Santorum is showing yet again how the more things change, the more things stay the same. This ploy for the right won’t do him much good and might actually alienate voters — not because they are Sodomites and Gomorrans, but because it’s another reminder of Santorum’s penchant for a big, moralistic government.
This wouldn’t be a post on obscenity without referencing Justice Potter Stewart’s famous quote on his ability to discern beween objectionable and obscene material: “I know it when I see it.”
For many decades, the American public has actively petitioned the United States Congress for laws prohibiting distribution of hard-core adult pornography.
Congress has responded. Current federal “obscenity” laws prohibit distribution of hardcore (obscene) pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV, in retail shops and through the mail or by common carrier. Rick Santorum believes that federal obscenity laws should be vigorously enforced.
And where Santorum calls pornography misogynistic, at least one study found that older men who voted for a right-wing political party, lived in a rural area and had a lower level of formal education were actually the most sexist demographic in the study.
Forgoing that particular conclusion, the former-Congressman-turned-self-proclaimed-anti-establishment candidate still doesn’t need to do pull these stunts to appeal to social conservatives. Among voters who consider themselves “very conservative,” Gallup found that Santorum beats all the other candidates as both the first and second choice, even above Gingrich by 13 points. If Gingrich dropped out, it might help Santorum, but not by much since Santorum also leads Mitt Romney among “very conservatives” by 20 points.
Republicans have a record of expanding obscenity legislation. In 1990, George H.W. Bush and Congress pressured the National Endowment of the Arts to force all of its grantees to sign an anti-obscenity pledge. Years later, George W. Bush’s Justice Department ramped up prosecutions of adult pornography, even as prosecutors were worried that the focus on porn distracted the department from its other cases.
Similarly, GOP attacks on Democratic president’s record with obscenity is nothing new. Critics of the Clinton administration say that he and his Justice Department didn’t prosecute enough obscenity violations.
So why play this zero-sum game? Why does Santorum want to drag another controversial issue to drudge up the conservative/liberal trope in a race that he won’t win with it?
Maybe he thinks that he’ll lose without it, but let this be a reminder the next time he dodges the question about why all people want to ask him about is his doctrinaire moralistic policies.
The states with some of the largest percentages in Hispanic population growth make up a large swath of the Southeast: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee… In all those Republican-dominated states, the percentage of Hispanics nearly doubled.
Few people talk about Florida anymore, especially not the Santorum camp. And why would they? Santorum placed third in the state and lost the Catholic vote with only 10 percent of self-identified Catholics and 9 percent of Hispanics voting for the former congressman.
Pundits argue that Florida a little too purple to qualify as a Southern state. But the very reason that it’s purple is because of its increased ethnic and economic diversity. The New York Times reported in January:
People of Hispanic origin make up 22.5 percent of Florida’s population, compared with 16.3 percent of the United States population, according to census data from 2010. They tend to vote more with Republicans than elsewhere, although polls from 2008 show that President Obama picked up more than half the Hispanic votes in the state…
The GOP can’t ignore the fact that the rest of the American South has begun to experience the same ethnic and economic diversity. And while the media plays around with headlines about the candidates’ Southern strategies, liberals argue that the GOP now relies on tactics not unlike those that actually helped trigger the civil rights movement.
Just yesterday, the Department of Justice blocked a Texas law that would require voters to show photo identification before casting their vote. The Justice Department argued that the law put Latino voters at a disproportionate disadvantage. Texas’s own data revealed “Hispanic voters were 46.5 percent to 120 percent more likely to lack such identification than were non-Hispanics.”
Texas is far from the only state in the country pass similar legislation. The Justice Department also blocked South Carolina’s law on grounds of voter disenfranchisement, but state legislators in Alabama, Kansas, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Mississippi and Rhode Island have all recently passed their own voter ID laws.
The candidates can keep arguing over grits and “y’all”s, but sooner or later Santorum and the GOP will have to come to terms with the changing face of America. Yesterday’s news, however, indicates that even if Santorum can’t count on the Catholic Latino vote, maybe he can at least count on then not voting.
Apparently, social issues shouldn’t be too much of a voter issue. At least for Rick Santorum, of all people.
In a radio interview with a Cincinnati talk radio host, Santorum blew up when the interviewer asked him about the contraception debate, framed around the idea that the host’s own Catholic conservative wife wasn’t too happy with Santorum.
The deflection is nothing new. When Rick Santorum tried to chortle his way out of responding to Meet the Press’ David Gregory by pulling a Gingrich and blamed the media for concentrating on social conservatism, Gregory fought back:
“Sir, in this campaign you talk about it. And I’ve gone back years when you’ve been in public life and you have made this a centerpiece of your public life. So the notion that these are not deeply held views worthy of question and scrutiny, it’s not just about the press.”
Santorum reiterated that there was no evidence he would ever impose his own personal beliefs or values on Americans, supposedly to assure voters that — despite his religious rhetoric — he can delineate between his convictions and matters of government.
Secondly, Santorum’s defense for his personal beliefs as secondary to policy are at the heart of what drove John F. Kennedy to defend his own Catholicism in 1960. JFK successfully convinced voters that he could distinguish between his role as President and his role as a Catholic — almost exactly what Santorum is trying to convince us he can now do but at one point made him want to vomit.
