Streams

Rick Santorum: Provocateur of the Right

Thursday, April 14, 2011

In the past, Rick Santorum had a habit of beating incumbent Democrats. His appeal against fellow Republicans, however, has yet to be tested. Until now: following Wednesday's announcement of the former Senator's "testing-the-waters committee," Santorum is officially joining the race for the race for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

Beginning his proper political career in 1990, Santorum unseated a seven-term Democrat to represent Pennsylvania's 18th district in the House of Representatives. He served at that post until 1994, when he won election to the U.S. Senate, taking out Democrat Harris Wofford after only one term. Santorum was re-elected in 2000, but couldn't survive a 2006 challenge from Democrat Bob Casey, Jr.

In a primary bid, Santorum probably has as much working against him as for him amongst conservatives. His disbelief in a Constitutional right to privacy and insistence on the sanctity of the traditional family combine to form an outspoken intolerance of homosexuality that goes further than the views expressed by other Republican candidates. In a 2002 op-ed, Santorum went so far as to partially excuse Catholic priests for sexual abuse because, "When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected."

He also has his name tied to intelligent design: the "Santorum Amendment" to the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act would have forced public schools to offer the creationist perspective in science classes, and to call into question the scientific evidence supporting evolution. That amendment was rejected.

During the lame-duck session of 2006, the Senator was also one of only two votes against confirming Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. Santorum's dissent offered a platform for him to denounce diplomatic engagement with Iran and Syria, and rail against the threat of "Islamic fascism," a term he coined himself. On foreign policy, he's to the right of most other Republican hopefuls, but Santorum's logic definitely has its audience.

Santorum stakes out another unpopular position in his advocacy for privatizing Social Security, but the idea has more footing with conservatives. Indeed, in the wake of Paul Ryan's budget proposal to make Medicare a private voucher system, market-based Social Security reform may in fact come into vogue for Republican voters.

As he considers seeking the GOP nomination, positives for Rick Santorum include his hard line on immigration (which includes calls to build a border barrier and immediately deport illegals), staunch opposition to abortion, support for practices at Guantanamo Bay, and backing of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in his efforts to impose anti-union austerity measures.

The negatives? Well, impassioned rhetoric aside, what immediately comes to mind is Santorum's unfortunate distinction as the namesake of a sexual neologism. A "Google problem" has haunted him for almost a decade...

It's unclear how much the association would actually hurt Santorum's presidential bid.

In GOP primary polls, the former Senator has seen a mixed bag. January surveys showed Pennsylvania Republicans placing Santorum in a third place tie with Newt Gingrich, trailing Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin by significant margins, and surpassing Mitt Romney by only two percent. However, in the last week Santorum came out on top in a Greenville County, South Carolina GOP straw poll. He made 14 visits to the state in advance of that vote.

Tags:

More in:

News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
Get the best of WNYC in your inbox, every morning.

Comments [1]

R.

When did "provocateur" become a synonym for "wanker"?

Apr. 14 2011 07:16 PM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.

Sponsored

About It's A Free Country ®

Archive of It's A Free Country articles and posts. Visit the It's A Free Country Home Page for lots more.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at revsonfoundation.org.

Feeds

Supported by