Kathryn Lopez

“If we allow gay marriage next thing u know people will be marrying gold fish,” Miley Cyrus tweeted. She was protesting news that the president of Urban Outfitters has contributed to former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, and taking some liberty with arguments Santorum’s made about the importance of protecting traditional marriage.

Such is pretty much the media life of Rick Santorum. When Keira Knightley took Daily Show star Jon Stewart’s advice to use Google to identify the Republicans who participated in the first primary debate last month, the British actress reported: “I just Googled Santorum. I feel like my innocence has been taken away.” Santorum has more than his share of outspoken, vitriolic foes. And the insults and injustices of the political arena -- and the 17-point loss he took in his last election, for re-election to the Senate in 2006 -- are not keeping him from running for the Republican nomination for president of the United States this year.

The question on the minds of many who are aware of Santorum’s campaign: “Why would he bother?”

Well, he would bother because he believes, as so many who have showed up at tea party rallies in the last two years do, that America is in existential jeopardy if we fail to make some swift and hard choices, rooted in who we are and who want to be. He would bother because he has experience working in Washington, working with people of a variety of views, moving legislation forward that provides humane solutions to problems sometimes created by well-intentioned government programs. He would bother because he loves people and policy, and sees the connections between the two.

On marriage, by the way, he has said that: “If we do not, as a party and as a people, stand behind the institution of marriage and understand its essential role as the glue that holds the family together, … we are going to destine our children and destine the future of this country for a lower standard of living and less free and prosperous country.”

Santorum, who was a leader in truly changing the abortion debate in the 1990s, does not discuss issues like the dignity of human life and marriage to be divisive or intolerant but he because believes they’re integral to our founding, our divinely ordained rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

They’re essential, too, to why he bothers with politics at all; the dignity of human life, for him, is not a talking point, or confined to one issue.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.