Recent history shows that all this talk of social issues can be a losing battle for Republican candidates. Back in 2000, when George W. Bush began to disappoint the Religious Right, evangelical leader James Dobson spoke out against the influence that moderate Republicans were having on the candidate:
“I think George W. Bush is getting some very bad advice from the Rockefeller Republicans and establishment party members that are urging him to move to the mushy middle, and avoid the contentious issue of abortion…Millions of people care passionately about the pro-life cause, and they’re watching to see what George Bush is going to do with it.”
As a result, he’s had to run as the conservative alternative to whomever it is he’s running against. And try as he might to downplay his conservatism, Santorum and his campaign know that the votes won’t add up for him without it anymore. Last week, he took second place to Michigan’s native son Mitt Romney despite having been originally hailed as the frontrunner in the Great Lakes State.
But the last few primaries and news cycles continue to prove that moderates aren’t necessarily taking to Santorum’s messaging — not his social conservatism, and certainly not his failing attempts to refocus on non-social issues. And one thing’s for sure: his fate, along with the other GOP candidates, lies with mushy middle America.
Democrats and liberal pundits hammered Mitt Romney when he was caught on film last year saying that corporations are people.
In a post-Citizens United America, the idea that a non-individual entity has First Amendment rights isn’t anything new, but Rick Santorum might have revealed last week a GOP affinity to the personification of entities that consolidate power.
When Obama administration announced that all employers, including religious organizations like the Catholic Church, must cover insurance costs for contraceptives, Santorum jumped and made it a Constitutional issue:
“This is the problem when government tells you that they can give you things. They can take it away, but even worse they can tell you how you’re going to exercise this new right that they’ve given you consistent with their values instead of the values guaranteed in our Constitution.”
Santorum also told CNN’s John King that his own argument against the mandate is not to infringe on women’s rights, but with the Catholic Church having to help defray the cost of its employees’ access to contraceptives:
The argument for corporate personhood as it relates to freedom of speech is based on the idea of increased democracy though more participation. The only way that Santorum’s argument floats is if the general consensus gives the Church and other religious institutions the same latitude that Citizens United gave corporations.
Santorum’s position isn’t going to differ much from the other GOP candidates — there’s no need to waste an opportunity to call Obama a Constitutional fraud. But if and when Santorum has to appeal to moderates, he’ll have to convince them that the Church’s rights as employers outweigh the legal protections granted to employees by the Affordable Health Care for America Act. When 57 percent of Catholic voters agree with the Obama administration’s refined policy, it might be harder than it looks.
And while liberals and progressives are chomping at the bit, Santorum has an artfully timed head start. Before Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado, the news was saturated with debates about Susan G. Komen vs. Planned Parenthood and the Catholic Bishops’ lawsuit. Add the strong job numbers and Barack Obama’s up-trending approval ratings, and Santorum proved to be just the candidate that value voters needed.
There were a certainly host of other reasons that led to Santorum’s resurgence – including Newt Gingrich’s absence on the Missouri ballot, conservatives’ ongoing lackluster support for Romney and overall low voter turnout –- but Santorum again defied all expectations by tapping into a voting bloc that makes up for its numbers with enthusiasm.
Before you start Googling him, you should already know that Santorum is the ideologically consistent and unwavering conservative legislator-turned-2012-presidential-candidate-first-name-Rick not from Texas. In fact, the Pennsylvania native’s campaign has outlived a myriad of celebrated Republican figureheads. Santorum even won the first caucus of the season, albeit retroactively.
So how does the winner of the first GOP presidential candidate contest end up fourth on Saturday’s Nevada primary? A clue might lie in understanding the candidate and his platform, the former of which appears to be the stronger of the two. Santorum doesn’t shy from emphasizing his origins as a Republican senator who represented a heavily Democratic state.
Not unlike former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Santorum tries to appeal to the pragmatic side of primary voters, specifically those who are flocking to ticket headliner Mitt Romney under the impression that “electability” is what matters this season. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be working.
Santorum appeals to value voters in big way — recently having landing endorsements from Phyllis Schlafly and James Dobson, which helps solidify Evangelical support for the Catholic candidate — but he’s failing to appeal to a post-2010 electorate. Texas firebrand and fellow candidate Ron Paul jumped at the chance to take down Santorum and his non-aversion to big government in advance of the New Hampshire primary.
Since winning Iowa, Santorum lost New Hampshire, beating only Rick Perry’s campaign-suspension-inducing 7 percent. Santorum fared better in Florida, but wasn’t able to recapture his former glory with 13 percent. And Nevada didn’t treat him all that favorably either with the 11 percent of the votes he received, which left him at the bottom.
Santorum may be fighting for first place, but he is struggling for the bronze as it is and his battle for third place is striking an interesting chord for the conservative movement.
While Romney and Gingrich cynically duke it out against each other armed with rhetoric du jour, the fight for third place looks to represent an underlying division within the party that pundits tried to pinpoint with 2010’s Republican wave: Ron Paul represents the libertarian-inspired, Tea Party-fueled electorate, and Santorum keeps the neoconservative, value-voting tradition of George W. Bush alive.
The battle of wits and presidential politics might come down to Romney and Gingrich, but the ideological battle between Santorum and Paul could give us the Conservative People’s Champ.