Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Santorum's Satan speech reveals about Rick Santorum

Let's face it. Santorum's Satan speech was a weird speech for a presidential candidate. Perhaps in the context of a speech given by a religious man at a religious institution, it wasn't out of the ordinary. But it just plays into the narrative that the media will take and run with - Santorum's social conservatism. And any discussion of social issues is time not spent talking about the faults of President Obama. Santorum might want to get off the topic, the media will keep sucking him back in like Al Pacino in Godfather III. Even beyond how jarring the Satan speech sounds in a political context, Josh Barro notes the real problem with Santorum's argument that Satan is having success in America today.
Here’s how Santorum opened his discussion of Satan in America (emphasis mine):
If you were Satan, who would you attack, in this day and age? There is no one else to go after, other than the United States. And that’s been the case for now almost 200 years, once America’s pre-eminence was sown by our great Founding Fathers. He didn’t have much success in the early days—our foundation was very strong, in fact, is very strong. But over time, that great, acidic quality of time corrodes away even the strongest foundations. And Satan has done so, by attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality…Let’s think back to what America was like almost 200 years ago. Slavery was legal, indeed enshrined in our Constitution by our Founding Fathers. The federal government was forcibly removing American Indians from their lands, leading to thousands of deaths. Women couldn’t vote and were limited in their rights to own property. And yet, Santorum sees Satan wielding more influence and having more success in America today than he did then.
The issue is not that Santorum favors slavery or Indian removal—if prompted, I’m sure he would agree strongly that these were great evils. But how does somebody look at the history of American society and see a country that was more Godly under Andrew Jackson than it is today? The answer is by focusing only on the rights and treatment of white, Christian men. When some conservatives and libertarians make paeans to a lost period of American greatness, they are treating the perspectives of women and minorities as if they don’t exist, or don’t count.
We could add in the treatment of immigrant groups in the 19th century and members of Santorum's own religion, Catholics. It was back in that time when politicians would regularly preach against the dangers that Catholics represented to the Protestant fabric of our nation. Whatever one's complaints against "pride, vanity, and sensuality," we are indeed fortunate in the progress we have made in recent decades. That's a strong point and a revealing one about Santorum's mindset.