Five Things You Should Know About Rick Santorum

Terrance Heath

Former senator Rick Santorum is running for president again, and he’s promised that this time will be different, because he won’t be saying the “crazy stuff” and “dumb things” he spouted throughout his 2012 campaign. Let’s take a moment and recall how “crazy” and “dumb” it got, and why nothing’s likely to change.

Santorum is probably hoping that lightening will strike twice, and he’ll recreate the kind of momentum he gained from his come-from-behind win in the 2012 Iowa caucuses. Santorum eventually won 11 state primaries and caucuses, and became the runner-up to GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. Even billionaire Foster Freiss, who backed Santorum in 2012, is on board. Friess held a private event in January to support another Santorum bid.

Santorum has attempted to reinvent himself as a right-wing populist. Last year, he published “Blue Collar Conservatives,” arguing that the GOP shouldn’t cede the concerns of the middle-class, and laid-off factory workers toiling at “part-time jobs at big-box stores.” But billionaire backing and a “populist” makeover may not be enough. Republicans just aren’t into Santorum the way they were in 2012. Being the 2012 runner-up may not be enough to make Santorum “next in line.”

Here are some important things you should know about Rick Santorum, the seventh candidate to enter the race for the GOP presidential nomination:

Rick Santorum is no populist.

Since 2012, Rick Santorum has been working hard to rebrand himself as a kind of right-wing populist champion of the working class. Despite his history as a political hack, and a “Washington insider”, Santorum tried to paint himself as a “Washington Outsider,” against Mitt Romney as the Washington ultimate insider.

Talking about his coal mining grandfather during his 2012 campaign was as much a part of his contrived “aw shucks” demeanor as his sweater vests, designed to paint him as just a “regular Joe” who understood and would look out for the needs and concerns of “regular Joes” everywhere. Now, conservative media outlets are promoting Santorum’s rebranding.

  • In a recent interview on Fox News, Santorum told Greta Van Susteren that his campaign would focus on the challenges faced by working-class Americans, and “the importance of making us globally competitive in manufacturing.”
  • A Wall Street Journal op-ed explains that Republicans should take Santorum seriously, because he understood the sense of economic and political isolation troubling white working class voters.
  • National Review columnist Quinn Hillyer writes that Santorum understands the “linkage between the erosion of traditional values and the economic plight of non-professionals.”

Don’t be fooled. Rick Santorum is no populist. What kind of “populist”:

Santorum’s new right-wing “populism” is the same old conservative contempt for the poor and the working class. In other words, it’s not populism at all.

Santorum was wrong about the “death knell” for marriage.

Santorum’s antipathy towards LGBT Americans goes back a long way. The feeling has been mutual for quite some time. When the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws in 2003, Santorum warned that changing “the definition of marriage” to include same-sex couples would lead to “man on dog” unions, activist Dan Savage created a website and launched a campaign to change the meaning of Santorum’s own name.

After the Supreme Court struck down most of DOMA, Santorum predicted the “death knell” of marriage.

Around the same time, a Portland State University study of states with with marriage equality or strong civil unions going back to 1988, found no relationship between marriage equality for LGBT Americans and marriage rates for heterosexual couples. The impact of gay marriage on straight marriages was: none.

Santorum believes that health care reform is “just like apartheid.”

It’s mind boggling sometimes to consider what gets the GOP and its base up in arms. Nothing gets them incensed more than millions of people who were previously uninsured getting coverage, access to quality, affordable care, thanks to Obamacare.

Santorum was the Duggar family’s candidate of choice in 2012.

In 2012, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of the TLC network reality show “19 Kids and Counting,” officially endorsed Santorum for president. Naturally, the whole family got in on the act.

This week, eldest son Josh Duggar stepped down from his position as head of the Family Research Council’s lobbying arm, amid reports that he was investigated for allegedly molesting several girls (including one or more of his sisters) as a teenager. Parents Jim Bob and Michelle allegedly covered up their son’s actions for years, and shielded him from any legal consequences, until a letter to the “Oprah Winfrey Show” forced them to report him to the police in 2006. Santorum was noted as one of many GOP presidential candidates who had once been happy to be photographed with the former reality TV star.

Santorum can at least take heart that the Duggars have endorsed Mike Huckabee this time around.

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