Green Room

Does Social Santorum Trump Fiscal Santorum?

posted at 5:56 am on January 7, 2012 by

It’s not an easy question for a non-conservative anti-liberal like myself to answer. First, I enthusiastically support some of Rick Santorum’s social positions — he promotes a more robust civil society; supports restricting legal marriage to traditional, one man-one woman; and he has offered bills to expand funding of adult stem-cell research and application.

But I recoil in horror from others, notably his demand that schools teach the “scientific alternative” to evolutionary biology (by which he means the thoroughly un-scientific and misnamed “intelligent design”); and he is completely opposed to embryonic stem-cell research funding, without consideration that such research can probably be done without destroying the embryos. (I’m using Wikipedia’s list of some of his positions, though I did backtrack as much as possible to the primary-source interviews and Santorum’s own site.)

But considering the second part of the question — whether his positions on social issues are so extreme as to drive me away, despite his fairly good fiscal and foreign policies (which are at least somewhat better than Romney’s) — I’m on firmer ground. Santorum supports House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI, 96%) spending-cut plan and pushes for moderate reforms to Medicare and Social Security, but nothing spectacular like privatization (too bad). On the foreign-policy front, he supports the War Against Radical Islamism (WARI) and wants to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites (good if he can pull it off, bad if he tries and fails).

So which side wins? Although I am appalled by what a friend of mine refers to as Santorum’s “Flat-Earth Catholicism,” I just don’t think it would ever come up in a Rick Santorum presidency, not substantively. I doubt any state is going to attempt to outlaw “sodomy,” adultery, or contraception; and even if it tried, surely the opinion of the POTUS would matter little if any in the ensuing court fight.

Where the social stances might really matter, however, is in the election itself. I’m not worried that President Santorum would install a “Nehemiah Scudder” style prophetic theocracy (though 2012 is the very year the Rev. Scudder takes over, according to Robert Heinlein’s “future history” timeline!); but a great many voters might fear just that. Irrational, yes; but elections rarely turn on rational and logical cogitation alone. Would Santorum’s goofier social stances so frighten away voters not on the religious right?

Yes, probably some. But how many? Fortunately, most of Santorum’s apostasies from the norms of modern thought are fairly technical in nature, such as the distinction between science and so-called “intelligent design,” which looms very large indeed within the real scientific community but likely induces nothing from the mass of voters but a puzzled “Eh?” Most of the social positions will just zoom along below the electoral radar.

I believe the biggest danger would be Santorum’s suggestion that, contrary to the Supreme Court’s decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, Americans have no fundamental right to privacy. Such a stance may make sense in a technical, legal sense, at least as the Court clumsily expressed the thought in the case in question; but the vast majority of Americans passionately believe that there exists a fundamental core of individual liberty, inside of which government may not legislate.

The Court shouldn’t have called it “privacy;” and it certainly shouldn’t have concluded (in Roe v. Wade) that the right of “privacy” includes the right to abort zygotes, foetuses, and even babies within minutes of being fully born. (Actually, I believe that last position is an abomination even under Roe; my, what progress we have made!) Ne’theless, nearly everybody agrees that there is an irreducible shell of personal liberty surrounding every man and woman that protects him from a totalitarian government run amok.

I can prove my case with a single example: Does anybody believe that it would be constitutional for a state to enact a law proscribing how many times per week a husband and wife are allowed to make love in their own home?

If you answer No, then you necessarily believe that (a) such a law breaches that fundamental core of individual liberty, the irreducible shell; and (b) there are inviolable limits to federal and state government beyond those explicitly written into the Constitiution.

To the extent that voters believe Rick Santorum’s dismissal of a “right to privacy” means he rejects the irreducible shell of personal liberty described above, said voters will be very likely to vote for Barack H. Obama over the “theocratic” Rick Santorum.

Santorum’s vital task, then, is to reassure Americans that his thinking on what most people envision when they hear the word “privacy” is still aligned within the mainstream of modern thought; that he does not advocate government control over aspects of life that the huge majority believe belong to the conscience of the individual, not the diktats of a Council of Experts.

If Santorum can assure voters — including the arrogant author of this post — that he is not a “Flat-Earther” on any social issue that really counts, then we might be persuaded to support him more than Mitt Romney. That is, until and unless Santorum’s campaign collapses like all the other not-romneys before him.

Cross-posted on Big Lizards

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I can prove my case with a single example: Does anybody believe that it would be constitutional for a state to enact a law proscribing how many times per week a husband and wife are allowed to make love in their own home?

I find the premise of this question flawed, particularly since Romney’s supporters are trying to cinvince me that there was nothing unconstitutional or freedom-sapping about Romneycare. Likewise with Governor Gardasil’s STD vaccination EO.

It is true from that technical legalistic standpoint that states are free to do things that the federales can not. But that doesn’t change the fac that there is not a single Republican presidential candidate right now whom I trust to follow the constitution.

gryphon202 on January 7, 2012 at 11:16 AM

Ne’theless, nearly everybody agrees that there is an irreducible shell of personal liberty surrounding every man and woman that protects him from a totalitarian government run amok.

Well, more specifically there’s a right against unreasonable search and seizure per the 4th amendment.

So not only do both search and seizure have to occur for it to be unconstitutional, it also has to be “unreasonable”, however you wish to define that. That gives a whole hell of a lot of wiggle room.

Stoic Patriot on January 7, 2012 at 1:51 PM

Where’s the evidence of cross-species evolution?

Evolution theory is as much as much junk science as global warming is.

Dr. Tesla on January 7, 2012 at 5:58 PM

The eighty to ninety percent of Americans who believe in God are not ignorant savages (like some authors seem to believe). Lots of us really do work on the cutting edge of science and technology.

Seeing the true complexity of humans (and their universe), and how perfectly they fit together is humbling. Or it should be.

Squiggy on January 8, 2012 at 6:38 AM

Romney’s supporters are trying to cinvince me that there was nothing unconstitutional or freedom-sapping about Romneycare.

I am not Romney Supporter, but there is not a single thing Unconstitutional (at the federal level) about Romney Care, it is freedom sapping, but not unconstitutional.

the_ancient on January 8, 2012 at 12:46 PM

I am not Romney Supporter, but there is not a single thing Unconstitutional (at the federal level) about Romney Care, it is freedom sapping, but not unconstitutional.

the_ancient on January 8, 2012 at 12:46 PM

And therein lies the rub. If Romney passes Romneycare for MA, and says it’s a model for everyone else to follow, how can you trust Willard Milton Romney to follow the constitution as the chief federal law executor? YOU CAN’T. Or at least you shouldn’t.

gryphon202 on January 8, 2012 at 12:49 PM