Santorum Surge Thanks to Power of Shared Idiocy

One thing you cannot fault Rick Santorum on: he is as he says the only true conservative candidate in this election – if conservatives are judged by current standards, which call for a lot less open-mindedness, a lot less fiscal conservatism and a whole lot more culture warrior: “Isn’t the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?” He is far from an old-time conservative. It can safely be argued that that breed is largely extinct. Nobody not already an adult in 1964 would recognize a pre-Goldwater Republican if they saw one.

This is a guy who obsesses over homosexuality and defends the Crusades (I won’t even get into the dead baby thing), and who claims gay people caused the 2008 economic collapse.  We should be treating him like we treat people who say they were molested by aliens.

Ray Madeiros showed here recently how far divorced from its 1956 party platform the GOP has become and his is a valid question: what the hell hashappened to the Republican Party? Ike wouldn’t recognize it; Goldwater saw it coming. But nobody could have foreseen the extent of the God-pocalypse of the past twenty years. And nobody has profited from it like Rick Santorum. Even bat-shit crazy Michele Bachmann couldn’t catch the wave, but Santorum did. And he’s still riding it.

But don’t let Santorum’s success disguise the general Republican malaise. Thomas Friedman argued yesterday in an op-ed piece that appeared in the New York Timesthat the Republican Party is out of date:

The party has let itself become the captive of conflicting ideological bases: anti-abortion advocates, anti-immigration activists, social conservatives worried about the sanctity of marriage, libertarians who want to shrink government, and anti-tax advocates who want to drown government in a bathtub.

And he is right. Gingrich has his Tea Partiers, Romney his establishment Republicans and Santorum his culture warriors while Ron Paul has some misguided libertarians and a mixed bag of racists. As Friedman concluded, “you can’t address the great challenges America faces today with that incoherent mix of hardened positions.” That’s the bad news for Republicans.

But there is good news for Santorum: the Tea Party is in disarray, the GOP establishment with their hard-sell of Romney doesn’t appeal to the base and there aren’t enough racists and anarchists to put Ron Paul into the White House. That leaves Santorum and a very zealous fundamentalist base that, if anything, is more powerful than ever and no longer distracted by the nagging presence of Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.

Listen to what he told his supporters the other day via the video from CNN:

We need somebody who is willing to go out and on these big issues of the day and draw contrasts. We’re not going to go out and win this election ladies and gentlemen because the republican candidate has the most money to go out and beat their opponent and win the election. Were’ not going to win this election with a lopsided money advantage. We won’t have one in the fall. President Obama will have more money than whoever our nominee is. So just think about what it’s going to take. It’s going to take ideas, vision, contrasts, a record of accomplishment that can go up against the failed policies of Barack Obama. That’s the winner.

We won in 2010 because conservatives rallied. They were excited about the contrasts. They were excited about the candidates who were put forth in that election. And that’s why we won. We always talk about how we’re going to get the moderates. Why would an undecided voter vote for a candidate of a party who eh party is not excite about? We need conservatives now to rally for a conservative to go into November to excite the conservative base to pull with that excitement moderate voters and to defeat Barack Obama in the fall.

Honor is a term that is not used very often in America but it is exactly what is at stake because this is our watch. We are stewards of a great inheritance and it is our responsibility to shepherd that inheritance to make it a greater and richer one for the next generation and if we fail to do that we have failed our duty and our honor as Americans.

So as you can see, Santorum has certain advantages with the base that Gingrich and Romney – and Ron Paul too – all lack. It’s not that what Santorum is saying is true – it’s not. Nor that his stance is historically valid – it’s not beyond the past 20 years – but he is – significantly – on the same wrong page as his base, sharing their misguided understanding of the Bible and of American history and fired by the same religiously fueled sense of entitlement and intolerance for the other. This cannot be said of Mitt Romney, the Mormon and near-liberal, or of Newt Gingrich with all his difficult to accept sexual and marital baggage.

Shared delusion links Santorum and his base. In other words, his idiocy is paying great dividends thanks to an equally idiotic audience: His appeal here to an entirely imaginary “great inheritance” for one thing. It is no wonder post-Goldwater Republicans don’t like our education system; our schools teach the inheritance of the secular European Enlightenment and its role in shaping the foundation of our country. The teach a universe governed by physics that can be explained through observation, not a universe in which we must search for God’s will in every natural phenomenon – as was the case a thousand years ago. It could be said of the Christian zealot Santorum that he has found the “sweet spot” in the American political landscape – that little pocket that still embraces the Dark Ages.

Nor is that love of the Dark Ages metaphorical and we should not expect a “Renaissance Faire”-type atmosphere from a Santorum presidency. There is no fun in Talibangelical Dark Age America. Give up that idea right now.

We should take a look at his appeal to his much vaunted “record of accomplishment,” Dennis examined that record just a couple of days ago, citing some useful examples:

  • Gutting welfare in favor of low wages and creation of a new working poor;
  • Attacks on education and pushing “intelligent Design”, basically Creationism for Dummies;
  • Allocating funds to support assassinations in Iran toward affecting a regime change yet supporting the right of companies like Halliburton to do business in Iran;
  • Support for home schooling (what better environment for Creationism for Dummies?) on the public dime of the public in another state

If we are looking for a record of accomplishment, this is a sad and tawdry record. But it is one that appeals to the Dark Age crowd: anti-science, pro-Crusade and pro-Bible. Santorum has since doubled down on the assassination gambit by saying that we are now justified not only in murdering leaders of countries we don’t like, but attacking those countries because we don’t like their religion. You can see the appeal.

So while Santorum is indeed the only true post-Goldwater conservative in the race (Romney’s pathetic “severely conservative” claims notwithstanding), that alone is hardly enough to recommend him to the highest office in the land, unless being delusional and lying for Jesus are pre-requisites (last I checked the Constitution, they weren’t). Since we can’t put him in the asylum with the guys molested by aliens (or at least medicate him and send him home) we have to deal with him and what he’s selling.  And the values he preaches are not traditional American values at all but they sell to the base because of their shared Bible-obsessed delusions. It should be clear to us if not them that this is not ancient Israel, but the United States of America and a firm reminder should be issued at the polls if not before.

The downside for Santorum and the upside for America (and the world) is that the wave he is riding begins and ends at the base and those shared delusions. That wave can get him as far as the Republican nomination but it can get him no further and it is difficult to see Santorum’s self-limiting rhetoric gain wide appeal outside the GOP.

Next up: Arizona and Michigan primaries on February 28. Right now, Public Policy Polling has Santorum ahead of Romney in Michigan, but as USA Today reports, Santorum has “no trace of an organization” in Arizona and a February 1 Rasmussen poll saw him in third place behind Romney and Gingrich.

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