Sunday, February 19, 2012

Code Speak: Politics, bigotry, & the problem with Santorum

2011-10-06 Occupy Portland

Before the Florida primary, I mistakenly believed that Rick Santorum was done. 

Can’t we just be done with him?  Please?

The Anyone But Romney camp has got them selves into a pickle… They have to decide between the walking contradiction of Newt Gingrich and Santorum, whose issues as a general election candidate may be just as awkward, but in a very different way...

Republicans and the Culture Wars: Why It Won't Work This Year - The Daily Beast:

Then there’s Rick Santorum, who, by all rights, should dominate the values battlefield. He’s got the loving wife, the passel of kids, the goofy-dad vibe. And, let’s face it, the man has never met a policy issue he didn’t see through the prism of family values. Tax reform? Regulatory reform? Deficit spending? As Rick tells it, the first step toward addressing any of these problems is to reinstate the ban on sodomy.

On pure piety points, no one can beat Rick. We’re talking here about a guy who has said he would use the presidential bully pulpit to warn of how contraception tempts even married couples to get busy in ways contrary to God’s will. This, of course, is part of the problem. Opposing abortion is one thing. Opposing contraception even among married folks doesn’t make Rick seem like a paragon of moral virtue so much as a refugee from the 16th century.

This excerpt touches on the real problem with Santorum without actually landing on it.  It is not Santorum’s beliefs that are necessarily troubling to the far right, it is the way he communicates them.  He either has made a decision at some point in his career to ignore the generally accepted code speak of the conservative social agenda, or he just doesn’t understand it.

If the former, then this is, perhaps, a bold though politically difficult approach to campaigning for him.  If the latter, then he may be too stupid to be president.  Not that that has stopped voters before.

What do I mean by code speak?  Well, on gay rights, instead of calling them “special rights,” he focuses instead on the idea that homosexuality is a sin.  Sure, a lot of non-politicians focus on the Biblical rather than the political points of this issue, but usually those are not people running in statewide elections, let alone wanting to run in a national general election.

Likewise, the new contraception debate (really, have we drifted that far to the right?)… 

Instead of talking about the economics of health care, or even the questionable argument about religious freedom for faith-based organizations, Santorum, in the past, hit a straight moral line drive with the argument that contraception was bad for families.  Of course, this was before the debate raised like an oily sludge to the surface of the election cycle, and at the time he said that he was not in favor of legislating this brand of morality, but times and political climates can and do change…

This sort of right wing code speak becomes very troubling to me when the President is being discussed.  I know the issues that most on the right have with Obama have nothing to do with his race, but…  All the claims about the President being a Muslim, a non-native citizen, and even a socialist…  In a different day and age, how many of the people making so much noise about these non-issues wouldn’t bother?  Instead, thirty plus years ago, they would just be making noise about getting the black man out of the White House.

Not everyone, don’t get me wrong.  But I am sure that some percentage of those making these sorts of arguments about the President are just using these non-issues as code speak about his race.

While I disagree with Santorum at a fundamental level on just about every issue and take exception to almost every word that comes out of his mouth, at least he is not that kind of slime.  I have no doubt that his issues with Obama have a lot more to do with wanting his job than with the color of the President’s skin. 

The bigoted, racist kind of slime out there who do have that problem should be worried, though, because Santorum does not play their game and, in the unlikely event that he secures the GOP nomination, his inability to use proper conservative code speak will slay any chances at victory in November.

Only by using code speak to portray religious and moral beliefs as legitimate political issues can one who seems to believe that birth control is a refuge for loose women with low morals succeed in gaining acceptance outside of the far right conservative primaries.

Of course, Santorum’s failure to grasp the necessity of right wing code speak is not his only problem, beyond failing to understand how to discuss social issues, he really doesn’t seem to understand which aspects of these issues really engage people in the first place:

But it’s not just that the senator’s positions are out of touch with the mainstream electorate (a mere 8 percent of Americans think birth control is immoral; 84 percent of U.S. Catholics think you can use it and still be a good Catholic). It’s that the guy is simultaneously too pious and too pathetic.

Take his views on gay rights. Plenty of people object to gay marriage, but Santorum has long come across as a bit of a clown on the entire subject of homosexuality. It’s some combination of his whiny manner and his slightly-too-colorful blatherings about how “sodomy” is kinda like polygamy or incest but not quite so bad as man-on-dog action. With that kind of commentary, small wonder Dan Savage decided to execute his devastating lexical takedown of the senator.

Perhaps saddest of all, when things get uncomfortable, Santorum crumbles. Pressed recently about a section of his 2005 book, It Takes a Family, that laments “radical feminists” undermining the family by pushing women to work outside the home, the senator pleaded ignorance and claimed the bit had been written by his wife.

To be sure, this whole Serious Candidate business is new to Santorum.

Here’s to crumbling and blaming it on your wife.  That sells really well in the heartland. 

The problem the rest of us will have if Santorum became president should resolve itself any time now.  I am just surprised he’s made it this far.

But not really.  I still am not convinced that the GOP can bring itself to nominate a Mormon, er…  I mean someone who flip flops on all the issues they hold dear while being responsible for the rough draft of the “anti-American” and “Socialist” Obama death panel plan. 

Unfortunately, the only other sane choice they had this year was another, lesser known Mormon, er…  I mean someone who endorsed the President’s anti-Amercian, Nazi Communist agenda by actually working for the guy.  Ambassador to China or closet communist? 

Huntsman's failure to launch and the Anyone But Romney crusade, it surely couldn’t have anything to do with faith, could it?  I am sure that for most primary voters, the politics do come first.  Unfortunately, I am sure that there are a few out there who obscure their true feelings with political code phrases.

A skill Santorum seems to lack.

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