Santorum an unworthy heir

By Matthew Gagnon,
Posted Jan. 05, 2012, at 5:30 p.m.

Is this really the best we can come up with?

Being the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney has been a game of musical chairs for more than a year now, and finally, mercifully, the music has stopped and there is one person left sitting down: Rick Santorum.

But if Santorum is considered a conservative simply because he is not Mitt Romney, than the Goldwater-Reagan tradition of the party is truly dead.

In an interview with Reason Magazine in 1975, Ronald Reagan said, “I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.” To him, being a conservative was about a belief in limited government and individual freedom to pursue success.

The primary goal of conservatism should be to limit the government’s involvement in our lives, because people and local communities are better able to manage their own affairs than bureaucrats in Washington.

Republicans abandoned this tradition during the Bush administration. Under the guise of a supposedly “compassionate” version of the movement, Republicans destroyed budgets by undertaking a binge of spending as they engineered the federal takeover of education, expanded entitlements, created entirely new federal departments, spent lavishly on pork and threw money at their pet causes.

When debt, spending and jobs became the primary concern of every American, the long-dormant limited government crowd reasserted itself, and proved that there was still an appetite for that old, decidedly more individualist brand of conservatism.

This band of rabble-rousers was revolting not only against the Democratic hegemony in Washington, but also the egregiously nonconservative activities of the Republican Party in the 2000s. The resurgent right seemed to have come to a consensus that their more libertarian-oriented instincts were the ones to follow.

This new consensus wants to vote for a presidential candidate, and all of the most acceptable candidates have taken a pass on the race; hence the seemingly endless parade of conservative alternatives.

Now that Iowa has finally come, there is one man left standing as the supposed conservative standard bearer. The problem is that man — Santorum — is a different and more offensive breed of anti-conservative than Romney.

Name one thing from the Bush era that is anathema to conservatives, and Rick Santorum not only voted for it, he was part of the leadership team that ensured its passage. No Child Left Behind? Check. Medicare part D? Check. Bridge to nowhere? Check. K Street Project? Check. Serial abuser of earmarks? Check.

But it is perhaps his obsessive focus on social issues and the twisted logic he uses to push his social agenda that are most disturbing.

Decrying what he calls the “libertarianish right” and “this whole idea of personal autonomy,” Santorum believes that liberty is not found in the right of individuals to decide what is best for ourselves, but “the freedom to attend to your duties” to God and family. Whatever that means.

In a 2006 interview Santorum said, “I do not believe that people should be empowered to do what pleases them the most. We have a responsibility beyond ourselves.” He then sneered at the concept that Americans have a right to do what they personally wish to do, so long as it doesn’t harm others. The government, he argued, can not allow such amoral behavior simply as a matter of individual freedom.

“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before,” he said in October, “is I think the dangers of contraception in this country.” He went on. “It’s not OK. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

These are the musings of a person who very much likes government power and wants to use it.

Santorum doesn’t want the government small, he wants it to do what he perceives as social good. Like his leftist kin across the aisle, he knows that a toothless government can’t do that, and that is why he has been such a strong advocate of big government in his career.

The credo of the Reagan Revolution was that government was the problem, not the solution. Santorum believes that the government is indeed the solution, it is simply the solution to different problems. The problems he cares about.

That should make every conservative deeply uncomfortable.

Matthew Gagnon, a Hampden native, is a Republican political strategist. He previously worked for Sen. Susan Collins and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. You can reach him at matthew.o.gagnon@gmail.com and read his blog at www.pinetreepolitics.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/01/05/opinion/contributors/santorum-an-unworthy-heir/ printed on September 23, 2014