Santorum's Problem: the American People

The National Review’s Rich Lowrey argues that the media is out to get Rick Santorum for his unapologetic social conservatism:

Santorum is a standing affront to the sensibilities and assumptions of the media and political elite. That elite is constantly writing the obituary for social conservatism, which is supposed to wither away and leave a polite, undisturbed consensus in favor of social liberalism. Santorum not only defends beliefs that are looked down upon as dated and unrealistic; he does it with a passionate sincerity that opens him to mockery and attack.

It’s absolutely true that Santorum—or rather, his beliefs—are a “standing affront” to the sensibilities of the elites. But this is also true of the country at large. Like it or not, most Americans support abortion rights, the wide availability of contraception, and an equal role for women in the public sphere. They like public schools—even if they could use improvement—and they aren’t on board with Santorum’s hostility to gay rights. Indeed, I think it’s safe to assume that most people uncomfortable with Santorum’s entire persona—a theologian-in-chief who uses his platform to attack and disparage the large majority of Americans who don’t hew to his narrow fundamentalism.

Santorum’s “passionate sincerity” is rightly seen by most people—including the people of Pennsylvania—as a dangerous extremism with no place in government. Rick Santorum’s problem isn’t that the media dislikes him, it’s that he’s far outside of the American mainstream. If they were smart, conservative elites like Lowrey would keep their distance from the former Pennsylvania senator. As it stands, they seem to care more about sticking it to liberals than winning elections.