Why Santorum & Not Romney?

I thought it might be time for a full-blown explanation for why I back Rick Santorum over Mitt Romney, realizing even as I write this that Romney has the inside track for the nomination. If anything I say can make someone reconsider his/her support for Romney or help someone understand better why Santorum should be considered seriously as the Republican nominee, I will have accomplished my purpose. If no one is convinced by what I say, at least I was faithful to write what is on my heart.

Some of what I say will not be politically correct, even in Republican circles, but I urge you to read all the way through before coming to a conclusion.

Why I Support Santorum

I didn’t start out as a Santorum backer. At first, I thought he was an afterthought as a candidate. Neither could I understand why anyone who lost his last Senate campaign believed he had a shot at the presidential nomination. I wrote him off.

Shortly before the Iowa caucus decision, however, I began paying attention to his approach: he was dedicated to meeting people one-on-one; he traveled to every county in Iowa, willing to speak to whatever size group; he ran the campaign on a shoestring, yet was making an impression. As I listened more to him, I realized I agreed with much of what he was saying. When he stunned the political world by winning Iowa [however belated the result], I decided to purchase his book It Takes a Family. Reading it solidified my support.

I don’t know how many who are currently reading this post have taken the time to read Santorum’s book, but I presume it is a minority, to say the least. I’ve reported on the contents of that book in this blog from time to time, offering excerpts and commentary. Here’s what I learned about Santorum by reading it:

  • He is a genuine Christian who grounds his politics in his Biblical worldview.
  • His worldview, as expressed in the book and in other speeches I’ve heard him give, is, on most points, similar to mine: religious/theological beliefs are the cornerstone of society; government has no right to excise religious faith from the public square; family is the bedrock of society, and policies must be family-friendly; government should only do those things that family, church, and other private organizations cannot do.
  • When he discusses history, such as when he contrasts the American and French revolutions, he and I are on the same page.
  • While he sometimes allows federal government aid when I would have constitutional scruples against doing so, his aim is never to grow the government but to strengthen the family and those private agencies that form the backbone of a prosperous nation.
  • He does not believe government is the solution to our problems, despite what his critics may say.
  • Even when I disagree with the specifics of a particular policy he has advocated, I understand the motives behind his advocacy, and they are always honest and focused on trying to do the right thing.
  • He has lived out his faith admirably through his devotion to family and principle.
  • He and his wife have homeschooled their children because they believe they can provide the type of Christian education the children will need to stand firm in a culture that is slipping away from its Biblical moorings.

For these reasons, I pray for Santorum’s success as a candidate.

What are his deficiencies? For one, he does have a tendency to speak off the cuff and get into trouble for using certain terms and phrases. Yet when I investigate the substance of his critiques—calling Obama a snob and feeling like “throwing up” when he listens to JFK’s speech—I find that I agree with the critiques he offers, wishing only that he had used more wisdom in expressing them.

I always prefer someone who speaks the truth, even inelegantly at times, to someone who is measured in speaking yet has nothing significant to say.

I don’t expect perfection from a candidate; if I did, I would never vote. Santorum’s worldview and heart, coupled with a good number of policies with which I agree, are sufficient for me.

Why I Don’t Support Romney

Since I started with worldview when speaking about Santorum, let me do the same with Romney. Here’s where I’m going to depart from Republican political correctness and may earn the disfavor of many because I’m going to introduce a theological concern. As an evangelical Christian, I want to know what a candidate believes about ultimate reality. For me, Mormonism is a skewed version of reality. Being theologically literate, I cannot simply look away from Romney’s Mormonism and say it doesn’t factor into my analysis of him. From my viewpoint, Mormonism is a cult that tries to disguise itself as Christian. Its basic tenets on the nature of Christ and salvation are not orthodox Christian. In fact, many of its beliefs border on bizarre. So I ask myself whether I can trust someone who has willingly accepted those beliefs.

