Monday, February 20, 2012

How I'll Be Voting: The Rick Santorum Edition


A couple weeks ago I wrote a post weighing three presidential candidates - Romney, Gingrich, and Obama - against a series of issues I laid out earlier.  The short version of those ramblings was this: President Obama flubbed all of them.  He supports same-sex marriages in all but name and is beholden to the National Education Association, one of the biggest obstacles to school reforms.  He has shown no interest in overhauling the tax code or passing comprehensive immigration reform.  With regard to the national debt, his latest proposal is to expand spending, but expand taxation more.  That'll eventually get us there, but we need more.

Gingrich and Romney fared only somewhat better than the president.  Both support school choice and Gingrich understands the three-fold requirement for immigration reform.  But both are questionable on marriage - Gingrich' personal life leaves much to be desired in this regard, and Romney has a history of waffling on social issues - and although both gesture in the right direction with regard to the tax code and deficit, both seem more interested in slashing taxes than addressing the issues I am considering.

Meanwhile, events have overtaken my analysis.  With wins in Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota, Rick Santorum now appears to have edged Gingrich out and may even be passing Romney in polls.  So how does he do?

Debt.  Santorum favors a balanced budget amendment, and is willing to talk about Medicare and Social Security reform.  Some of his particular proposals - such as halving the staff of USAID - I am less excited about, but there is a real commitment here to actually tackle the national debt crisis.

Tax Code.  Santorum explicitly favors simplifying the tax code.

Immigration.  Santorum favors reforming the immigration process, but only after securing the border first.  He is opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants.  While I understand the opposition to amnesty, I don't see evidence here that he's considered the scale of the problem (10-12 million people) and the fact that some families are of divided nationality.  Likewise, while I have no problem with securing the border first, per se, I worry that subsequent reform might never happen.

Education.  Santorum favors pushing educational regulation toward the local level and increasing school choice.

Marriage.  There is no question that Santorum is a solid supporter of a traditional definition of marriage.

I would be equivocating if I did not say that this is easily the best slate of positions on these issues of any candidate I have yet considered here.  I will, however, make a few caveats.  There are other issues - foreign policy, healthcare, etc. - that I have not considered.  Likewise, there are other candidates I have not mentioned.  And Santorum has other positions I did not weigh.  (Perhaps typical of these is his first policy statement, against illegal pornography.  I quite agree that pornography is a pestilence destroying the soul of our nation; I do wonder, however, if government is the best tool for attacking it, or if there are more pressing matters to which government alone can attend.)  Moreover, a candidate with the right positions does not necessarily have a strong chance of winning a general election or passing his agenda if elected; prudence must dictate how far voters are able to compromise for political expediency before violating their consciences.

My colleague Stephen has made a compelling case that there is little a Catholic - or, indeed other persons of traditional faith - can do in the present political climate.  He argues that we must conduct intellectual and cultural resistance, beginning in our own hearts; we must withdraw from the politics that have already exiled us, while still caring for the society around us.  I find Stephen's comments quite persuasive, but I am certainly also intrigued by Santorum's recent success; does it represent a real breakthrough?

Image via ABC News.
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