Santorum: Conservative Technocrat


Rick Santorum, like most Republican candidates, fashions himself the one true conservative running in 2012. If the thought of big, intrusive liberal government offends you, he might just be your man. And if you favor a big, intrusive Republican government, he’s unquestionably your candidate.

People are taking a look at Santorum. Important people. People in Iowa.:¬†Even New York Times columnist David Brooks recently celebrated his working-class appeal, newfound viability and economic populism, noting that the former Pennsylvania senator’s book “It Takes a Family” was a “broadside against Barry Goldwater-style conservatism” — or, in other words, a rejection of that Neanderthal fealty for liberty and free markets that has yet to be put down. Santorum’s book is crammed with an array of ideas for technocratic meddling; even the author acknowledges that some people “will reject” what he has to say “as a kind of ‘Big Government’ conservatism.”

Santorum did once grumble about too many conservatives believing in unbridled “personal autonomy” and subscribing to the “idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do … that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom (and) we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues.”

Perhaps Santorum confuses libertinism with libertarianism, but for him “cultural issues” go way beyond defending the life of the unborn or opposing gay marriage. Santorum believes that conservatives should recognize “that individuals can’t go it alone,” which sounds a lot like the straw-man justification for nearly every state expansion in memory. Why does Santorum, a conservative, believe that getting government out of our lives means a person must “go it alone,” anyway? Maybe it means that person can go to his local church or his family or his community or his local bar to seek help — or maybe he can figure things out himself.

Opposing Barack Obama’s presidency and lamenting Washington’s lurch left are not great acts of bravery. When it mattered, Santorum was nearly always there for the establishment — most (in)famously backing professional opportunist Arlen Specter over conservative favorite Pat Toomey in the 2004 Republican Pennsylvania primaries when an endorsement may have had some consequences.

Santorum also claims that “budgets began to explode” after he left Washington. I suppose that’s all relative. As Club for Growth pointed out, Santorum could be a fiscal conservative with the election far off, but “there is a troubling part of Santorum’s record on spending, which is found in the years sandwiched between these periods of fiscal restraint.”

Today, Santorum tells voters that Medicare is “crushing” the “entire health care system.” In 2003, Santorum voted for the Medicare drug entitlement that costs taxpayers more than $60 billion a year and almost $16 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Santorum voted for the 2005 “bridge to nowhere” bill and was an earmark enthusiast his entire career.

These days, Santorum regularly joins a chorus of voices claiming that he would greatly reduce the role of federal government in local education. When he had a say, he supported No Child Left Behind and expanded the federal control of school systems. In his book, in fact, Santorum advocates dictating a certain curriculum to all schools. The right kind. It’s not the authority of government that irks him, but rather the content of the material Washington is peddling today.

This week, tea party favorite Sen. Rand Paul called Santorum a “warmongering moderate.” The opposite of Rand’s father, Ron Paul, Santorum makes an unequivocal case for putting Americans in the middle of military confrontations across the world — and putting us there forever. Why not export American social engineering? After all, Santorum seems to think it works so well at home.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Blaze. Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.

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