I do realize, though, that political parties are not churches, and there must be coalitions to achieve goals. Most Mormons—Harry Reid is a notable exception—maintain an outward morality that is similar to Christian morality. In addition, most Mormons are conservative politically, and they believe in limited government and the free enterprise system. Therefore, I don’t automatically conclude that I won’t vote for a Mormon. However, given the option between someone who mirrors my worldview and someone who does not, I lean toward the one with whom I expect to be spending eternity, a Christian brother or sister.

Now we come to political philosophy and policy. Even if Romney were an evangelical Christian, I would still choose Santorum over him. Why? Let me count the ways. Just what is his overarching political philosophy? Is it the current conservatism he says he espouses, or is it instead the way he ran campaigns and governed Massachusetts? They are markedly different.

As I’ve noted before, and as Santorum has articulated in the debates, Romney has no ground whatsoever to attack Obamacare. Romneycare definitely was its forerunner and inspiration. An op-ed Romney wrote for USA Today back in 2009 has resurfaced this week in which he urged Obama to adopt the individual mandate that he [Romney] created in Massachusetts. Apparently, the president took his advice. This revelation also gives the lie to Romney’s defense that he saw his healthcare solution as only for the state, not for the nation. He can’t credibly say that anymore, not when he was pushing for Obama to copy what he did.

On pro-life and the homosexual agenda, his record is spotty. He’s even supported Planned Parenthood. When he first ran for office in Massachusetts, he concluded he had to set aside his pro-life position and run as a pro-choicer to win. That’s reprehensible. Now, all of a sudden, he’s a confirmed pro-lifer again. Why? Is it because he knows he can’t get the Republican nomination running on pro-choice? That was his calculation in the past; why should we believe he has changed now?

Will a President Romney really appoint federal judges who go by the original intent/wording of the Constitution? A survey of those he appointed in Massachusetts would indicate otherwise. Frankly, I don’t trust him, and that’s the bottom line for why he does not have my support.

What If Romney Wins the Nomination?

If Romney becomes the Republican nominee, I will vote for him. Not enthusiastically, but strategically. He may turn out to be a major disappointment as a president, and at that point I don’t promise not to tell my fellow evangelicals who promoted his candidacy “I told you so.” But if forced to vote between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, four more years of the latter would be inconceivable. The Obama worldview is even further from the truth than Romney’s. It is radical and dangerous. If Obama has to work with a Republican Congress, he will just do what he is starting to do now—rule by executive fiat and ignore the role of Congress. He will attempt to set up an imperial presidency. That must be avoided at all costs.

As I noted at the beginning of this unusually long post [I normally don’t tax you with this much verbiage], the odds are against Santorum. The states where he is strong divide delegates proportionally; the states where Romney is expected to win, such as California and New York, have more delegates and their primaries are winner-take-all. This is clearly an uphill fight for Rick Santorum, but it’s a fight worth making. He is the better candidate when it comes to worldview and principles. And those should be our guide.

Moral Courage . . . and the Lack Thereof

The Senate of the United States is supposed to be one of the most august legislative bodies in the world. This is where political maturity should be exemplified. The Founders envisioned a a select group of men [and now women] who would calmly and rationally make the best decisions for the nation as a whole, and not be swayed by pettiness.

This is the same body that has long since passed the deadline for enacting a budget—getting close to three years now without one.

Yesterday, the Senate added to its shame by tabling an amendment that would have done nothing more than confirm the right to religious liberty that already should be guaranteed by the First Amendment. The amendment to a bill simply said that the HHS mandates the Obama administration is attempting to cram down the throats of religious organizations had to contain a clear exemption for those whose religious beliefs opposed the measure. Only three Democrats found the moral courage to vote in favor of that amendment.

For those in my current state of Florida, be it noted that Sen. Bill Nelson was not one of those who found courage. This November, you have an opportunity to let him know what you think about that.

Of course, this is hardly the first time in American history that the Congress has disgraced itself, but it always hurts to witness a travesty.

