Jennifer Rubin, Right Turn, Washingtonpost.com
Don’t laugh, but Rick Santorum is making the rounds of conservative dead-tree magazines (he already spoke to National Review and is reportedly heading over to the Weekly Standard after Thanksgiving), trying out his I-told-you-so’s and, one would presume, selling himself as the next great hope of the conservative movement. I know. It’s preposterous. (If you thought a 3-point loss for Mitt Romney was bad, imagine the blowout had Santorum been the nominee.)
With unintentional hilarity, he wags his finger at donors who “don’t know how to win.” Umm, look who’s talkin’. This comes from the man (with a sneer and a snarl) who is determined to root out gay marriage, who doesn’t want women in the military, who told a gay U.S. serviceman during a debate that we shouldn’t “recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege” (What the heck was he talking about??), who wrote a book scolding women for putting material desires and careers over stay-at-home-mothering, who declared American decline to be the work of the devil, who ridiculed mainline Christian churches, who decided to relitigate whether contraception is harmful to women, who was repulsed by John F. Kennedy’s speech on religious tolerance, who took a sledgehammer to Texas Gov. Rick Perry on immigration reform (as did Romney, and we know how that turned out); who advocates a tax code that plays favorites among sectors of the economy — and who wants to be taken seriously. Well, I guess we all need a hobby.
Santorum has been the prime example of a sclerotic right-wing mindset that thrills to the idea of setting back the clock 50 years, thinks the “Reagan coalition” is still there and is convinced that hollering at all but the most pristine conservatives is the way to go.
The problem, as I have said many times, is generational. Santorum speaks in a tone and presents views that are not the reflection of 21st-century conservatives dedicated to the expansion of liberty or to charting a new course (that would include winning presidential elections) in a diverse electorate. In my experience most of the under-40 crowd in the GOP and right-leaning media get that.
I don’t think that Santorum is going to get much footing (although his reappearance should be a reminder that Iowa needs to get booted out of the driver’s seat in the presidential primary process), unless Republicans decide to commit mass suicide. (More scolding! Less inclusion!) In tone and topic choice, he is where the Republican Party must not go if it is to stay in the game.
It would be helpful for constructive conservative media not to ingrain the preaching-to-the-choir (and lecturing everyone else) tendencies of the right. Perhaps if they challenge Santorum and others on their rhetoric and views, the go-right-go-harsh, hardest-line pols will show a glimmer of self-awareness or even concede that what hard-core conservatives have been doing hasn’t worked.
It is the holiday season, and most working GOP pols are stressing over the fiscal cliff, so Santorum is probably smart to get conservative outlets when others are busy. But as the right moves forward from 2012 , it would be a service to the conservative moment to, rather than featuring the dead wood from the GOP’s past, help call attention to promising stars and innovative lawmakers — so that print magazines can be contributors to a conservative renaissance and not undertakers for the GOP.