“Before answering, Santorum told the audience about a radio interview out of Boston he did earlier today.

“According to Santorum, the interviewer said, ‘We don’t need a Jesus candidate, we need an economic candidate.’

“‘My answer to that,’ Santorum added, ‘was we always need a Jesus candidate.

“‘We need someone who believes in something more than themselves and not just the economy,’ he added. ‘When we say, ‘God bless America,’ do we mean it or do we just say it?'”

“The Iowa caucuses have again produced upheaval. The 2008 contest saw the Huckabee phenomenon and announced the Obama earthquake that toppled the Clinton dynasty. Now the 2012 caucuses have put former Sen. Rick Santorum near the front of the Republican presidential pack and demonstrated that the ‘religious right’—Roman Catholic and evangelical social conservatives—is alive and flourishing in the American body politic…

Mr. Santorum is the truest of true social conservatives. In the House and then in the Senate, he was always willing to fight the battles closest to social conservatives’ hearts, even when he was virtually alone in doing so. His Iowa showing guarantees that the upcoming primaries will offer a great debate between the Republican establishment on one side and the social conservatives and tea party types on the other.”

“But perhaps the most surprising result of the Iowa caucuses was the return of compassionate conservatism from the margins of the Republican stage to its center. Rick Santorum is not just an outspoken social conservative; he is the Republican candidate who addresses the struggles of blue-collar workers and the need for greater economic mobility. He talks not only of the rights of the individual but also of the health of social institutions, particularly the family. He draws out the public consequences of a belief in human dignity — a pro-life view applied to the unborn and to victims of AIDS in Africa…

“This is not statism; it is called subsidiarity. In this view, needs are best served by institutions closest to individuals. But when those institutions require help or protection, higher-order institutions should intervene. So when state governments imposed Jim Crow laws, the federal government had a duty to overturn them. When a community is caught in endless economic depression and drained of social capital, government should find creative ways to empower individuals and charities — maybe even prison ministries that change lives from the inside out.

“This is not ‘big government’ conservatism. It is a form of limited government less radical and simplistic than the libertarian account. A compassionate-conservative approach to governing would result in a different and smaller federal role — using free-market ideas to strengthen families and communities, rather than constructing centralized bureaucracies. It rejects, however, a utopian belief in unfettered markets that would dramatically increase the sum of suffering.”

“One of Santorum’s strengths is that he understands that a nation isn’t just an agglomeration of individuals; it’s a fabric of social relationships. In his 2005 book, ‘It Takes a Family,’ he had chapters on economic capital as well as social capital, moral capital, cultural capital and intellectual capital. He presents an extended argument against radical individualism. ‘Just as original sin is man’s inclination to try to walk alone without God, individualism is man’s inclination to try to walk alone among his fellows,’ he writes.

“Communities breed character. Santorum argues that government cannot be agnostic about the character of its citizens because the less disciplined the people are, the more government must step in to provide order…

“Santorum understands that we have to fuse economics talk and values talk. But he hasn’t appreciated that the biggest challenge to stable families, healthy communities and the other seedbeds of virtue is not coastal elites. It’s technological change; it’s globalization; it’s personal mobility and expanded opportunity; it’s an information-age economy built on self-transformation and perpetual rebranding instead of fixed inner character. It is the very forces that give us the dynamism and opportunities in the first place.”

Via Greg Hengler.