Travesty number two: the Republican party in Michigan decided to go against its own rules; instead of splitting the delegates evenly in the recent primary, which should have happened since Romney and Santorum both won the same number of districts, the committee in charge of awarding the delegates moved one delegate from Santorum to Romney, thereby changing the delegate count from 15-15 to 16-14. It was noted by those familiar with the process that the committee had a number of avowed Romney supporters and none for Santorum. This was a political ploy that has been condemned not only by Santorum’s team but by other fair commentators who haven’t necessarily supported Santorum.

Both of these examples showcase the dire need for Christian morality to come to the forefront in our politics. Moral courage seems to be in short supply.

Reagan, Santorum, & the Nervous Nellies

Listening to the panic within the GOP establishment about the possibility of Rick Santorum being the Republican presidential nominee reminds me of 1976 and 1980. The criticisms I hear today of Santorum by GOP insiders are similar to the ones leveled against the “outsider” back in those earlier presidential campaigns. The outsider at that time was a guy named Ronald Reagan.

I remember clearly how adamant his Republican critics were that it would be an embarrassment to have Reagan at the head of the ticket: he was a grade-B movie actor, we were told; he had a tendency to say foolish things; he was too focused on the problems and didn’t have a “sunny” enough disposition. Can you believe that last one, now that everyone points to Reagan’s optimism? But back in the day, he was the one who came across to some as too hardline—he would turn off the moderate voters.

As today, we were gravely informed that disaster would befall the GOP if Reagan were the candidate. So, in 1976, the GOP establishment lined up behind Gerald Ford. Of course, he was the sitting president, so much of that was to be expected. But the venom directed at Reagan was unceasing. In particular, we were assured that a prolonged primary season, one that lasted right up to the convention itself, would destroy any chance Ford would have against Carter. It did go to the convention, and Reagan only barely lost the nomination. While it’s true that Ford lost to Carter, blaming Reagan for that would be to omit how badly Ford performed as the candidate. It also would dismiss the effects of Watergate and Ford’s pardon of Nixon. No, Reagan’s challenge was not the reason Ford lost; he accomplished that all by himself.

Again, in 1980, the Nervous Nellies of the squishy middle wanted someone else besides Reagan, whether it was Bob Dole, Howard Baker, or George H. W. Bush. We were gravely informed once again that a Reagan candidacy would be a disaster because he couldn’t draw in the independent voters. The economy at the time was eerily similar to what it is today. There was a weak incumbent—Carter—just like there is today with Obama. Yet the polls still predicted a Carter victory right up to the week before the election. Imagine all the “I told you so’s” being whispered among the Republican moderates. Well, that election was a blowout for Reagan. The rest is history.

That’s why I’m not swayed by our current crop of Nervous Nellies. They’ve been wrong before; they can be wrong again. What we need is someone who stands for genuine Biblical principles in government—no, that’s not a theocracy—and who’s willing to take on the incumbent philosophically as well as on specific policy issues. We need someone who can explain “why” we need to change our perception of government, not merely tell us “what” he’s going to do. Reagan was good at the “why” as well as the “what.” Santorum deals with foundational thinking, whereas Romney doesn’t seem to have a foundation.

By the way, do you recall that Romney won Michigan this week? Well, you recalled incorrectly. It turns out that the delegates are split 50/50 between Romney and Santorum. In most worlds, that’s called a tie. This isn’t over yet.

Michigan Musings

The Arizona and Michigan primaries are now behind us. Arizona went as expected, 47% for Romney, 27% for Santorum. It was a winner-take-all primary, so the Santorum team was wise not to spend money there. The focus was on Michigan, which went for Romney 41%-38%.

Both sides will of course spin for the greatest PR effect. For Romney, it is a win, but he had to sweat. It was not the steamroller his people had expected before Santorum’s rise. If he had lost Michigan, where he grew up and his father was a three-term governor, it would have been a severe blow to him on the expectations front. GOP establishment figures were already leaking comments about finding a new candidate if Michigan rejected its native son.

