Rick Santorum’s rise means the GOP must fight– and lose– the culture war

Rick Santorum’s rise means the GOP must fight– and lose– the culture war

Is the rise of Rick Santorum more proof the Republican party is a bit out of touch?

Real Clear Politics' tracking of the GOP race for the nomination show Rick Santorum out to a clear lead in nationwide polling. The RCP average shows Santorum up 33.8% to 28.0% over Mitt Romney with Gingrich and Paul showing 14% and 12.2% respectively. Rasmussen Reports has the Santorum lead over Mitt as large as 12% points; Gallup shows a 10% point lead, with CNN, CBS and Pew all showing a Santorum lead of roughly 2.5% over Romney.

Santorum even has a lead in Michigan, the state Mitt Romney grew up in. According to the Christian Science Monitor and NBC News, if Romney is unable to win Michigan, where his father was governor and an auto executive, GOP insiders say they need to find another candidate.

And it’s pretty clear that other candidate is not Rick Santorum. Polling shows a big problem for Santorum and that problem is women. According to a CNN poll released last week, Romney beats Santorum by nine percentage points among Republican women. Having difficulties with Republican women only demonstrates Santorum will have a tough time getting independent suburban soccer moms to vote him into office in the general election (ask John McCain how having Sarah Palin helped him with soccer moms back in 2008).

But worse than the loss of the soccer mom vote, is the culture war the GOP will start by nominating Rick Santorum– who before losing his Senate seat in 2006, was the most outspoken social conservative in Congress.

In the general election, Santorum brings too much baggage. His socially conservative positions will make the election a culture war that Obama can easily win, especially if the economy is on the upswing (which it looks to be, if $5.00 a gallon gasoline doesn’t stall it– how a president can possibly win reelection if gasoline is at $5.00 a gallon is a whole other post).

Rick Santorum is against gay marriage, against contraception, and against a woman’s right to choose. His own words on some of the issues show he is out of touch on things like contraception. He once described contraception as: "a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be done." He described women in the workplace as being something brought to our society from "the radical feminists [who] succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness."

The key problem with Rick Santorum and his beliefs is that he– and people who think like him– is the one to decide "how things are supposed to be done." From contraception to the definition of a family. For example, the definition of family has changed over the course of my lifetime. For example, interracial marriage is now "socially acceptable" with 15% of marriages in the United States in 2010 being defied as interracial.

In 1967, interracial marriage was illegal– a felony punishable by five years in prison in Virginia. It was not until the Supreme Court of the United States heard Loving v. Virginia, in 1967, that people of different races were legally free to marry in the United States.

Rick Santorum as the GOP standard bearer changes the issue from Obama’s handling of the economy to social issues like a woman’s right to choose and contraception. The question then becomes does the nation want a man like Santorum who thinks he should decide how people are supposed to do things in their bedroom? It almost doesn’t matter who Santorum runs against– it becomes a referendum on the challenger rather than one on Obama.

There are three very recent reasons why the Republican Party does not want to have this culture war: Washington State’s affirmation of marriage by allowing "gay marriage"; JC Penney’s hiring of Ellen as its spokesperson and the backlash against anti-Ellen boycott; and the recent about-face on funding for Planned Parenthood by Susan G. Komen for a Cure Foundation. All three of these recent instances prove that as America ages– as our older generations die– we find socially conservative positions against "gay marriage", against homosexuals having a place in our society and against a woman’s right to reproductive choice– and right for low income women to have access to basic health care like mammograms– is dying off with them.

I keep putting "gay marriage" in quotes because my wife read to me a quotation I’ve seen of Facebook about marriage:

"It’s very dear to me, the issue of gay marriage, or as I like to call it: ‘Marriage.’ You know because I had lunch this afternoon; not gay lunch. I parked my car; I didn’t gay park it."

I can’t agree more. I’ve often said, if you want to "save" marriage, make it more difficult to get divorced or better yet, more difficult to get married. Two women down my block do absolutely nothing to demean my marriage. If anything, their marriage should make mine stronger. If two women are willing to fight for the right to do something that any drunk heterosexual couple can do on a whim in Las Vegas, then maybe the problem with marriage isn’t gay marriage, but our society’s willingness to regularly allow people to do something so important on a whim– drunk or otherwise. It is patently unfair that our society will allow rights to be given to a heterosexual couple that has known each other for three weeks and not allow a homosexual couple that has been together for three decades the same rights.

Recently, another self-proclaimed "family values" group calling themselves the Million Moms, have attempted to organize a boycott JC Pennys for its hiring of Ellen Degeneres as its spokesperson. The group claims JC Pennys undermines traditional values by hiring an openly gay person as its spokesperson. In response to the Million Moms’ boycott of JC Penny, Ellen Degeneres said:

I usually don’t talk about stuff like this on my show. But I really want to thank everyone who is supporting me. And if you don’t know me very well, if you’re just watching maybe for the first time or you’re just getting to know me I want to be clear. And here are the values that I stand for. I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need. To me those are traditional values, that’s what I stand for.

For as well as he has done over the last month in debates and on the stump, the GOP knows it cannot have Rick Santorum as its nominee. Rick Santorum will not win the presidency because Rick Santorum stands with people boycotting JC Penny. He stands with people who defund Planned Parenthood. He stands with people who believe a woman’s place is in the home. He stands with people who believe an aspirin should be used as birth control by women keeping an aspirin between their knees when on a date to assure her legs won’t open (Santorum’s major funder, Foster Friess, actually said that on national television).

The rise of Rick Santorum means instead of a fight it can win on the economy– a race not only it can win, but a race it has set up by doing little, if anything, to help this president with the economy over his three years in office– it will be forced to wage a culture war it knows it is not only bound to lose, but will also put its brand back 40 years.

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  • If Santorum does win the nomination, it will be a battle of the centuries: the 21st versus the 12th.

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