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Tracinski: Santorum Must Be Defeated!
Submitted by administrator on Fri, 2012-02-17 21:47
TIA Daily • February 17, 2012
Santorum Delenda Est
Rick Santorum Is a Principled Enemy of Liberty
by Robert Tracinski
Like just about everyone on the right, I have been hoping that Republican voters would eventually be able to rally around an alternative to Mitt Romney. He is too much of a middle-of-the-road pragmatist who has tailored his positions to the political expediencies of his career, which is not what we really need to turn this country back from its lurch toward socialism and bankruptcy.
So I understand why Republican voters have been trying out a different not-Romney every month, desperately searching for someone who will be a better and more principled alternative.
But rather than bringing us closer to finding a principled advocate for liberty, this process has been taking us farther away. Tragically, every candidate who seemed like a promising leader, or at least a halfway acceptable alternative, flamed out. Michele Bachmann came out against vaccination. Rick Perry turned out to be more inarticulate than George W. Bush. Herman Cain was exposed as a serial philanderer. We are left with the dregs, like the pompous, self-aggrandizing intellectual dilettante Newt Gingrich, or Ron Paul, whose pronouncements on foreign policy tend to sound as if they were written by Adam Gadahn. And then there is the last not-Romney standing, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.
With Santorum, voters feel that they have at last found a man of principle. But that's the problem. Santorum is an open, dedicated, and principled opponent of liberty, of individual rights, and of the distinctively American philosophy of individualism.
That is why I'm changing my slogan for the Republican primaries from "anybody but Romney" to Santorum delenda est. Given the form of Santorum's name, I can't resist the use of the Latin, a reference to Cato the Elder's famous invocation Carthago delenda est, "Carthage must be destroyed." In this more civilized context, let's translate it as: Santorum must be defeated.
Mitt Romney's campaign apparatus has only really been effective at one thing: using advertising and media campaigns to destroy his opponents. That was relatively easy to do against Newt Gingrich, considering how much material he gave them to work with. But they have decided to target Santorum by pointing to his history of backing earmarks and voting for big-government expansions like President Bush's prescription drug entitlement. This is shallow and unlikely to be effective on its own. After all, does anyone think that Romney would have stood firm against the prescription drug bill?
The Romney campaign needs to understand where Santorum really stands and target him on a deeper level, identifying and exposing his fundamental anti-liberty convictions. I am not just talking about the fact that Santorum was and still is a prominent advocate of "compassionate conservatism," which embraces the welfare state and tries to run it more effectively according to conservative principles. It is Santorum's basic philosophy that is profoundly antithetical to freedom.
I have linked before to Santorum's infamous claim that "the pursuit of happiness is harming America." Henry Mark Holzer's blog recently brought to my attention to a 2005 speech Santorum gave in defense of "compassionate conservatism." Here is the central passage.
This is an attack on American individualism at its root. There is a reason why "the pursuit of happiness" is in the Declaration of Independence. If we are to recognize the freedom of the individual to make his own choices and control his own life, we have to recognize that it is legitimate for him to pursue his own interests. We have to accept the idea that each man owns his own life and has a right to use it for his own ambitions and goals, his own happiness, so long as he respects the equal right of others to do the same.
The opposite view, the view openly championed by Santorum, is that the individual is owned by society, which has first claim to his efforts and can direct his decisions for the greater good. And if the individual squawks that he is being oppressed, men like Santorum will reply that no, they are still free, but this is a "self-less freedom" in which they are free to do whatever society requires of them in the name of the "common good."
This is exactly the same philosophy championed by Barack Obama. The only thing that makes Santorum's version "conservative" is a difference in emphasis. Obama emphasizes society's need to limit our freedom on economic issues, while Santorum emphasizes society's need to limit our freedom in our personal lives.
In fact, putting limits on freedom has practically become the theme of Santorum's campaign, and he has been fleshing out exactly what this means. Take his response to the ObamaCare mandate on contraception, which would require Catholic religious institutions like hospitals to pay for insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and even abortion. The left tried to make this a controversy over whether contraception is good, but just about everyone on the right had the good sense to identify this as an issue of religious freedom, of forcing Catholic institutions to violate the teachings of the Church. Florida Senator Marco Rubio put it best.