What about Santorum? How does this affect his momentum? It remains to be seen. First, the loss was not by a large margin. Second, it wasn’t a winner-take-all primary, so he will get some delegates. If you look at a map of the state, and which counties he won, you see he grabbed quite a few; he practically owned the central/western counties. Romney, however, took the Detroit area where there was a higher concentration of voters.

Super Tuesday is next week. Current polls have Santorum leading in a number of states such as Ohio, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. Ohio has 66 delegates at stake, which would be a big haul for him. The real question now is whether yesterday’s results will pull down his numbers. Or will his supporters be encouraged by a strong second-place showing in a state where he originally had no hope?

The GOP establishment is breathing easier today, but more tense times for them may be upcoming. If Santorum can pull off a number of victories next week, it could keep him on track for the Texas primary later, where he has a significant lead right now.

The long march to the convention did not end in Michigan.

Legislating Morality Cannot Be Avoided

One of the arguments against Santorum is that he’s talking too much about social issues, and that’s going to spell doom for Republicans because they need to concentrate on the economy. We need to get something straight here: when people divide issues between “social” and “economic,” they are creating an artificial separation. As Santorum clearly explains, both in his book and his public appearances, the social traumas we face—family breakdown, abortion, a pleasure-for-me-first mentality—are at the root of our economic woes.

All the relevant statistics show that poverty abounds in single-parent homes, while the poverty rate in two-parent homes is something like 6%. Children growing up in broken homes are far more likely to end up on public assistance, either via welfare or the prison system, the latter being at taxpayer expense also. Government policies that serve to discourage marriage and penalize through taxation those who are responsibly raising children should be a primary concern for politicians.

Freedom of religion was important enough to the Founders to have it mentioned first in a list of freedoms in the Bill of Rights. Churches have always been exempted from taxation because they promote a public good. Now the Obama administration wants to throttle freedom of religion in the guise of providing healthcare. It’s not hyperbole to insist that the current occupant of the White House harbors a certain animosity toward those who hold to conservative/orthodox Christian views.

The old bugaboo that critics of social conservatives continue to repeat is the canard that “You can’t legislate morality.” They emit dire warnings about the “theocrats” who want to invade your bedroom and force an outdated morality on the nation. This criticism is essentially dishonest on all points.

The idea that you can’t legislate morality begs for a definition. What is morality? Well, it deals with the distinction between right and wrong. What are laws? They are statements of what is right and what is wrong. Murder, for instance, is against the law because it wrongly takes the life of the innocent. I would argue that abortion fits into that category as well. Theft is wrong because the thief purloins property that belongs to someone else. Fraud is wrong because it is deception and lying. Murder, theft, fraud. Does anyone really want us to stop enacting and enforcing such laws simply because they have a religious basis? After all, the Bible speaks out against all of these. So when we pass laws to punish those who do such things, are we stepping into an area where government is not supposed to enter? It would be completely foolish to believe so.

Bottom line: all laws are statements of morality. It’s not that we cannot legislate morality; it’s that we cannot avoid legislating morality. The only real question here is whose morality are we going to legislate?

When President Obama imposes mandates on religious organizations that run counter to their deeply held beliefs, isn’t he legislating morality? He’s saying, in effect, that withholding contraception is “wrong.” Soon, he will demand abortion services be provided as well because he believes it is “wrong” not to do so.

So let’s do away with the dishonesty. Morality is the basis for all laws. So-called social issues are at the heart of the spiritual, emotional, and mental health of a nation—and yes, of the economic health as well. The two should never be separated. Rick Santorum is correct to make the linkage.

Tearing Away the Veil

Sometimes the veil is torn away and we can see the deep and wide chasm that exists in our society. A comment Santorum made the other day has served as the catalyst for showcasing the dichotomous thinking that dominates our culture. The media are in an absolute apoplectic fit over his all-too-true statement that Obama’s theology masquerades as Biblical theology, and that the president’s worldview is decidedly other than Christian.

