Santorum’s Theocracy

Santorum’s theocratic statements seem self-caricaturing. He has asserted that the right to privacy “does not exist,” equated homosexual sex with “man on dog” relations, and compared the campaign against same-sex marriage to the war on terror. Santorum’s statements reflect not knee-jerk prejudice, but something much more powerful: philosophically reasoned prejudice, based on centuries of Roman Catholic natural law.

One dismissive reviewer of Santorum’s 2005 book, “It Takes a Family,” wrote in The Philadelphia Inquirer that Santorum is “one of the finest minds of the thirteenth century.” Santorum attacks gay rights and abortion not by spouting biblical verses or goading his audiences’ gut feelings, but by playing the medieval scholastic theologian and reasoning from first principles.

“Our Constitution granted unprecedented liberty to the individual,” Santorum wrote in an op-ed essay in The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2007. “But liberty without virtue devolves into license; and license, into chaos.” It follows, then, that the “right to privacy” is a sham invented by feminists and homosexuals to protect licentious behavior that endangers the greater social good.

Santorum’s positions are perfectly logical if you accept his founding presuppositions — but, in his view, those presuppositions are not open to question. The genius of this emphasis on foundational assumptions is that if you can dismiss your opponent’s first principles, if you can accuse him of denying humanity’s “natural purpose,” you can claim to win the debate without ever considering the content of his argument.

This tactic destroys the possibility for real political dialogue, since one need only engage with those who share one’s own presuppositions. Despite Santorum’s calm debating style, his preference for home-schooling his children and rants against modern higher education suggest he has little genuine interest in open argument and free inquiry.

Santorum’s surge in momentum as the primary campaign moved to the evangelical heartland was a long time coming, and not because his social positions are an exercise in garden-variety bigotry. Evangelicals’ embrace of Santorum illuminates a crucial shift in American political culture: their honeymoon with the Tea Party seems to be over.

Santorum’s Catholicism has made him the candidate of universal “moral truth” and “divine reason:” the philosopher-king who can reclaim American liberty in the name of moral law, and package the Christian Right’s agenda in a respectable guise.

Personally, I prefer someone who is capable of leading and not just another mouthpiece for God trying to restore man’s domination over women, homosexuals, freedom of choice, the right to privacy in medical decisions, etc…..

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Samuel Warde

Samuel is a writer, social activist, and all-around troublemaker.
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