Mona Charen

In fact, Santorum's sanctimonious style might put off even many religious voters. His intense 2008 warning about "the father of lies, Satan" having his "sights on the United States of America ... attacking the great institutions of America -- using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that (have) so deeply rooted in the American tradition" is not the sort of language most preachers, to say nothing of political figures, employ today. American religion these days is heavy on forgiveness and light on sin. We've long since left Jonathan Edwards behind. Anything other than comic references to Satan are likely to give people the creeps.

Additionally, as Santorum himself seemed to acknowledge in the Arizona debate, the social issues that worry him -- and should worry all of us -- such as the collapse of the two-parent family, are not the kinds of problems that government can or should even attempt to solve. Yes, welfare programs that reward unwed parenting by subsidizing it are part of the problem. But as Santorum will tell you (repeatedly), he helped reform welfare. That was the easy part. The rest is cultural change, and the president of the United States has very limited influence there.

If the fall campaign is all about what Rick Santorum said about gay adoptions, or a dozen other cultural live wires, it will not be about the Republican Party's most important and compelling issues -- the ballooning national debt, the gross expansion of the federal government into every realm of life, economic growth, the flaccid foreign policy of the Obama administration, and the vain pursuit of "green" energy at the expense of abundant domestic oil and gas.

Americans are open to being persuaded that the federal behemoth can be tamed, that our health care system can be saved before it buries us in red tape and incompetence, and that entitlements can be sensibly reformed. But they wouldn't even hear those arguments from Rick Santorum. He'd be too busy putting Satan behind him.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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