Human Events Blog

Rick Santorum and the culture war

 

Freshly confirmed as the GOP frontrunner by a series of national polls, Rick Santorum is taking a lot of heat for his position on contraception, which is suddenly a hot topic – thanks, not to Rick Santorum, but to Barack Obama.  Nevertheless, Santorum is getting raked over the coals, in a culture war started by the most leftist American President in history… even as the usual suspects crawl onto the op-ed pages to assure us that Religious Right types like Santorum are the ones spoiling to launch a culture war. 

It’s funny how that works, isn’t it?  Catholics like Santorum object to the State compelling them to fund something they find morally objectionable, and yet they’re the ones accused of longing to build an oppressive theocracy, even though Santorum has repeatedly stated that he only wants to discuss his views on contraception, not use the power of the centralized government to enforce them.  Merely holding those Catholic views is, therefore, presumptively oppressive, while the Church of Obama – which has armed enforcers standing by to assess your fines for disobedience – is hailed as “progressive.”

Former Clinton consultant Dick Morris has suggested that Obama planned this particular conflagration by giving orders to George Stephanopolous of ABC News, himself a former Clinton flack, and a “paid Democratic hit man” in Morris’ estimation.  Stephanopolous spent a bizarre amount of time needling the Republican candidates about whether or not states could legally ban contraceptives, during the January debate in New Hampshire.  Everyone wondered what the hell was going on, including the visibly baffled GOP candidates.  Morris thinks this was “a deliberately calculated move” on the part of Obama and his loyal media stooges, who know abortion is now a losing issue for them, and need to shift the battle front in the culture war to contraception.

Of course, nothing terrifies Obama more than the thought of running on his record, so a nice cultural battle  - on terrain where he thinks a huge majority of the public reflexively agrees with him – is just the thing to distract the public.  It’s much easier to lug a record like Obama’s across the re-election finish line if voters, especially casual voters, view the opposition as repellent and weird.

Before diving into what Santorum has said on the topic of contraception, I should note that I disagree with him.  I’m not a practicing Catholic, and I don’t think contraceptives are immoral.  I have no illusions about how unpopular Santorum’s criticism of birth control is likely to be with the general public.  I think there’s real political danger in the Republican candidates allowing themselves to be lured away from policy ground where they are all clearly superior to President Downgrade.

I am, however, intensely opposed to the idea of making anyone pay for anyone else’s birth control, and even more intensely opposed to violating the religious conscience of those who have a moral objection to contraception.

Also, Santorum spends a bit too much time talking about the limits of liberty in general for my taste – he’s right to observe that there are always going to be rules and boundaries, but rules and boundaries are not what we currently have a deficit of.

Having listened to him speak on the subject of contraception, however, I don’t think what he’s saying is illogical, or alarming.  The passage current causing him the most trouble comes from 2006, when Santorum was asked if birth control would be an example of exercising “freedom without responsibility.”

Santorum allowed that his moral objection to contraception was not as potent as his opposition to abortion, because birth control “is not the taking of a human life,” but “I think it goes down the line of being able to do whatever you want to do, without taking the responsibility that comes with that.” 

This general sentiment is by no means contrary to libertarian conservatism.  One of our most important beliefs is that freedom and responsibility go hand-in-hand.  They cannot exist without each other.  Holding people responsible for their actions is an indispensible aspect of respecting their freedom.  A major project of the leftist State has been erasing consequences, in everything from personal behavior to business decisions, so that freedom can be painlessly euthanized.

Santorum went on to say that he thinks the widespread use of birth control is “harmful to women” and “harmful to our society,” because it encourages the casual acceptance of sex outside of marriage, particularly among young people.  A good deal of shrill denunciation has been directed at him for the “harmful to women” part, but he’s not the first person to observe that libertine sexual attitudes are ultimately harmful to women, and the assertion is not made without considerable evidence gleaned from studying post-sexual-revolution America. 

Besides, even if you conclude Santorum is completely wrong about the connection between birth control, casual sex, and the objectification of women, it seems illogical to declare him “the worst choice for women,” as a spokesperson for EMILY’s List put it.   It’s even more outrageous to deliberately build his reputation as a misogynist by openly asking him “Why do you hate women?” as Piers Morgan of CNN did the other night.

Even if his position is incorrect, he clearly does not hold it because he hates or denigrates women.  Of course, it’s not surprising the hysterical feminist Left would attack Santorum that way – they’re political operatives looking to protect their turf – but reasonable women should resent feminist attempts to stampede them.

Santorum has also been criticized for being old-fashioned, wanting to “turn back the clock,” and all the other incantations “progressives” use to hypnotize people into thinking history only runs in one direction: theirs.  Of course Alinskyite radicals want you to believe that “going back” to any of the stuff they rebelled against in the Sixties is unthinkable, no matter how disastrous their tenure as masters of our culture has been.  In reality, there’s no historical reason a society can’t pick up beliefs it has previously discarded.  It might seem a bit unlikely in this case, given current opinion polling, but it’s not impossible, or automatically wrong-headed.

This discussion of contraception also fits into Santorum’s overall belief about the importance of the family, which is one reason he isn’t running away from the discussion, even though he’s probably got political advisors telling him that it will hurt his electoral prospects.  Once again, Santorum’s thoughts on the family are not without reason, although liberals try to discredit them by painting them as religious fanaticism or moralizing.  (Strangely enough, it doesn’t bother them a bit when an authoritarian leftist like Obama sets about imposing his morality through the might of the State.)

Let me put it this way, and apologies if it sounds harsh: we live in an entitlement society, which is heavily predicated on taxing the young to pay benefits to the old.  That entire system will disintegrate in the face of a significant drop in the working population, coming hard on the heels of a population surge.  The replacement birth rate is 2.1 births per woman in industrialized nations.  Society therefore has an interest – a sternly fiduciary one, really – in nurturing a substantial number of families with three or more children.  That means you need a lot of men and women getting married young, and staying married.

But modern American society is heavy with forces that induce the exact opposite, including the extension of adolescence (ObamaCare considers you a dependent “child” until you’re 26!), the objectification of women, easy no-fault divorce, the deterioration of respect for religion (which has always been a powerful force in encouraging and strengthening marriage), the inexorable re-definition of marriage to mean any group of people who choose to declare themselves “married,” the obsolescence of fathers thanks to the welfare state… and yes, the acceptance of casual sex at increasingly young ages.

Look at it this way: are there any powerful forces in society, or promulgated by our central government, that encourage men and women to get married young, stay married, and raise more than two children in a stable, loving home?  The general thrust of our cultural and government imperative is, instead, to have childless unmarried sex for as long as possible, and abort the results of any condom leakage that might occur.  Whatever you think of this from a moral standpoint – even if you’re a die-hard proponent of free love with a copy of Stranger in a Strange Land under your pillow – you’ve got to understand that’s a demographic dead end.  It just ain’t gonna work.

As far as I can tell, Rick Santorum takes his beliefs seriously, is prepared to defend them with reasoned arguments, and has no desire to use government force to impose them upon us.  Even if you disagree with him, what’s not to like?  After all, unlike Obama and the dead-end authoritarian Left, he thinks it’s permissible for you to disagree with him.

 

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