Rick Santorum: “The Most Dangerous Man in the Room”

rick santorumThe not so decisive victory of Mitt Romney in Tuesday’s Iowa caucus has a lot of people talking about the guy he almost lost to, a certain former Senator from Pennsylvania named Rick Santorum. Whether or not Santorum has the ability to capitalize on his strong showing in Iowa going forward in the Republican presidential primaries is something I’ll leave to the pundits and the Republican rank-and-file, but there is something to be said about the candidate himself going into the general election, whether or not Santorum is the Republican nominee or not.

Although universally pinned as the “anti-birth control, anti-abortion, and anti-gay marriage ” candidate representing the Republican Party’s hard-right, none of those monikers really help explain why Santorum did so well in Iowa. What does is the continued emphasis that Santorum has put on rebuilding the United States’ declining manufacturing base, which, although it has shown some signs of life over the past few months, is still in a state of relative decline compared to where it was when Santorum entered the House of Representatives in 1991. Santorum talks a good game about manufacturing and this probably helped him in a state that has a relatively strong manufacturing sector and, like the rest of the country, a working class majority concerned with the erosion of American manufacturing and fears concerning China’s rise as an industrial power.

Make no mistake – Santorum is no friend of labor. Like the rest of the Republican field, he is an avowed enemy of the labor movement and of its aims. While a member of Congress, he racked up a 0 (zero being the worst, one hundred being the best) lifetime rating from the AFL-CIO on worker’s issues. He has consistently voted in favor of unfair trade deals (voting in favor of favored trade status with China, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, free trade with Chile, Singapore, Oman, and Andean nations, among others), voted twice against raising the minimum wage (in 1999 and 2005), supports the privatization of Social Security, and voted against ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.

His website declares that he wants to sign “5 free trade agreements ” his first year (God forbid) as President of the United States. With this kind of record, it seems ludicrous that Santorum has any appeal at all among blue collar voters, but the fact that he’s bringing manufacturing and industrial policy back on the agenda for this year’s election makes him the most dangerous man in the room from my perspective as an Obama voter.

Let’s not be fluid with the facts here – American manufacturing is making a bit of a recovery under President Obama, and it would be unfair to assert that Obama’s policies haven’t had anything to do with it. Under President Obama, we have made great strides towards actual enforcement of trade law and have had a miniscule (but still important) debate on the effect of Chinese currency manipulation on our industrial base. But it would be wrong and foolhardy for the Democrats not to counter Santorum’s appeal and ignore the issue of manufacturing. Santorum knows this, and that’s why he’s doing everything he can to use the issue as a bludgeon against not only the President, but against his own party’s likely standard-bearer, Mitt Romney.

The best way for Democrats going forward is to make manufacturing and good paying American jobs a priority for 2012 and beyond. Santorum’s voters don’t like Mitt Romney, but they’re going to have to have a good reason for them to pull the leaver for Obama over him in November. What better way to do that then to focus on American manufacturing as the centerpiece of the Democrats’ plan for economic recovery?

devin griggsIf Obama can follow up on the rhetoric of the campaign with actual, pro-manufacturing legislation (which would of course be generously helped out by a progressive majority in the House), he can win these voters back to the Democratic Party after long, painful decades in the political wilderness. America’s blue collar majority deserves better, and while it won’t get that under a President Santorum, it can certainly get it under a President Obama with a progressive majority in the House willing to do the right thing for the American worker.

Devin Griggs

Devin Griggs is a junior at Murray State University, where he is secretary of the College Democrats. The recipient of the 2011 Kentucky State AFL-CIO Youth Award, he is the son of Cliff Griggs, a member of USW local 9447-5.

Published by the LA Progressive on January 8, 2012
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About Devin Griggs

Devin Griggs is a junior at Murray State University, where he is secretary of the College Democrats. The recipient of the 2011 Kentucky State AFL-CIO Youth Award, he is the son of Cliff Griggs, a member of USW local 9447-5.

Comments

  1. Val Eisman says:

    Did you forget that Obama, too, with no pressures on him other than proving he could still move on things, signed the free trade agreement with S. Korea and Colombia? And when has Obama EVER followed through on his campiagn rhetoric?

    Biden put it very clearly to labor–if you don’t support us don’t expect any help from us. Yep, the working man represented by his unions doesn’t count unless his wages aka dues money goes into Obama’s campaign coffers. And still, labor gets screwed by the democrats over and over and over. Like Obama’s tax on union healthcare plans to pay for the costs that the healthcare industry won’t rein in.

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