The Dangers of Rick Santorum’s Blue Collar Conservatism

Ever since the 1980s (the era of Reagan), the Republican Party has consisted of two groups. One, the economic conservatives; two, the religious conservatives. The latter favor limited government in economics, with activist government in religious matters (abortion, gay relationships, prayer in schools, tax money to fund “faith-based” programs, etc.)

With the domination of Washington DC by Obama and the Democratic Party, you’d think Republicans would begin to unite. However, just the opposite seems to be happening. At least if religiously conservative spokesman Rick Santorum (who ran for President in 2012 and likely will again, in 2016) is any indication.

“Look, I think there’s a lot of common ground between libertarians [i.e. economic conservatives] and conservatives,” Santorum said in a recent Fox Business interview, “but I also think there’s a lot of common ground between libertarians and liberals.”

On limited government, Santorum added, “I think the libertarians are going in the right direction, except they go a little too far in that direction — and, you know conservatism is not about no government.” [Fox Business Network interview, 5/15/14]

It’s this last phrase you ought to note: “Not about no government.”

It’s always worrisome when a politician talks vaguely about what government may or may not do. You had better believe such a politician intends to fill that void with some kind of unjustified power. He knows it, which is why he’s vague in the first place.

Santorum claims “it’s OK to have strong opinions, so long as you don’t go too far with them.” How far is too far? What’s the objective stopping point? No definition is given. You’re simply to wait until he’s in office, and then you’ll know.

Consider this the religious right’s equivalent of, “You’ll have to pass the law to find out what’s in it.”

You might think that Santorum means he wants limited government in economics, with expansive government in cultural or moral issues. While he undoubtedly wants the latter (and made that clear in 2012), he doesn’t necessarily want “Reaganomics” or anything close to it.

Consider this excerpt from Santorum’s book “Blue Collar Conservatives.” Santorum writes,

Since Ronald Reagan came to Washington and launched the supply-side revolution, Republican economic policy could be expressed in one word—growth. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” as we like to say, quoting that earlier tax cutter John F. Kennedy. The theory is that by helping those at the top—the people who start businesses and create jobs— we help those at the bottom. (p. 51)

The tide is rising, but many boats have holes of various sizes—for example, a lack of skills or experience, an unstable family, or no high school degree. They are sinking or are stuck on a sand bar. Lower-wage workers see the rich getting richer, but they feel poorer. Democrats are fond of saying that all the Republican talk about a “rising tide” really amounts to “trickle-down economics.” That accusation may be shortsighted and not entirely fair, but we have to admit that for the people at the bottom, that’s what it feels like these days—just a trickle. (p. 53)

How is this any different from what Obama or any other Democrat would say?

The basic question about people “stagnating at the bottom” is this: Are they stagnating because of their own failures, or because of the government? If the government is to blame, then what is the government doing to make it so difficult?

How does the economy grow, Mr. Santorum? Does it grow by government regulations, redistribution, taxation and subsidies, combined with manipulation of the currency, as Obama assumes? Or does it grow by the protection of private property by government and the operation of a totally free market system? Are we stagnating because we have too much capitalism, or too little?

The conservative answers to these questions have always been pretty clear. Following through in action has been another story, but at least the theory was always clear.

If you think about it, Santorum’s “pro-family” attitude is entirely consistent with his turning against Reagan’s brand of “get the government off the backs of the people” kind of conservatism.

To be “pro-family” and “pro-religion” is to be anti-individual, at least when these attitudes are applied to politics and society. Santorum wants the individual to give up his own self for the sake of these blue collar/socially conservative ideals. In this respect, he’s no different from Obama. While Obama and Santorum have their differing preferences with regard to whom they wish to sacrifice the individual to, they’re alike in one key respect: The individual plays second fiddle (at best) to the group, and the group’s will shall be upheld by the force of government.

So much for “libertarian,” conservative or anything like that. Were it not for his hostility to gays and abortion, Rick Santorum would be perfectly at home in the Democratic Party. This is what passes as an alternative to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton

It doesn’t seem too likely that Santorum will win the Republican nomination for President, and even less likely he’ll win the Presidency. But where he’s trying to take the Republican Party shows us something about the kind of choice we’ll be facing in elections yet to come.

Freedom for all can only happen with freedom for all individuals. Beware of anyone on the “left” or “right” claiming otherwise.

  • BlowtorchOfReason

    Rick Santorum should never be considered a serious contender for any elected office. He is just a member of the American Christian Taliban.

