Santorum gets to bear the standard for the GOP, the party moves even further to the right from where it is now. Difficult to imagine, I know. But sooner or later the Republican Party wins big, when voters tire of the Democrats, or the Democrats screw up in a major way. And then, we’ll all be ruled by the Santorum agenda, or something like it. Here’s a taste of what’s on that plate, based on Santorum’s own extremist claims.
1. The end of the secular state. Santorum is a big proponent of the religious-right assertion, which he recently reiterated at the Conservative Political Action Conference, that the rights of American citizens come not from the U.S. Constitution or the laws of man, but from God. (To prove their point, they cite the Declaration of Independence, and the line that “men” are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”) Not just any God, mind you, but the authoritarian, patriarchal God of right-wing Christian theology. And Santorum has reserved for himself the role of theologian-in-chief, the arbiter of true religion, the messenger privy to the things God really wants — and the things Satan really wants, which, according to a 2008 speech he delivered at Ave Maria University in Florida, is the demise of the United States.
“This is not a political war at all. This is not a cultural war at all. This is a spiritual war,” Santorum said, describing how American institutions and our nation’s way of life are falling to evil forces. “And the Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies, Satan, would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country – the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age?”
At a February 18 campaign stop in Ohio, Santorum made the case that Obama is not a true Christian, that his overal agenda is based on “a phony theology.” From Politico:
Slamming the president’s agenda on a range of points, Santorum said the agenda is “not about you. It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs. It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology, but no less a theology.”
On CBS News’ “Face the Nation” the next day, Santorum said he was talking specifically about the president’s environmental policy and, no, he didn’t mean to suggest that Obama is a Muslim or anything like that. (Actually, he was suggesting that the president is an earth-worshipping pagan whose earth-worship is a path to growing the size of government.) Transcript from ThinkProgress:
When you have a worldview that elevates the Earth above man and says that we can’t take those resources because we’re going to harm the Earth; by things that frankly are just not scientifically proven, for example, the politicization of the whole global warming debate — this is all an attempt to, you know, to centralize power and to give more power to the government.
Some, including me, heard in Santorum’s original comments a dog-whistle to right-wingers intent on viewing Obama as a crypto-Muslim. But Political Animal’s Ed Kilgore reminds us of Santorum’s assertion in a 2008 speech that mainline Protestants (basically, Protestants from the major sects who are not part of the religious right) are not Christian, either. Whichever it is, Rick Santorum clearly reserves to himself the right to determine who is and isn’t a Christian, a particularly outrageous claim by a presidential hopeful who asserts that rights are bestowed on humans by his idea of the Christian God. In the practical sense, then, a President Santorum would render himself as God.
2. The end of science. While it may be de rigueur for Republican candidates to deny the science of climate change, Santorum takes it a step further, claiming not just that humans make no contribution to changes in the climate, but implicitly arguing that in order to be a great nation, America needs its citizens to waste energy, especially through such greenhouse-gas producing products as gasoline-guzzling cars and incandescent lightbulbs. For starters, that will give a rationale for raping the U.S. environment through fracking — of which he’s a big fan, especially near population centers — offshore drilling, and plundering the Alaskan wilderness.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference, Santorum made the point that, among the nations of the world, those that use the most energy have the highest standards of living. (It doesn’t take a genius to accept that people who live in centrally heated and air-conditioned homes, and who have refrigerators and ovens that run on fuel other than dung probably have a higher standard of living than those who don’t.) So, by Santorum’s reasoning, that means we should step up the energy gluttony if we want an even higher standard of living. (If you can come up with some scientific reasoning for that conclusion, you deserve a very special prize.)
At Talk to Action, Rachel Tabachnick attributes Santorum’s anti-green messianism to a strain of religious-right theology known as “Biblical economics,” which, Tabachnick says, is ” a world in which unregulated free markets are holy and the opposition is literally demonic.”
But it doesn’t end there. At the intersection of Santorum’s anti-science stance and his misogyny stands his opposition to prenatal testing.
3. A return to patriarchy. The leaders of Rick Santorum’s religion — the Roman Catholic Church — oppose abortion and birth control, and so does he. Combined with his opposition to science, the fact-free mind of the GOP frontrunner has transformed his personal religious beliefs to a contention that prenatal screenings of pregnant women and their fetuses are a bad thing, so he wants to end any requirement on health-insurance companies that they be covered. Via First Read:
“One of the mandates is they require free prenatal testing in every insurance policy in America,” Santorum, a conservative Roman Catholic, told a Christian Alliance luncheon in Columbus. “Why? Because it saves money in health care. Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society. That too is part of ObamaCare — another hidden message as to what president Obama thinks of those who are less able than the elites who want to govern our country.”
“That ugly meme is completely made up,” writes health expert Harold Pollack at the Reality-Based Community. “By any reasonable measure, the proliferation of genetic diagnostic technologies coincides with great progress in public acceptance and support for people with disabilities.”
And those technologies actually save fetuses with anomalies, allowing pregnant women to have healthy babies because their pregnancies were monitored. One case in point is the daughter of writer Sarah Fister Gale, whose rH blood disease was discovered while she was still in the womb, by the use of amniocentesis, which Santorum claims, “does, in fact, result more often than not in this country in abortions.” He added, “That is a fact.”
Actually, it’s not. Here’s Gale, writing at Salon:
If Rick Santorum had his way, I wouldn’t have been able to get that test, and she most likely would have died. Because according to him, tests that give parents vital information about the health of their unborn children are morally wrong.
