Presidential candidate and former Senator Rick Santorum took the CPAC stage with his family lined up behind him, and the audience warmed up by a sharp political joke from businessman Foster Friess:
“A liberal, a moderate, and a conservative walk into a Washington bar. The bartender looks up and says, ‘Hi, Mitt!’”
The joke tied into the candidate’s speech, which was designed to highlight the contrasts between Santorum, his Republican rivals, and President Obama. Santorum pointed out that no Republican candidate would be able to win the general election by out-spending Obama. “It’s going to take ideas, vision, contrast, and a record of accomplishment that can go up against the failed policies of President Obama. That’s the winner.”
“Conservatism did not fail America,” he declared. “Conservatives failed conservatism. As conservatives, we lost heart. We had abandoned our principles, and our values, to get things done, to win.”
He hears the same arguments being made today, in the name of “electability,” and rejects them. “The lesson we have learned is that we will no longer abandon, and apologize, for the policies and principles that made this country great, for a hollow victory in November.” It’s not hard to guess which hollow man he might be alluding to.
“As conservatives and Tea Party folks, we’re not just wings of the Republican Party. We are the Republican Party,” said Santorum, earning applause from a crowd that’s tired of being left at the altar, while opportunistic Republican politicians run off in pursuit of flirty swing voters. Santorum instead proposes to make a simple and heartfelt appeal to the blue-collar Regan Democrats, with “supply-side economics for the working man.” He counsels persuasion, rather than pandering. He promised to fill his White House with “leaders of the conservative movement,” and inoculate them against Beltway fever.
Santorum sees the election as “not just about jobs,” although that will certainly be a major topic. He sees job growth in free-market policies that will extend the ladder of opportunity down, “not just to those who might be voting for us, but to the very poor, the people who have been suffering in this country and might be left behind.” Re-invigorating the manufacturing sector, and dealing with “this huge, monstrous, and immoral debt” that is “crushing Americans and our children,” will be important steps on the way to replacing central planning with opportunity.
He’d slash that immoral debt by doing away with perpetual automatic spending increases, instead cutting $5 trillion, and balancing the budget in 5 years, by promising that “every year, we will spend less money than the year before, year after year after year, until the budget is balanced. No more “cuts” in the rate of growth!”
The 2012 campaign won’t just be about economics. According to Santorum, it will be a matter of founding principles and vision, determining “who we are as Americans,” and “what kind of country we’re going to leave for the next generation.” It is a time to reaffirm our belief that our rights are not granted at the pleasure of government, but were bestowed “by a much higher authority.”
The president Santorum would succeed clearly does believe that rights are a gift from the government, and you’d better keep the receipt, because government might decide to take them back at any moment. The “right” to health care is a good example. “We’ve seen that when government gives you rights, government can coerce you into doing things when exercising those rights it has given you,” Santorum warned, calling ObamaCare “a game-changer for America” that will leave the citizens offering tribute to a government that controls their very lives.
He recalled Margaret Thatcher’s sad concession to Ronald Reagan, in which she said the Reagan Revolution could not be repeated in her country because of the British health care system. “Once people have that dependency, they are never really ever free again.”
The Administration’s oppression of the Catholic Church, forcing them to pay for contraceptive products which offend their religious beliefs – and are hardly a vital welfare necessity for the poor, or even a proper subject of insurance coverage, since they only cost a few dollars – stands as the first exhibit in a gallery of dependence, where America will never stop paying for its “free” health care. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the kind of coercion we can expect,” said Santorum. “It’s not about contraception. It’s about economic liberty. It’s about freedom of speech. It’s about freedom of religion. It’s about government control of your lives, and it’s gotta stop!”
The politicization of science, accomplished with the mass media production of “global warming” and other noisy boogeymen, is another tactic that has been used to erode economic liberty, while extending government control over industry. Santorum cited the relationship between energy consumption and standard of living, in countries around the world, as an urgent reason to push back against Obama’s no-growth environmental radicalism.
In contrast, Santorum offered his own record of supporting “health savings accounts, tort reform, and bottom-up consumer-driven health care.” He took pains to separate himself from certain other candidates, who spent their summers in Massachusetts raising the “stepchild of ObamaCare,” buying into man-made global warming, imposing cap-and-trade plans, supporting Wall Street bailouts, and giving away other important issues.
A sharp contrast with Obama, from an articulate conservative, will build voter excitement. Santorum wondered why “an undecided voter would bother voting for a candidate of a party when the party isn’t excited about him.” Instead, he urged conservatives to support a candidate they could rally around, and attract independents with their enthusiasm.
The conservative vision Santorum espouses is the foundational American principle of self-evident truth and equality, in which government is the aggressive defender of our sacred rights, leaving us free to “form families, and churches, and community organizations, civic groups, hospitals, schools, and build a great and just society from the bottom up.” The Founders pledged their lives, fortune, and sacred honor to that vision. Santorum saluted the men and women of the U.S. military for likewise pledging their lives to defend our liberties, but said he wouldn’t be asking for anyone’s fortune… although, he joked, if you’d care to drop by his website (www.ricksantorum.com) he would find a little piece of your fortune very helpful.
“But I am asking for your honor,” he concluded. “To put your honor on the line… this is our watch. We are stewards of a great inheritance, and it is our responsibility to shepherd that inheritance, to make it a greater and richer one for the next generation. And if we fail to do that, we have failed our duty, and our honor, as Americans.”
It’s a stark choice. We can leave the next generation a mountain of debt, and the enduring question of how we could spend so much of their fortune on ourselves, to so little effect. Or we could re-discover the honor that dependents of the State are required to sacrifice, as a condition of their indenture. It’s quite proper that Rick Santorum spoke with his children on the stage behind him. They’re the ones who will get stuck with the bill, if his Party does not rise to the challenge facing it.