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The Depressing Secret of Santorum’s Success

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Over the last few weeks, Rick Santorum, a two term senator from Pennsylvania who was defeated in a double digit rout during his 2006 reelection bid, has experienced a meteoric rise. Now the Republican presidential nomination’s frontrunner, he is banking on his self-created blue collar persona and a host of frighteningly right-wing social stances to defeat moderate former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Many seemingly bright members of America’s low-wattage media have been running around in circles trying to figure out exactly how such a sideshow candidate as Santorum has curried popular favor. A few think it because of the Roman Catholic Church’s never ending tantrum over having to provide employees with birth control coverage. Others assume that his picture perfect family image, which includes a grand total of eight children, appeals to traditionalist parents having a quiverfull themselves.

While some of the easily led might base their votes on either of these issues, neither works for anything remotely resembling a critical mass of Republicans. Indeed, Santorum’s appeal rests on what all politics boils down to: economics. Election returns have shown that the vast majority of his support is coming from regions in particularly dire straits. The poorly educated unemployed and underemployed identify with his blue collar persona, despite his having been raised in a distinctly white collar upper middle class household. A large number of his GOP fan base are Republicans because of socioreligious, rather than financial, issues. It’s only natural that they find Romney’s pragmatic business-oriented campaign to be thoroughly uninteresting.

Nonetheless, Santorum’s ability to merge cultural and fiscal matters into a resonating message is not the whole story. Many pundits have noted that a genuine dislike for Romney is building among lower income Republicans; particularly those with an annual income south of $35,000. These people see the former governor as the quintessential country clubber who cannot relate to them. Some might even equate him with the fellow who outsourced their manufacturing jobs to some third world country. Though completely irrational because Romney is is anything but a free trade fundamentalist, this perception is particularly damaging.

Nonetheless, Santorum’s camp has neverrelied on the human capacity for reason. If his core constituency consisted of lateral thinkers, they would see how left wing activists are so eager for a Santorum win that they are registering as Republicans to assure he’s elected. They would also ask themselves why he lost his race for a third senatorial term by a historical landslide. Alas, they will not do this because irrationalism is as irrationalism does.

It is just a shame that their collective disregard for reality is dragging the rest of the Republican Party down with them.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • John Lake

    Another very readable article from Mr. Cotto.
    I’m not altogether certain that Rick Santorum is the Republican frontrunner. But I certainly hope not. I see the fiasco that the Roman Catholic Church might have to pay for insurance for church employees, and these employees have the option of utilizing birth control as a non-issue. And in any case one nicely remedied by the folks in office. I’ve read that Santorum is Catholic, but he doesn’t seem to be typically Catholic. His kids were schooled at home.
    Having listened to several debates I again concede that Rick has little to offer beside his great familial persona. Who’s he have to beat in that arena? Newt. Not terribly challenging.
    I’m not up to producing a quote, but until I read your article I was of the impression that Santorum would be among the first to remove as many of the “entitlements” as possible. I also recall noting in an early debate that he was gung-ho to continue waterboarding and holding uncharged terror suspects for untold years.
    Irrationalism is as irrationalism does. Maybe those folks just don’t approve of placing a Mormon in office (which incidentally wouldn’t bother me at all.)
    In every election there is at least one candidate who, if he wins, I vow to go to Canada. Or further. This time around, Rick Santorum gets the nod on that one.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Joseph –

    If his core constituency consisted of lateral thinkers, they would see how left wing activists are so eager for a Santorum win that they are registering as Republicans to assure he’s elected.

    Reference, please. And I particularly want to see if this is driven by anyone of note, as Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos” certainly was.

    No offense, Joseph, but I have to call you on that one to see if you’ve a reliable reference, for I’ve found that all too often the conservatives’ proof of their accusation consists solely of “We Just Know It” and “Since we’ve done it, the liberals MUST be doing it!”

    Other than than, I enjoyed your article – and if Santorum wins, I won’t go to Canada – I’ll just remain here in the Philippines. That, and “irrationalism is as irrationalism does” – great quote – I like that!

  • John,

    Thank you. I strongly doubt that Santorum will ultimately win the nomination, and we all know that he has no chance of defeating Obama. This being said, I do not think that you will need to make any visa arrangements with the Canadian government.


    Your reference is this.

    Like I said to John, Santorum cannot feasibly win. My concern is his damaging the Republican brand in perpetuity.

  • For a person who worked in Congress for as long as Santorum to have so little endorsement from his former colleagues says that his candidacy is worse than anemic. What he needs is Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck to praise him publically so that he can collect the headlines and put them in his Hey, I Ran for President portfolio-scrapbook. At least he will be able to demand higher fees as a consultant and return to Fox triumphantly.


  • I stumbled onto Joseph’s blog, and was enthralled by his article on talk radio, as it mirrored some of my own views on the subject, and explored cogent and interesting aspects of the genre which had never entered my mind. I now find myself reading his review on the mechanics of Rick Santorum’s success, initially a rather irritating subject as interpreted by my psyche… Amusingly, I stumbled upon John Lake’s comment on the article, and laughed heartily when I read about his intentions of heading off to Canada if Rick is elected, which is in essence the image of a tweet I made a few weeks ago.
    I have since come to realize (as a left leaning independent) that with the paucity of legitimate GOP presidential contenders, that Rick representing the Republican Party would probably ensure President Obama’s victory this coming fall, something I am hoping for (as someone who deeply loves and appreciates this country). I believe the job he has done under the very difficult circumstances he encountered upon entry to the office has been a life saver for us, and hope he is afforded a chance to consummate his legacy,
    which can only happen if he is afforded a second term.
    Joseph, kudos to your insightful journalistic skills. You have picked up a follower.

    Louis Ruoti