What Santorum meant to social conservatives

What Rick Santorum brought to the table this election cycle, and what won over social conservatives, was his inexhaustible energy … Continued

What Rick Santorum brought to the table this election cycle, and what won over social conservatives, was his inexhaustible energy and conservative conviction. He spoke social conservatism like a native. Vastly out spent, counted out over and over again, and dogged by a media that never passed up an opportunity to derail him, Santorum refused to allow anyone else’s expectations to dampen his resolve. And Americans love someone who sticks to their guns.


View Photo Gallery: Scenes of religious faith meeting politics in the 2012 campaign.

But more than any of that, Rick Santorum gave five gifts to the GOP this election cycle and to social conservatism in the future that shouldn’t be ignored.

First, Rick made Mitt Romney a better candidate. Rick forced Romney to fight for the nomination harder than he would have otherwise. We watched in the debates as Romney got more adept and serious about responding to Santorum’s pointed lines of attack, especially on social issues such as marriage and abortion. Santorum kept these issues in the forefront.

Second, Santorum introduced the powerful connection between strengthening the family and strengthening the economy. He played up the connection between social conservatism and economic conservatism, broadening the GOP’s message in November beyond simple fiscal restraint and deepened its narrative down to the root causes of America’s perceived moral decline.

Third, Santorum restored confidence in the democratic process by running an old school campaign centered on retail politics. He reminded social conservatives that the barriers to entry are not necessarily as high as they may imagine. Yes, Romney’s infrastructure eventually overcame but for state and local social conservative candidates, Santorum’s success reminded them that, more than anything, message and character matter most.

Fourth, Santorum gave hope to social conservatives that their voice and numbers are powerful enough to continue shaping the political landscape. His campaign’s success defied elite expectations, including those of many leaders in the social conservative movement. Other social conservative candidates waiting in the wings I can bet you are quietly noticing how far Santorum got, and are taking pointers from how he got there.  This practically guarantees that Rick Santorum won’t be the last candidate of his kind. Indeed, he may be remembered as the first of a new breed of conviction candidates, but that of course remains to be seen.

Gene J. Puskar

AP

Santorum announces he is suspending his candidacy on April 10.

Fifth and finally, Santorum’s stubborn determination reminded social conservatives that it isn’t over until you decide it’s over. Santorum’s political opponents had convinced themselves after their 18-point victory over him in 2006 that they had buried his political career six feet under. Santorum proved them wrong. And whatever he decides to do in the future, he can rest assured that his exiting the race as a serious contender for the Republican nomination means he has denied his political adversaries the last word.

Refusing to give up after a stinging loss, that’s something social conservatives needed to see after their political setbacks in 2008.

Choosing to keep up the good fight even when the odds were long, that’s something all Americans needed to witness, too.

So thank you, Senator Santorum.

Thomas Peters writes at CatholicVote.org, which endorsed Rick Santorum for president.

  • Good_as_You

    The real truth is that the social issues misfocus of Santorum and people like Mr. Peters (who, he fails to mention, also works for the National Organization for Marriage) is the reason why Santorum started bleeding “momentum” almost as soon as he gained it. When he started talking about “invalidating” legal same-sex marriages, the Devil, contraception, and all of the rest of it, voters were reminded of the same Rick Santorum that Pennsylvania voters pushed out of the U.S. Senate in 2006.

  • JDI01

    Santorum never had a chance and now that NOM, the Catholic Heirarchy and all the right wing christianists have to eat crow and try to make sense of it all. It’s not that hard — hard core social conservatives aren’t electable any more. Why? Because the USA is not a theocracy. Santorum, a Catholic, pulled more votes from evangelicals than Catholics. What does that tell you?

  • Mykelb

    The author of this piece fails to disclose that he works for the National Organization for Marriage, an SPLC Certified Hate Group equal to the KKK. These people have wasted millions on hatred around the United States and failing to get people on their side, they have broken campaign finance laws in six states. These people are lying, cheating, lawbreakers who have no place in decent society.

  • Catken1

    Santorum didn’t seek to strengthen families. He sought to attack gay people’s families, non-Christian families, and any family which could not hope to support unlimited childbearing – that is, most of us.
    He sought to have women treated as property, subhuman beings whose only worth was in making other people, making families less healthy by denying the humanity and personhood of half their members. He sought to treat marriage not as a loving partnership between two human beings, but as a union primarily about genitals and breeding, thus demeaning and insulting the institution. He sought to deny parents the means to limit their childbearing and rearing to the number they could properly care for and raise, thus ensuring neglected children, lifelong scars and resentment, and damage to family relationships.

    You do not help my family by attacking my gay and lesbian friends’ families. You do not benefit my kid by hurting their kids, and by hurting gay kids. You do not benefit my family by treating me as a thing, an incubator to be used without any real say in the matter, or by forcing me to choose between a normal marital sexual relationship with my husband and being able to properly care for all the children I bear.

