As Rick Santorum Fades

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum has been running for President for a year now, but most Americans don’t know much about him, except that he is a Christian conservative. He put enormous energy into Iowa, speaking before hundreds of small audiences, but languishing in the polls. When Iowans and the rest of America discovered what better known and better funded Republican candidates were offering, Santorum suddenly leaped into national prominence. He describes himself as one of the most conservative senators in Pennsylvania’s history. As a public service, I offer an outline of what he means.

Santorum’s working life has overwhelmingly been in Washington. After getting a law degree, he ran for the House in Pennsylvania in 1990 at age 32. In 1994 he won a Senate seat, which he retained in 2000. In 2006, he lost badly to Bob Casey. Since then he has served on the boards of directors of Pennsylvania companies whose fortunes he promoted while in Congress, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for part-time work.

Extreme positions on social issues have shaped Santorum’s political identity. He opposes abortions even in cases of rape or incest, and favors prosecuting doctors who perform them. He opposes contraception, recently telling ABC’s Jake Tapper that he disagreed with the 1965 Supreme Court decision in Griswold vs. Connecticut, which struck down that state’s ban on contraception: “I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that. The state has the right to pass whatever statues they have.”

Santorum signed a pledge crafted by Personhood USA, which believes that the IUD, the morning-after pill, and the birth control bill should be banned. In October he said, “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Santorum is also noted for his stance on homosexuality, which he recently compared to polygamy, bestiality and sex with children.

Santorum opposes virtually all forms of union activity. On his website he advocates cutting funding for the National Labor Relations Board. In the Fox News-Google presidential debate, he said he didn’t believe local, state or federal government workers “should be involved in unions.” He added, “And I would actually support a bill that says that we should not have public employee unions for the purposes of wages and benefits to be negotiated.”

steve hochstadtSantorum has promoted the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. In 2001, Santorum sought to amend the No Child Left Behind legislation so that students should hear “competing scientific interpretations of evidence,” including “such alternative theories as intelligent design.” This provision, written with the assistance of the Discovery Institute, came to be known as the “Santorum Amendment”. In 2005, a federal court ruled that the Discovery Institute pursued religious goals, and that intelligent design was a form of creationism and not a scientific proposition.

In an interview with Rush Limbaugh this past June, he called global warming “junk science” cynically promoted by liberals out to control people’s lives. He also blames liberals for the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic church.

Santorum, like other Republican candidates, favors cutting the taxes of the rich. He wants to retain the current low tax rate on capital gains, cut corporate taxes in half, and eliminate all corporate taxes for manufacturing corporations. He supported the Bush plan to privatize Social Security and continues to support this idea for younger workers.

When he looks at the bottom of the economic ladder, Santorum’s opposition to welfare for poor people appears to shade into racist assumptions. Despite the fact that whites are the overwhelming majority of welfare recipients, Santorum said just before the Iowa caucuses, “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.”

Steve HochstadtIn foreign policy, his proposals lie at the extreme end of Republican proposals. On his website, he “refuses to negotiate on any level with the terrorist state of Iran” and advocates “the authorization of targeted air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities”, in order to “eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat immediately”. Just before the Iowa caucuses, he told NBC’s Meet the Press that if he’s elected president, he would bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, unless they were opened for international arms inspectors. He is not interested in working with countries whose policies he doesn’t like: he advocates eliminating the post of US Ambassador to Syria and cutting the US contribution to the UN in half.

Santorum may have already reached the height of his popularity. Tracking polls show him dropping in the last few days, likely to come in fifth in New Hampshire with 8% and third in South Carolina with 19%. Perhaps his political proposals came 50 years too late.

Steve Hochstadt
Taking Back Our Lives 

Published by the LA Progressive on January 10, 2012
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About Steve Hochstadt

Steve Hochstadt is professor of history at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, and author of Sources of the Holocaust (2004) and Exodus to Shanghai: Stories of Escape from the Third Reich (2012), both from Palgrave Macmillan. He writes a weekly column for the Jacksonville (IL) Journal-Courier and blogs for the History News Network. "His latest work is presented at www.stevehochstadt.com."

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