From both the Right and the Left, Santorum is being taken to the verbal woodshed for breathing such heresy, and for introducing a theological element into the presidential race. Apparently, they don’t believe there is any connection between ultimate reality and politics. I beg to differ.

In fact, he was correct. Obama’s worldview is in direct opposition to a Biblical worldview. Now, Santorum came out later and said that he didn’t mean to imply Obama wasn’t a Christian personally, merely that his worldview was inconsistent with standard, orthodox Christian theology. The only criticism I have of anything Santorum said was that later statement. Of course, as a presidential candidate, one must be careful not to alienate everyone by declaring your opponent a non-Christian, particularly when the “One” is touting his Christianity as often as he has been recently.

However, I’m not running for president, and I will say what Santorum cannot: Obama’s so-called Christianity is not the real thing. His view of Christ and salvation are not Biblical. He is caught up in a spiritual deception, but he’s not a victim—it is of his own making, by his own free will.

Naturally, this will be an ongoing point of attack from Santorum’s challengers. Ron Paul is already saying that social issues should be off the table. Mitt Romney has nothing to run on besides being a businessman, so he doesn’t want anything to do with moral values. Gingrich has so much baggage that he will probably avoid the same, except for disparaging Santorum for standing up for Biblical foundations in society.

In the current field, only Santorum has the lifestyle that reflects a Biblical worldview. For that, I respect him, and I pray for his success.

By the way, new polls show he has a commanding lead in both Texas and Oklahoma. These go along with a big lead in Ohio and a consistent lead in Michigan. That last one is still in play because Romney will be pulling out all the stops there. If Romney loses one of his “home” states, he’s in big trouble.

Romney should be running away with the nomination: he has the money, the organization, the backing of the Republican establishment. But he doesn’t have the hearts of Republican voters. Santorum is filling that vacuum.

In Their Own Secular Image

My regular readers know that I’ve been sharing some thoughts from Santorum’s 2005 book It Takes a Family. One of the chapters, “Religion and Social Capital,” could have been written in the last couple of weeks, what with the Obama administration’s attempt to coerce religious organizations into providing services that violate their principles. For instance, when talking about “mediating institutions,” and how to strengthen them, Santorum says,

The most important answer is to build up what the village elders have spent decades trying to tear down and drive underground—religious institutions and faith-based organizations. The Democrats today have become the party espousing European-style secularism. They have gone to great lengths to create government bureaucracies to displace  the work that religious groups have done ever since the days of the Pilgrims, and to marginalize and privatize faith and its moral demands altogether. Their approach to government regulation and programming has worked in countless ways to sideline people of faith.

Why is this, one might ask? Why do they pull out all stops to neuter the effects of religion, Christianity in particular? I think Santorum is correct when he notes,

The village elders see churches as serious challengers to their “expert” authority and to their profoundly secularist worldview. For liberals, faith-based organizations are exactly the wrong sort of intermediate institution building the wrong sort of social capital. Consequently, even when the village elders try to incorporate social capital into their own agendas, the resulting “image” of American society looks like some bizarre parallel universe: America the secular.

If anyone believes the Obamacare “mandates” will stop with the latest attempts, or will not spread beyond the contraception issue, Santorum warns of what is still to come [and remember, this was written in 2005]:

Why did the village elders try, among many other things, to require Catholic hospitals to counsel for and provide abortions, require orthodox religious universities to fund gay and lesbian groups on campus, require religious organizations to provide spousal benefits to all unmarried couples, and bar even the Boy Scouts from public schools and public funds.?

Why would such “tolerant” people as the village elders try so intolerantly to force their agenda on religious institutions? The answer is clear. Religious institutions stand between them and the individuals they seek to fashion in their own image.

That’s the true danger: what Santorum calls the “village elders,” who can also be called liberals or progressives, want to remake America in their image. The only thing that stands between them and the realization of their dream is genuine Christian faith. That’s why, in their view, it must be marginalized, or even eliminated.

Do we truly understand this threat? If so, why would anyone who claims to be a Christian help them achieve their agenda? We need to recognize the danger. We need renewed minds.