    Santorum, like the National Organization for (Hurting Any) Marriage (That Doesn’t Conform To Our Religious Dogma), is anti-marriage, anti-family, and anti-child.

  • rhubarb11

    Rick Santorum is one of the most frightening, most fascistic candidates that we’ve ever had for president in this country. He is not a “social conservative” as the author states, he is a fascist. The fact that Santorum said that JFK’s famous speech about separation of church and state made him want to “throw up” says it all. The founders of this country were escaping from religious persecution. They understood the dangers of a state religion, and that is why they placed prohibitions against a state religion in the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson said, “Religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God” and that there should be “a wall of separation between church and State.” I sincerely believe that Rick Santorum does not agree with Jefferson. Santorum believes that his own religious beliefs should be imposed on all the American people. That is why I believe that he is a dangerous man, and it is frightening that he got as close to being president as he did.

  • weshlovrcm

    Sounds like another excuse to justify the sin of homophobia. We do not and never will strengthen our nation by voting away the civil rights of other American taxpayers, ripping apart loving gay families, declaring war against women, dividing Black, Latino and gay Americans and working to ensure that anti-gay bullying in our public schools is redefined as a “religious belief.” We strengthen our nation by ensuring that ALL Americans are included in the promise that “all men are created equal.” Those caught up in the sin of homophobia should repent rather than be encouraged to remain mired in a never ending orgy of acting out each and every sinful homophobic urge.

  • weshlovrcm

    Sounds like another lame excuse to justify the sin of homophobia. We do not and never will strengthen our nation by voting away the civil rights of other American taxpayers, ripping apart loving gay families, declaring war against women, dividing Black, Latino and gay Americans and working to ensure that anti-gay bullying in our public schools is redefined as a “religious belief.” We strengthen our nation by ensuring that ALL Americans are included in the promise that “all men are created equal.” Those caught up in the sin of homophobia should repent rather than be encouraged to remain mired in a never ending orgy of acting out each and every sinful homophobic urge.

  • bobbarnes

    So, how is that RCC war on gays going?

  • joyschoenberger

    Thank you, Mr. Peters, for a well-written article that provides some hope for social conservatives in the years to come. I think Mr. Santorum would have made a wonderful President, and I’m sorry to see his campaign come to an end. I think he chose the right time to step down, though, since Romney clearly had the lead. His gracefully withdrawal allows us to now turn our focus and energy to defeating Obama next Fall.

    God Bless Santorum and his family, and God Bless the U.S.A.!

  • LeticiaVelasquez

    The GOP pundits do not sound as grateful as Mr Peter thinks they should be for the lessons Santorum taught Mitt about the values issues. They wish the old liberal Mitt was allowed to remain unscathed to appeal to the independents. What they forget is that the ONLY candidate to beat an incumbent Democratic president was Ronald Reagan. AND the ‘shellacking’ social conservatives gave President Obama in 2010. AND the fact that he is not doing a Bill Clinton shift to the middle but remaining the old class warfare, race baiting liberal he was in Chicago.
    A true conservative could have made mincemeat out of Obama’s record on both social issues and economics. Too bad we no longer have one in the race.

  • MJR13

    Really? I don’t think he’s a fascist. Rick Santorum doesn’t support Mussolini’s ideology…
    There’s a difference between religious beliefs being imposed on the American people e.g. the Anglican Church established in VA, or the Puritan (Congregational) Church established in MA, and using moral principles and reasoning which apply to all humans to form the basis of legislation.
    I quite honestly the sanctioning of the murder of 53 million Americans via abortion, as Barack Obama has done, is far more dangerous.

  • MJR13

    Oh so Obama isn’t anti-child, even though he supports abortion?
    He’s not anti-family, considering he supports its breakdown through artificial contraception? Really?
    I guess semiotics, deconstruction, and Existentialism dominate American political life these days…

  • MJR13

    It tells me the American Catholic Church is in thorough need of a cleansing.

  • youngmindoldbody

    Legal abortion predates Obama and even Bush, I find it humorous you have no problem with the abortions performed during previous administrations.

  • Anastasia3

    I thank Mr. Santorum also for providing hope in a country that has gone way off the rails in so many areas. Without strong families rooted in morality a civilization degenerates into chaos. The Santorum family is a wonderful role model for others to emulate. The love that they have for each other is evident and they have been an inspiration to other families in their strength throughout his campaign.

    Even Mr. Santorum’s nasty detractors have to concede that if they care about the truth more than taking delight in savaging him.

  • MJR13

    I do have a problem with it! But Obama still supports it…

  • Rongoklunk

    It’s pretty clear God didn’t want Santorum to win. He may have found him embarrassing. But how do we know it’s the Catholic God up there?
    it may be Allah up there, and Santorum was praying to the wrong guy. You never know. But just to be on the safe side – he should include Allah in his nightly prayers, and Jupiter too, and Zeus, and Apollo, and Thor and all the other Gods just in case.

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