(Meanwhile, at the Nation, Ben Adler details Santorum’s opposition to programs on which disabled people depend.) Yet Santorum talks constantly on the stump about his seventh child, Bella, who was born with a brutal chromosomic disorder.
The truth is, Santorum will use any rationale that suits him to deny women any kind of reproductive healthcare that informs their decision-making process, whether the decision is about getting pregnant or whether to bring a fetus to term. When arguing the merits of his so-called “partial-birth abortion” ban, a law enacted in 2003 to ban a particular abortion procedure, Santorum claimed that the procedure was used to abort fetuses that were not deformed or disabled in any way. But on “Face the Nation,” as Slate’s Will Saletan points out, Santorum claimed just the opposite, saying the procedure had been primarily used to abort fetuses that, if brought to term, would become disabled children.
Then there’s birth control, which Santorum told a right-wing Iowa blogger at Caffeinated Thoughts, is “not okay” because it takes the procreation out of sex. In fairness to Santorum, he does say that, as a matter of public policy, he would not try to outlaw contraception: he just wants to make it harder for you to get (especially if you work for a business that is owned by a church-affiliated institution).
Like the other Republican presidential candidates, Santorum says the Obama administration’s mandate that health insurance provided by employers must cover prescription contraception (and with no co-pay) is a violation of the religious freedom of employers whose consciences, like Santorum’s, are offended by the very notion of birth control. But what makes Santorum unique is a novel interpretation of what health insurance is meant to do, which is not, according to the candidate, to pay for things that only “cost a few dollars.” Which brings me back to the notion that Santorum will use whatever rationale he finds necessary to deprive women of the full range of reproductive healthcare. He has not voiced similar concerns, for instance, over having insurance plans pay for low-cost generic antibiotics, or Tylenol-with-codeine pills.
4. The fostering of ignorance. Although his wife home-schools their own children, Rick Santorum isn’t completely against public education. He just wants to starve it. At an Ohio campaign stop, Santorum hailed the fact that most of the early U.S. presidents “home-schooled” their children (he neglected the mention of any tutors), adding, according to the New York Times:
“Where did they come up that public education and bigger education bureaucracies was the rule in America? Parents educated their children, because it’s their responsibility to educate their children.”
Which is great for parents who don’t want their kids to learn actual science or facts. (The mind boggles to consider what the Santorum children are learning in science class at the kitchen table.) The Times goes on to note that federal government, which Santorum would cut out of the education process, contributes 11 percent of most schools’ budgets, and is targeted for the enforcements of standards which would, of course, include the teaching of science. Meanwhile, the United States lags behind most of the industrialized world in turning out scientists and engineers.
5. The demonization of everybody but white, heterosexual, right-wing Christian males. In Rick Santorum’s mind, everybody who is not like him is some form of demon: Obama is like Hitler, gay people are like beastialists, women who have sex for pleasure are licentious, working mothers take the easy way out, single mothers are welfare queens, undocumented immigrants are thieves, black people are lazy and Muslims are bloodthirsty infidels.
At a February 19 campaign stop in Georgia, Santorum compared the 2012 presidential election to World War II, when the U.S. initially stood by as Britain was showered with Nazi bombs. Via The Raw Story:
“Why? Because we’re a hopeful people. We think, ‘You know it will get better. Yeah, I mean, he’s a nice guy. It won’t be near as bad as what we think. You know, this will be OK. You know, maybe he’s not the best guy.’ After a while, you found out some things about this guy over in Europe and maybe he’s not so good of a guy after all. But you know what? ‘Why do we need to be involved? We’ll just take care of our own problems, just get our families off to work and our kids off to school and we’ll be okay.’”
Santorum later denied he was comparing Obama to Hitler, but it’s hard to come away with any other conclusion. Santorum also denied he was talking about black people when he was quoted as saying, at an Iowa campaign stop in January, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.” (He laughably claimed three days later that he said “blah” people, not “black” people.)
Of working women, Santorum wrote in his 2005 book, It Takes a Family, that they find it easier and “more socially affirming” to keep up their careers than to “stay home and take care of their children.” In other words, women who work outside the home are not taking care of their children.
Single mothers often refuse to marry their partners, Santorum told Fox News in December, so they can collect welfare.
And of women who use birth control in order to have sex for (horrors) pleasure, Santorum told Caffeinated Thoughts: “[Contraception is] not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” And while Santorum disavowed the comments of his sugar daddy, billionaire Foster Freiss, who suggest that women just clamp their knees together as a means of birth control, there have been no reports that he’s stopped taking the old sexist’s money.
Immigrants fare no better under Santorum’s gaze. Undocumented workers aren’t just people who came to the U.S. because they wanted to feed their families, Santorum said in a January debate: they’re thieves, and should be sent home, even if it means separating parents from their children. Via ThinkProgress:
“I understand Congressman Gingrich saying, ‘Well, you know, people have been here and they’ve been good citizens and paying taxes.’ Yeah, under somebody else’s Social Security number because you stole it.”
Then there are the Muslims, about whom Santorum has a phantasmagorical imagination. At a campaign stop in New Hampshire last month, the former Pennsylvania senator suggested that the U.S. should bomb Iran — not simply because of the allegation that the Muslim nation is building a nuclear bomb, but because the bomb-building is all part of a Shi’ite plan to bring about the apocalypse to pave the way for the return of a messianic figure known as the Mahdi. Lost on Santorum was the irony that in several corners of the religious right, support for an aggressive Israel is based on just such a scenario, designed to pave the way for the second coming of Jesus.
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention Santorum’s jihad against LGBT people. Suffice it to say, “man on dog.”
Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/addiestan
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