  • patriotmom61

    You clearly did NOT read this book, and if you did, you’re misrepresenting it horribly. NO where, absolutely nowhere does Santorum call for bigger government, for government intrusion into our lives. The Utopian purist ideology of Libertarianism is just that, ideology that only works in theory, not in practice. America has never been a Libertarian society. We weren’t founded that way and those who seek to push this flawed faux version of conservatism are, like Obama, trying to fundamentally transform us into something we are not nor ever have been. There are things the government must do and things the government can do. Talking about the importance of faith and family as foundations of a free and civil society does NOT mean government programs. Using the megaphone of the presidency to talk about these issues does NOT mean government programs. Just the opposite. Libertarians are really good at twisting and distorting facts.
    And for the record, Libertarianism does not equal Conservatism. In fact, Libertarians have more in common with the Left than they do with traditional conservatives. In this sense, Libertarians are social progressives. You can not authentically be for smaller government if you are not also a social conservative. The breakdown of the home, of the family, of the community creates a societal fissure calling for government entitlement programs to fill in the gap. Look at the communities where there are single moms and no dads around. You see big government everywhere. Rick Santorum understands that issues are not individual silos; they are all interconnected. Moral and cultural issues are inextricably interwoven into our economic ones. That’s a plain fact. No one has done more to move people out of government dependency than Rick Santorum. He authored, debated, and managed through to successful passage the most historic piece of legislation ever to end a federal entitlement: The Welfare Reform Act of 1995. If you truly knew anything about the Senator, you’d know that he has fought against government overreach across the board. The fact that he has his finger on the pulse of middle America, the backbone and lifeblood of American society and our economy, really scares Libertarians (and establishment bosses alike) and has the Democrat Party shaking in their boots. So his brand of conservatism is a “danger” — only in the sense that he poses the single biggest threat to the candidates they are pushing right now for 2016. Should he run in 2016, prepare for a landslide victory fueled by the everyday American voter who knows he is on their side too.

  • writeby

    Hurd dismisses the Libertarians, as well. (Note: He’s an Objectivist.)

    “So much for “libertarian,” conservative or anything like that.”

    As for conservatives:

    Conservatives believe in concepts based on or derived from experience (rights; liberty; justice; capitalism; logic; cause & effect; etc.) but built on fundamental *supernatural* concepts:

    1. METAPHYSICS: A supernatural mind *must* have thought existence into being because existence is ordered (See: Genesis; Argument from Design).

    2. EPISTEMOLOGY: Because man’s mind is capable of error; his senses unreliable; his human nature fallen; there *must* be a perfect mind whose ideas *are* infallibly correct, on which ideas men can base their own (See: Faith; Original Sin; mind-body dichotomy).

    The secular supernaturalists today learned all they know from the religionists:

    METAPHYSICS: Reality is created by the collective minds of men (See: Hegel; social constructivistism; “Reality is negotiable.” –Lobbyists, 1980s).

    EPISTEMOLOGY: Two variants–elegant self-contained theories unrelated to experience (See Cartesian rationalists; Marx; Positivism, Einstein’s curvature of space & String Theory) or intentional dis-integration (See Kant, Dewey, New (& angry) Left’s nihilism).

    The political cause and effect is as follows: The primacy of consciousness religious metaphysics of Neo-Platonic Idealism (evasion), the religious epistemology of faith (emotionalism) and the ego hating Judeo-Christian ethics of self-sacrifice (rationalization) make possible the irrational politics of socialism.

    No, you say, Platonic Idealism/Neo-Platonic Christianity cannot lead to collectivism/socialism?

    “The best ordered state will be one in which the largest number of persons … most nearly resembles a single person. The first and highest form of the State … is a condition in which the private and the individual is altogether banished from life, and things which are by nature private, such as eyes and ears and hands, have become common, and in some way see and hear and act in common, and all men express praise and blame and feel joy and sorrow on the same occasion, and whatever laws there are unite the city to the utmost …” (Plato’s _Republic_ & _Laws_ c. 370 BCE)

    Matthew 6:24: ‘No one can serve two masters. He will either hate the one and love the other, or will follow the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and ego.’”

    Religious supernaturalism is the causal agent of socialism and once socialism reaches the stage of totalitarianism (complete nihilism)–irony of ironies–religion is the alternative people seek as their haven against it

    Thinking that conservatism is a defense of freedom is like believing that Judas would’ve acted as a good defense attorney for Jesus before Pilate.