Campfire Blog

Why Does Santorum Have the Republican and Democratic Establishments on Edge?

His authentic post-partisan attitude is appealing to an increasing number of Americans who want plain talk, not platitudes

Rick Santorum—surging in key states like Michigan, Ohio, and Texas—has the elites on edge, whether they’re Democratic or Republican. Maybe it’s because, as David Brooks has noted, he represents a “viewpoint that is being suppressed by the political system,” a system that has worn out most Americans.

What kind of viewpoint is that? Jon Ward, a senior political reporter at the Huffington Post, says that Santorum espouses “compassionate conservatism [with] a libertarian twist.” It’s essential to cut taxes and slash the size of government—but that’s not enough, Santorum argues.

America needs to strengthen civic institutions, families, and small businesses, using incentives and freedom, not mandates and control, he says. In addition to repealing Obamacare and reducing the federal budget, he proposes tripling the tax credit for children to help families thrive, reducing the manufacturing tax to zero to spur job growth, and slashing regulations that favor the big guys and hurt small businesses.

Santorum’s conservatism says if we have strong families, churches, synagogues, communities, we will not have to depend on Big Government, Big Finance, Big Business. He suggests that this election is a turning point: Do we want to reclaim our independence, or will we continue our march toward increasing dependence on government, bureaucracy, and big corporations?

The establishment, which relies on dependence, is desperately grasping to maintain control: Mitt Romney, the creator of government-mandated healthcare in Massachusetts, is calling Santorum a liberal, saying he was a big government proponent. But the facts are otherwise: The National Taxpayers Union ranks Santorum as among the most fiscally conservative senators during his time in that chamber.

Liberal elites are trying to paint Santorum as some sort of radical conservative because he opposes abortion—which most Americans do. Or because he opposes redefining marriage—which is the same position President Obama holds. As Bill McGurn notes in the Wall Street Journal today, the difference is people know that Santorum actually means what he says. And from Arizona to Pennsylvania, they are finding this honest and authenticity to be refreshing.

It is President Obama who is a social radical, having opposed banning partial-birth abortion on the federal and state level. He did not even support protecting the born-alive infant protection act in Illinois.

And while Santorum stands for pluralism and religious freedom, it is President Obama who is interfering with the internal affairs of churches, telling employers they must pay for something they find morally abhorrent, despite what their church tells them. It is President Obama, not Santorum, who says his tax policy is carrying out the will of Jesus Christ.

Santorum’s conservatism is not of the knee-jerk variety that automatically defends every big company as God’s gift to the world. “Candidly, I believe most corporations actually don’t mind big government,” Santorum has said.

But this doesn’t put Santorum in the camp of moderates and elites. Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Gary Bauer have praised Santorum for consistently standing by conservative principles, from defending the sanctity of all human life to developing an intelligent national security policy.

Santorum can’t easily be labeled, which is why the media is struggling so hard to comprehend him. But despite the media’s mischaracterizations, his message is resonating with those Americans who are fed up with the old labels and partisan battle lines.

Even liberals are finding something appealing about Santorum’s authenticity:  The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky praised Santorum last month for the “spark of feeling” in his “politics that goes beyond ideology and beyond even ‘commitment,’ but into a place where our political selves and our real and full human selves collide.”

Santorum doesn’t litter his speeches with slogans about hope and change, but he talks from the heart, he knows where he stands, and he has a vision for an America where the people are free, where families flourish, and where prosperity is possible.

Watch Santorum’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference earlier this month, where (at about the 20 minute mark), he speaks about honor, a “term that nis not used very often inAmerica anymore” (22:06).

For more reading:

Read Bill McGurn on the media’s double standard for President Obama and Rick Santorum (1.5 pages/822 words).

Read Jon Ward’s Huffington Post piece describing how “Rick Santorum Gives George W. Bush’s Compassionate Conservatism a Libertarian Twist” (two pages/1,097 words).

Read the Weekly Standard on how Romney’s scurrilous criticism of Santorum’s fiscal record (one page/488 words).


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