Santorum: the Republican party's dinosaur?
Yesterday's historic hearings at the Supreme Court on marriage equality affected one politician more then any other, and that is former Senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Almost every Republican is now in a head-on sprint to catch up with public acceptance of LGBT marriage, but Santorum, with his stagnant views, he has become the party's official dinosaur.
Poor Rick. You remember him: the former Pennsylvania Senator who a little over six years ago was tossed out by voters, losing the election overwhelmingly by more than 20 percentage points. Then he attempted to parlay his ultra-religious, right wing views into a presidential campaign. The Republican primaries started out with clown car of about a dozen candidates. One-by-one, each had their day in the spotlight. Realistically, it seems now like it was almost inevitable that Romney would win the nomination. But the party faithful (double-entendre intended) really didn't want him, so they turned toward other candidates who they thought could take Romney down.
Their initial choice was Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who won the Iowa straw poll in 2011. When her star fell, along came Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose momentum screeched to a halt after a disastrous debate. Then came the businessman with a plan: Herman Cain and his 9-9-9. He had, to put things delicately, a woman issue. It wasn't about women's right to choose, though they wouldn't have chosen him anyways. Next up to bat was the squirmiest man in politics, Newt Gingrich. He had an M & M problem: moon colonies and meanness. After going through all those candidates, the only one left that the party could look to was Rick Santorum. Literally, the party faithful only turned to Santorum after Michele Bachman, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich. He wasn't the second choice, he was the fifth.
So the fifth-stringer Santorum, with all the others limping along, starts to play, and on Feb. 7th he scores a triple play: Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. He was really hot. Until the next day, when he became so overwhelmed by his victory and, instead of aiming for the middle ground to gain votes, turned back to his fossilized positions on abortion and gay marriage. And that brought many, including the media, to examine what Santorum stood for, and thus began his decline. He never won another primary and by the time he got to Pennsylvania, he quit the race rather then risk the embarrassment of losing his home state twice.
He supported the candidate who ran using the logic of "legitimate rape" and stood by this quote: "In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be."
This week, on the cusp of the Supreme Court hearings, Americans in public opinion polls stated clearly anywhere from 53 to 58 percent support marriage equality. Leading names in the Republican party see the writing on the wall and now support marriage equality, including Dick Cheney, Laura Bush, Colin Powell, Rob Portman, John Huntsman, former Pennsylvania governor and homeland security head Tom Ridge. Even Karl Rove, the man who engineered the anti-gay marriage legislation across the nation, believes the Republican nominee in 2016 can support equaliy.
At the recent CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) the holiest of holy conservatism, all those gathered were searching for a way to somehow deal with marriage equality, with one exception. Standing almost alone, little Ricky Santorum. Maybe that's why in the CPAC Presidential straw poll, Santorum came in third. He's too right wing for the right wing. Who came in first? Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who said on Fox News last Sunday that he wouldn't mind if the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). He added that he believes it's a states rights issue, and that the federal government should be neutral.
Maybe we should introduce Ricky to Barney, the purple dinosaur for kids. At least he'd be able to teach him a thing or two about how the world works in 2013.
Mark Segal is one of Philadelphia's most awarded opinion writers and has been recognized by the National Newspaper Association, Pennsylvania News-media Association, Suburban Newspapers of America and the Society of Professional Journalists, among others. He can be reached via Facebook or Twitter.