Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Marty Robins Headshot

Santorum Won't Bring Back Agnew! Wake Up Repubs; It's 2012, Not 1968!

Posted: Updated:

Amidst all of the controversy surrounding Sen. Rick Santorum's apparent rise in the polls is one fundamental question: Are any of his core beliefs important to the country or to enough voters to matter? Senator Santorum makes no secret of his emphasis on social issues such as gay marriage, contraception, sodomy and alleged "radical feminism."

Many take issue with him, and many agree with his stances. Some lament the allegedly disparate treatment shown to him by the media when compared with that of President Obama.

However, what we must be asking as we move forward with the Republican nomination contest is whether his signature issues and positions are (i) important to the country and (ii) sufficiently important to enough voters to make him a realistic alternative to President Obama in November. This writer strongly believes that President Obama is doing a poor job and needs to be replaced in the November election to facilitate economic improvement and an enhanced national mood. This does not mean replacing him with just anyone, which will not happen in any event. Republicans need to offer a viable alternative who will give realistic hope to voters that their lot will improve in tangible ways from a leadership change.

It is here that Sen. Santorum falls short of the mark. Whatever one thinks of his positions, it is hard to see why they are important to the country in any manner. Can someone -- even one who is personally opposed to gay marriage or gays in general -- identify a specific benefit in the foreseeable future associated with preventing gays from marrying or discouraging them from openly carrying on their relationships? One can argue that 'preservation' of the institution of marriage will in some way strengthen national resolve over the long term, but it impossible to prove such point, let alone indicate when such benefits will accrue.

It is impossible to credibly argue that by preventing (or encouraging) gays to marry, any jobs will be created or preserved, any financial institution will be made stronger, any useful invention will occur, or any attack will be repelled during the lifetime of anyone reading this piece. As this writer has noted, if Sen. Santorum has reason to believe that President Obama or anyone else is seeking to force anyone to participate in a gay marriage, they have quite a story; if not, it is of little relevance to the country.

More broadly, it is impossible to identify any benefit to anyone from regulating peoples' bedroom activities. Once again, whatever one thinks of someone else's lifestyle, so long as it is not imposed upon them, how does regulating it provide any benefit?

Similarly, even if one agrees with the long-discredited proposition that women should not be encouraged to pursue professional careers, it is today legally impossible for Sen. Santorum or anyone else to prevent them from doing so. Equally important, how can anyone with a straight face argue that such careers are to blame for events such as our financial crash and ensuing Great Recession or Sept. 11? Simply put, they have nothing to do with each other. Railing against 'radical feminism' seems more pertinent (if it is or ever was pertinent at all) to the 1968 or 1972 campaigns than it does to the 2012 campaign. Supporters of Sen. Santorum may be quite disappointed when they learn that Spiro Agnew's Ghost is not eligible to be his running mate, but this should not cause the rest of the party to try to re-create the events or positions of 40 years ago in any other respect.

Reasonable minds can differ as to the origin of our current problems, but it is impossible to rationally argue about any role played by feminism, radical or otherwise. In any event, how is opposition to any brand of feminism supposed to bolster Republicans' appeal to women voters? Can someone explain how the election is to be won with galvanized opposition from women?

Making the Senator's position even more anomalous is his railing (in Mr. McGurn's linked column above) against the president's alleged support for 'radical Islam.' This is absurd on its face when one considers the suicidal, genocidal consequences of genuine radical Islam in the Middle East, but it is nonsensical when one realizes that radical Islam openly favors the subjugation of women. I suspect that even those favoring radical Islam are insulted when their approach is deemed to be consistent with radical feminism.

Undoubtedly, there are many, perhaps even a majority of voters, who agree with the senator's positions on social issues. This does not mean that they will vote for him over the president. It is one thing to grumble about alleged or actual social deterioration. It is quite another to vote on it.

I have trouble believing that even if one agrees that gay marriage, radical feminism, etc. are undesirable in themselves, that they will ultimately identify their own self interest with adoption of Sen. Santorum's positions on these issues. I think it much more probable that they will for the most part ask themselves whether they, their children or their pocketbooks will benefit in any way from adoption of these positions.

Perhaps in prosperous times, people feel that can afford to vote on these matters. Today, it seems questionable that someone will pay more heed to the activities of strangers in their own bedrooms than to their own prospects to obtain or retain a job, educate their children, have a secure retirement or remain physically safe.

I submit that Republicans are confusing their agreement with Sen. Santorum on various issues with a propensity to vote for him. The missing link in the analysis is a realistic assessment that these issues will dictate in a positive way the votes of a majority of voters, especially those outside the Republican mainstream, in pivotal states. A recent column in this space indicates that zeal for ideological purity may lead us to 'four more years' of failed policies.

While this writer is hardly a disciple of James Carville, the wizened Democratic strategist, at this time in such an important campaign, one can do worse than to heed his famous admonition that 'It's the economy, stupid!' Let's concentrate on winning a pivotal election and not on ideological purity, and give voters credit for rationally identifying and acting upon their own interests, and give them a candidate who does the same.

Around the Web

Rick Santorum Defuses Time Bomb of Social Issues in CNN Debate ...

Rick Santorum and the Social Issues « Commentary Magazine

Rick Santorum and more: How social issues intruded on 2012 ...

Late Night: Bill Maher rips Rick Santorum, GOP on social issues ...

Rick Santorum: Happy Culture Warrior Talks Social Issues ...

  Obama Romney
Obama Romney
332 206
Obama leading
Obama won
Romney leading
Romney won
Popular Vote
33 out of 100 seats are up for election. 51 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Holdover
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats* Republicans
Current Senate 53 47
Seats gained or lost +2 -2
New Total 55 45
* Includes two independent senators expected to caucus with the Democrats: Angus King (Maine) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
All 435 seats are up for election. 218 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats Republicans
Seats won 201 234
Click for Full Results