I have a lot of lefty/Dem friends. And a lot of them think all Republicans are an equal threat, politically speaking. (OK, almost all Republicans; I don't know anyone who genuinely fears Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe).
When I say things like, "Oh come on, there are a lot of different kinds of Republicans. You shouldn't be equally afraid of all of them," I feel like they aren't buying it. A quick look at the potential GOP presidential field for 2012 tells me that they reject my advice on this topic at their own peril.
And look, I realize that I am not sympatico with some of the goals/means of the Dems/left. For instance, I think the current level of spending is wacko, the deficit is too high, and the government needs to permanently stop taxing everyone for the act of dying (i.e., the estate/death tax and, I know, that's a topic for another post). On the other hand, on the personal-freedom front, I'm generally with you, my Dem friends. I'm pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage, and generally think the government should spend its time doing something other than telling people what to do with their personal lives. Hell, I'm even registered in your party, if only because that's where I started and if I register as an independent (which is really what I am) I'll lose the right to vote in a primary.
So, while you may not think there'd be a hell of a lot of difference between the various potential GOP presidential candidates, I'm here to tell you, as someone who believes in at least some of what you believe in, that there is.
Let's start by reviewing the potential 2012 GOP field, and then quickly narrowing it down to the ones who could actually get the nomination and then, of those, the ones that could actually win the presidency by defeating President Obama, and then, finally, of those, we'll talk about whom you should be really genuinely scared of.
I'm going to discount Pence right off the bat as not really running. It seems pretty clear that he's going to run for governor of Indiana, not president. Paul and Johnson (I will digress for a moment and tell you that I really like much of what I have heard from Gary Johnson) are out because their libertarianism is too socially tolerant to get them nominated in the current GOP. I also think that, practically speaking, Thune and Barbour wouldn't stand much of a chance in any sort of crowded field, and, let's face it, the field looks crowded. Plus, this post is about whom you Dems should really fear, not who might make you a little queasy on the crazy off chance he (or she) gets nominated.
So where's that leave us: with a potential GOP nominee named Romney, Palin, Huckabee, Pawlenty, Gingrich, Daniels, Santorum or Christie.
Next step....which ones of that crowd could plausibly beat Obama by capturing what I have already branded in another post as the crucial, election-deciding, center of the electorate? As I have previously discussed, I don't think Palin, Huckabee or Gingrich can win enough of the center to beat Obama. Take it from a centrist...Sarah Palin freaks us out; Mike Huckabee does too (albeit with more humor and smarts, but way too much social conservatism) and Newt Gingrich is like your mean uncle Myron who treats everyone like crap while simultaneously moralizing and visiting hookers. Newt has no credibility with the center at this point, and he seems like he'd kick you while you were down, steal your money and give you a lecture about compassion and the evils of theft all at the same time.
So...that leaves Romney, Pawlenty, Daniels, Christie and Santorum. Now, I don't expect my Dem friends to love any of these guys. Hell, I don't expect you even to like any of them, but let's be serious. You have much more to fear from one of them than the others. They are all fiscal conservatives, but only one of 'em is bent on telling you what to do in every aspect of your personal life.
Daniels? Hell, no. He's the guy calling for a truce on social issues. Christie? He hasn't mentioned a social issue in a long time either. Pawlenty? I am quite sure I don't agree with him on personal-freedom issues, but he hasn't struck me yet as a Bible-thumping demagogue. Romney? Frankly, I never believed him when he said he's anti-choice. He was governor of Massachusetts fercryingoutloud. And even if he is anti-choice, he, Daniels, Pawlenty and Christie have been hammering the economy and spending as the big issues for 2012. This isn't to say, my Dem friends, that you'd love any of 'em, but I don't see any of the four as moral crusaders bent on invading your bedroom.
No, that status is reserved for the guy who said, "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery." Yup, Rick Santorum.
There are so many things wrong with that statement that the mind boggles, but let's focus on just two. First, it equates consensual same-sex relations with incest and polygamy. Second, and let's not lose track of this one...it implies that adultery ought to be illegal. Did you catch that? I realize that adultery is on the "bad" list of things you shouldn't do, but are there many adults who actually think it ought to be criminalized? Like, you know, people going to jail for it? That's our Rick.
And he's a good campaigner and a reasonably smart charmer -- smart enough, in fact, that I think he's learned a lot from Pat Toomey's U.S. Senate campaign in Pennsylvania: talk mostly about economic issues while quietly assuring your social-conservative pals that you are their man. The hangup for Santorum is two-fold -- he can't get the GOP nomination without winning Iowa (thereby leaping to the forefront of the field), where he can only win if he out-moralizes Palin and Huckabee, and then he may have positioned himself too far to the right, socially-speaking, to win the center in the general election. But, like I said, he's smart, and if anyone can pull off that trick, it's Santorum, not Palin or Huckabee.
This is a guy who cannot help himself when it comes to moralizing. Where many of the other GOP candidates are focused on the economy, he is quick to tell you, "If all the focus is on spending and taxes, I think we miss the whole picture. There are great concerns about where America is going not just on the economic front." That's code for: "I am dying to tell you what to do and not do in your personal life." And his PAC can't help it either. Right there in the list of what he thinks are pressing issues in 2012: "We must protect those who are the most vulnerable." In case you aren't clear on this point, that's more code-speak. He's not talking about helping out any actually already-born Americans; I can assure you that. Santorum also supports the teaching of intelligent design in public schools and has called life-saving/changing stem-cell research: "the wholesale destruction of human life paid for by the federal government." Really, Rick? Thanks for the hysteria.
In fact, I like to think the "can't help himself" part of it will be Santorum's downfall. Let's not forget that Dems just held a Senate seat in Colorado by exposing GOP candidate Ken Buck as too socially right-wing for the residents of that fine state.
So there you have it my Dem friends. None of these guys are with you on economic issues, I realize, but, on the personal-freedom side of things Rick Santorum is a frighteningly electable cut above (below?) the others in terms of his burning desire to legislate morality at the federal level. I don't come close to sharing your fear of all Republicans, but, if you're smart, you'll at least learn to fear some of them more than others when it comes to 2012. President Santorum ought to be a very scary prospect, indeed.