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Santorum is a Changed Man

rick-santorum-smiling-glowing

Since Rick Santorum last sought to be the Republican presidential candidate, something changed in him. That is the way he seems to me. I’ve interviewed him a few times over the years. I’ve read his books. In the last year I’ve had opportunity to interview him twice and a long conversation off the record once.

In the past I was not especially convinced that he would be a great presidential choice in spite of the fact that our politics often tracked together. Talking to him today, however, he seems different. Similar wine but better aged. He seems more comfortable “in his skin” as people say. He has always been one of the most articulate voices for social conservatism. But he is now becoming equally articulate on issue of political economy.

He is now a serious advocate for blue collar workers and is one of the most articulate champions of how America can renew its heavy manufacturing industries. Some are calling him an economic populist. Sometimes that is code for unprincipled. This means “just give the masses what they want and if you can’t get anything substantial for them keep them angry and hopeful by feeding them red meat with your rhetoric. Santorum will have to deal with the conflict between what is called free trade and what unions call “fair trade”.  The related issues have to do with how open should America be to foreign imports.  How can we encourage American companies to find workers in the U.S. rather than New Delhi or Singapore? What are optimal tariffs and intolerable trade imbalances? These are not the issues most social conservatives agonize over.

He might change that.

On the other hand, Santorum might be able to increase his support beyond social conservativism. This is absolutely necessary. Let me be clear: America will not elect a candidate whose primary issues are abortion, gay rights, religious liberty. This has been known for a long time but I still hear people saying that if we just had an articulate champion for the unborn the American people would elect him. This is not going to happen as much as I believe that abortion is the morally defining issue of this generation like race was the morally defining issue of last generation. The American people, even though over half now call themselves “pro-life”,  simply don’t care about the issue enough for it to be a deal-maker or deal breaker.  Only about 7 percent think abortion is a major political issue that could decide their vote. Homosexual so-called marriage may be a moot civil issue after the Supreme Court decision [moot for society, never moot for the Church] but candidates who put opposition to same-sex so-called marriage out front will probably not be able to even win the Republican nomination. They may win some primaries but they won’t get the nomination if they make opposition to homosexual marriage near the top of their concerns. It is absolutely lethal. The hatred from the other side and their money will no longer respect even private moral opposition to same sex marriage. They will humiliate, embarrass and if possible get you fired for your position. Remember the new CEO of Mozilla. He lasted a week when it was learned he had given a thousand dollars to Californias Prop 8 campaign. This fellow never believed that homosexuality should ever be an issue in the workforce. It was irrelevant for his public life. Nevertheless, Mozilla fired him within a week and then said what a wonderful world this is with the Internet because we can discuss these things openly. This wasn’t a discussion it was a high tech lynching.

All this to say, Rick Santorum is more practical and wide ranging in his political interests than he seemed to be in the past. He is more comfortable with himself. For what it’s worth, I believe his spirituality, which has always been important to him, seems more winsome and friendly than years ago.  I hope his time hasn’t passed because we need statesmen more than we need politicians running for office and Rick now seems to me more of a statesman.

For additional reading, check out this piece by John Burger from Aleteia.org:

Santorum Comes Out Swinging in Second Bid for Republican Presidential Nomination

– Al Kresta

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