Friday evening, a rural Southwestern Ohio event booked months ago at a fraternal lodge with a planned crowd of a couple hundred ended up with over 800 enthusiastic partisans packed into a nearby elementary school’s multi-purpose center.
The occasion was the Brown County, Ohio Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day dinner. The reason for the venue change and overflow crowd: Rick Santorum. He extemporaneous (take that, President ‘Prompter) 53-minute speech, while in need of a bit more polish and continuity, did not disappoint the crowd, and brought them to their feet several times.
Less than three weeks earlier, sensible, constitution-based conservatives were disheartened when former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s January 31 Florida Primary victory seemed to establish him as the frontrunner. At the time, I wrote: “Boy, are we in trouble.” If anyone had told you of their certainty that Santorum would completely turn the tables on Romney and then-closest pursuer Newt Gingrich, trounce them both a week later in three states (Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado), move from a 16-point national deficit to a 12-point lead in Rasmussen’s national poll, and take strong mid-February polling leads in the upcoming Michigan and Ohio primaries, you would have questioned their sanity.
After an initially determined narrow second-place finish in early January’s Iowa caucuses, which an utterly incompetent Hawkeye State GOP changed into “nobody won” sixteen days later and to “Santorum won” the very next day, the former Pennsylvania senator impressed no one during the next four races. Sure, he didn’t aggressively campaign in most of them, but he failed to break 10% twice. Gingrich seemed to be leaning on Santorum to drop out. In your dreams, Newtster.
What in the world has happened? Opponents’ gaffes and intemperance have helped, as have key blogospheric endorsements from Coloradoan Michelle Malkin and Minnesotan Ed Morrissey. But in my view, “Santorumentum” is sweeping the nation principally because he has a powerful message which is getting through, and is the only candidate with an overarching agenda whose ambition matches the challenges America faces.
Three of my key takeaways from Santorum’s speech were:
- The guy is instinctively likable. Because of that, the nonstop efforts by the Obama administration and the press (as seen in numerous Daily Caller reports during the past week, the two entities might as well be one and the same) to demonize him if he’s the nominee don’t seem likely to work if he gets the resources he needs to fight through the long campaign.
- He is adeptly managing the difficult feat of coming across as genuinely positive while being appropriately foreboding concerning where this nation is headed.
- His strategic focus is in the right place: “We’re gonna win” by making “Barack Obama and his failed policies the issue in this election.”
Above all, what I appreciated was Santorum’s assertion with accompanying proof that “This campaign is about big things.” Because it is. When Santorum’s two relevant challengers try to make this argument, Romney comes off as hollow, and Gingrich as too rehearsed.
Here are some of the “big things” Santorum identified:
- (about changing our current posture with the rest of the world) “Our country has done more for humankind, for freedom, for liberty, for human rights and an increase in the quality of life in the entire world than any country in the history of the world, and we have nothing to apologize for” … “In a Santorum administration, our friends would know they are our friends, our enemies would respect us. If they don’t respect us, they would fear us.”
- (on the dependency culture) “We’re on the precipice if we do not win this election of having every man, woman and child in America now dependent upon the federal government for your life and your health. When that happens, America as we know it changes.”
- “We need regulations and regulators. But we need them with the attitude that ‘We want you here in America. We want you to make things here in America. We want you to succeed in America. We want you to comply with our laws. But we’re not here to punish you, we’re here to work with you. We’re here to make sure that you have an opportunity to succeed. Because when you succeed, America succeeds.’”
- “Do you believe the government should be dictating and controlling every aspect of your life, or more and more of it? That we are a great country because we were built from the top down? Or do you believe this country is great because we were built from the bottom up?”
- (Refuting President Obama’s April 13, 2011 contention that “we would not be a great country without” the entitlement programs created since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, thus meaning that this was not a great country until then) “I believe America was founded great.”
The biggest of Santorum’s “big things” concerned the true nature of the relationship between our nation’s two key founding documents:
An increasing number of those on the progressive left would like to dispense with the Declaration (of Independence). They would like to move it off the stage, into the shadows, so they can just have this Constitution alone — a “living, breathing” Constitution. …
You see, a Constitution can “live and breathe” and change if it is not anchored to something eternal. That’s what the Declaration (of Independence) is, in the words that you all know … “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That is the heart of America.
… The French Revolution had a constitution not dissimilar to the American Constitution. But the French Revolution was not based on God-given rights. It was based on three things. Equality – good. Liberty – good. Fraternity – problematic. Where did we get our rights from? Paternity – God. … Where did their rights derive? From each other, from whoever has the levers of power.
This is what the Supreme Court is moving towards. This is why (Ruth Bader) Ginsburg doesn’t like our Constitution, much less our Declaration. Because she, they, want to create the rights and responsibilities. If we cut loose from the Declaration, cut loose from God-given rights, cut loose from the moral enterprise that is America, then we leave a very cold dangerous, frightening America to our children. That’s why this election is the most important election ever. Ever.
Santorum’s delivery during this, the final segment of his speech, was a bit choppy, and needs to be tightened up. But even as less than perfectly presented, it thoroughly impressed an audience which almost seemed to be rooting for him to say exactly what he said — heck, for anyone to say it, because very few candidates, even those who really share the values, have had the forthrightness to articulate these critical matters for far too long.
A badly underperforming economy, no matter how awful, will likely not be enough to guarantee Barack Obama’s defeat; after all, the Great Depression decade didn’t stop pioneering dependency and class warfare demagogue FDR from achieving the first two of his three reelections. The “big things” can be, if only Obama’s opponent and a unified party hammer them constantly, consistently, and understandably. Santorum appears to be the only candidate with the ability and inclination to do that, which is why the GOP faithful are flocking to him as their best hope.