Rick Santorum, after a 2nd place showing in Iowa, has been recently hailed as the “conservative alternative to Mitt Romney”. Conservative in what sense though? Conservative because he’s religious and seems to live the model good Christian life? Conservative because he’s a super military hawk? Conservative because he’s socially conservative? The one area he’s not conservative is in the domestic size of government sense. Conservative seems to mean many different things now a days, not all of which limit federal powers, leave people alone, oppose collectivism and spend less money.
While claiming to be a firm supporter of the 10th Amendment, the amendment which Thomas Jefferson said kept the federal government small, Santorum stated, “the idea that the only things that the states are prevented from doing are only things specifically established in the Constitution is wrong.” Perhaps he supports a different 10th Amendment than the one most actual conservatives hail. In 2005 Santorum wrote a “conservative answer” to Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village, which advocated for more government involvement in people’s lives. It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good plays to most conservatives’ desire and love of family values, but its assertion to take action for the “common good” should give lovers of liberty some pause. The General Welfare Clause of the Constitution is often hailed by liberals as justification for their big government programs. And just like liberals, Santorum advocates for government based solutions in his book including, but not limited to: national service (forced conscription), publicly financed trust funds for children, incentives for community investments, and economic literacy programs for every school in the country. Santorum’s support for federal education isn’t particularly shocking given his vote for President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind Act”.
In 2006, Rick Santorum showed his true colors while promoting his book on NPR. Santorum told the host, “One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a libertarianish right. You know, the left has gone so far left and the right in some respects has gone so far right that they touch each other. They come around in the circle. This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone.” Its safe to say that Rick Santorum probably doesn’t think too much of Ayn Rand or her masterpieces: The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged.
Now, I’m not one who cares about the earmark issue too much as it is constitutionally permissible and because its the Congress’ duty to allocate funds, but I do admit that it can and often does “corrupt the process”. For those who do care, Santorum was a huge ear-marker in his days in the House and Senate, and not just for his own district. Santorum voted to fund the notorious “Bridge to Nowhere”. Since being out of office, Red State points out that Santorum now opposes earmarks. But as the conservative economic organization The Club for Growth, points out: Santorum is someone who does try to have it both ways, “He voted NO on raising the minimum wage in 1995 and 2005. But on the same day he voted NO in 2005, he sponsored an amendment that would increase the minimum wage, which he later boasted about to skeptical voters in a 2006 campaign brochure he released called ’50 Things You Didn’t Know About Rick Santorum.’” I’ll add one thing you should know about Santorum is his support for Bush’s agenda domestic and abroad, including the dreaded and expensive, Medicare Part D.
Perhaps most unpopular here in South Carolina is Rick Santorum’s support of labor unions. Now, one may dismiss it as electoral pragmatism based on his former home state, just like earmarks could be, but given our battle with the NLRB; perhaps we are rightfully now less forgiving. Santorum opposed the National Right to Work Act, voted against NAFTA and some other free trade proposals, and has supported tariffs, such as on steel, to help unions avoid competition. Also in the interest of helping unions avoid competition, Santorum repeatedly voted to protect unions with his continuous support of the Davis-Bacon Act. Speaking of protectionism, Santorum has also supported farm subsidies in the past. Now to give Santorum credit, he doesn’t use the tired expression “level the playing field” which is a noble goal, but also an overused cliché. The reason he clamor for the “leveling of the playing field” economically is because his jobs plan openly favors manufacturing by giving them all sorts of special breaks. I don’t want to come off as unsympathetic to the manufacturing industries’s plight, I am, and do want it to come back, but I don’t want other industries to have to pay the manufacturing’s industries’ “fair share” for them. On a similar, un-capitalistic note, Santorum also voted for the Sarbanes-Oxley financial regulation bill, which kills start ups and harms existing businesses.
If this is conservative, than I sure as hell am not a conservative. Barry Goldwater’s nickname was “Mr. Conservative”. Oh, how the definition has been forgotten over the years. Santorum’s record is abysmal. Liberals would call me a right wing extremist based on my view of government, they would hear the legislation I want and immediately break down and cry. Upon meeting and conversing with a Michele Bachmann campaign staffer, I made him argue for bigger government. Not that I like either of them, for what should be obvious reasons, but there’s no way Romney could’ve been much worse than Santorum. In fact, Santorum even supported an individual mandate. Proof of this may be found in a local Pennsylvania Newspaper which described Santorum and a rival Republican’s healthcare proposal with, “Santorum and Watkins would require individuals to buy health insurance rather than forcing employers to pay for employee benefits.” Because both are big government Republicans, I won’t be voting for them… but if I had to pick between them, I’d chose Romney, hands down. Romney, while not a small government candidate, would do less harm to conservatism because no one views Romney as a conservative. Everyone calls him a moderate, and rightfully so. If Romney further grows government, the conservative brand isn’t on the hook. What I cannot sit by and watch is a big government Republican in Santorum, be called a conservative and grow government just like his fellow “compassionate conservative”, President Bush did. As you can see the term conservative is on the ropes; from Robert Taft and Barry Goldwater’s constitutionally limited government views to Rick Santorum’s family values based big government nanny state. This is a term we really cannot afford to lose. Please don’t help kill the brand and the label.