Readers of TIA Daily know that I've been promoting Rubio as a good vice-presidential candidate for the Republican ticket. This gives you an idea why. That was the exact right way to frame Obama's contraception mandate, both philosophically and politically.
But that's not what Rick Santorum did. He responded by launching an attack on birth control. Here is what he told a reporter:
Now, I can see a candidate attempting to defend the tenets of his religion when pressed by a reporter. But Santorum here is describing the official Catholic doctrine on birth control, not as a matter of personal conviction, but as a matter of important public policy.
Note how this concedes Obama's basic premise: that it is the job of the state to decide for us what is in our best interests and to impose it. Obama wants to do what he thinks is optimal for the physical health and economic well-being of young women. Santorum wants to manage our spiritual well-being. Or as conservative blogger Conor Friederdorf puts it, while linking to the statement above, "Rick Santorum wants your sex life to be special'," which makes this sound as creepy as it really is. Friedersdorf concludes: "Any politician who regards the adult use of contraceptives as a matter under his purview cannot lay claim to the limited government label."
How far does this go? In his latest salvo, Santorum came out for a ban on gambling. Why? Because it's "not beneficial."
So now he's going to police gambling and other "vices on the Internet." (I'll leave it to your imagination to project what those might be.) And what's to stop him? "There is no right to absolute freedom," and there are no absolute rights in the Constitution. Which means that there is no absolute limit to the power of the state.
The link to this statement on gambling comes by way of Alana Goodman at the conservative site Hot Air, who asks, "where's the conservative outrage? If Santorum's comments aren't nanny state-ism in its purest form, then what is?... If you're a conservative and you give Santorum a pass on this, you forego any future right to complain about liberals taking away your Happy Meals and trans fats."
Santorum must be defeated for the content of his views. He also needs to be defeated because he is probably the worst candidate when it comes to the most important political goal of 2012: ensuring that Barack Obama is no longer president. Ignore the polls indicating that Santorum does well in a one-to-one matchup against Obama. It is too early for those results to be meaningful, because most voters are still ignorant of Santorum's actual views. Once voters become better informed—and the Obama campaign will be eager to inform them—those poll numbers will change dramatically.
Santorum's views have zero cross-over appeal; there will be no "Santorum Democrats." They have no appeal to independent voters, who will peg him as a self-righteous prig who wants to impose his religious views on them. And it's worse than that. The resurgence of the right that produced the Tea Party movement and the huge Republican victory in 2010 is based in large part on an alliance between two wings of the right: the more religious wing and the more "libertarian" wing. They have been able to work together because of a de facto truce on the "social issues" while we drop everything else to save the country from a government takeover of the economy. I would add that there has been no need for any kind of truce on birth control or gambling, because those issues haven't even come up. But Santorum insists on bringing them up, and in doing so he breaks the Tea Party alliance and splits the right. He puts the libertarian wing of the right on notice that if they vote against Obama's version of big government, Santorum will use their vote to promote his version of big government.
Someone needs to stand up and speak on behalf of the Tea Party movement to proclaim that we did not come out and march under the banner "Don't Tread on Me" so that we could be hitched once again under the yoke of the "common good" as determined by politicians in Washington.
I can live with Romney as the Republican candidate. While he won't be a staunchly reliable defender of freedom, he will at least respond pragmatically to outside political pressure, giving pro-liberty grass roots activists a chance to keep the ideological momentum in our favor. But in Santorum we would be up against a self-righteous crusader against individualism who looks down on the cantankerously independent spirit summed up in that motto on the Gadsden flag.
A few commentators on the right are beginning to wake up to the idea that Santorum is an enemy of liberty and the standard bearer for a spiritual nanny state. We need to do everything we can to spread the word to Republican voters before Super Tuesday, and we should hope that the Romney campaign discovers this message and learns how to hammer it home.
The need is urgent. Santorum delenda est.
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