Santorum symbolizes a political party that says it wants to help families but supports anti-family policies

Yesterday was a glorious, almost celestial day for Rick Santorum. He lost last night’s Iowa caucus to Mitt Romney by a mere eight votes. Earlier in the day, he was highly praised in a deceptive article by conservative columnist David Brooks.

The Iowa caucus represents what’s wrong with our electoral process and the Brooks article is the latest example of the deceptive politics that the Republican Party plays.

First Iowa: I am far from the first to note that our primary system gives more weight to rural and conservative voters. The first three “votes” almost always sort out the declared candidates into contenders and also-rans. By the end of these “votes” there are typically just two, and sometimes only one, candidate left standing in either party. Yet those “votes” include the Iowa caucus and the primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina, three states that have much higher levels of conservative voters than the nation as a whole and no major metropolitan area.  For example, 6 of 10 voters identified themselves as evangelicals in last night’s Iowa caucus, which only decides on delegates to county conventions to take place later in the year. No national survey has ever shown that more than about 30% of voters identify themselves as evangelicals.

Let’s say that the first three “votes” were Massachusetts and New Mexico, two states with relatively progressive voters, and the swing state of North Carolina. After these three states voted or caucused, the candidates left standing in both parties would certainly be more progressive than they are now. More important, those who participated in these early rounds would be more representative of voters throughout the entire country. The electoral process is rigged right from the beginning. 

The David Brooks encomium to Santorum is a masterpiece of political propaganda.  If you read not only what it says but what it doesn’t say, you get a good idea of the game that Republicans have been running on the white working class since Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign.

In the article, titled “Workers of the World, Unite!,” Brooks slowly builds his case for Rick Santorum. Here is my paraphrase of his reasoning:

  1. The largest voting bloc in the country is white working class (whites with a high school education or a little college) and these voters now tend to vote Republican, which makes the Republicans the party of working class whites.
  2. Virtually all Republican candidates come from an upper middle class or wealthy background. (His exact words dance around this fact:former College Republicans who have a more individualistic and even Randian worldview than most members of the working class.”
  3. Santorum comes from a working class and immigrant background and focuses his concerns not on the individual but on the family.
  4. Santorum is therefore the “working class candidate of the right.”

What Brooks expects us to believe is that the proof a candidate supports the working class is that he or she comes from the working class.

Even a cursory perusal of Santorum’s stands on economic and political issues at his website demonstrates that while he may come from modest means, Rick Santorum definitely does not support the best interests of the working class-white or otherwise: 

  • He wants to curtail the National Labor Relations Board, which is an anti-union move. Unions were the main reason that so many working class whites and minorities achieved middle class status after World War II and the decline of unionism has been one of the major reasons the working class has slipped into poverty and near poverty.
  • He likes Paul Ryan’s plan to gut Medicare.
  • His proposals to lower taxes tend to help the wealthy and near wealthy much more than they help the working class.
  • His proposals to cut government spending would leave less money for creating jobs and educating children.
  • He explicitly states that he would look to the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation Enterprise Foundation and the Simpson-Bowles Commission’s recommendations for guidance in economic policies. That’s three ultra-right think tanks that routinely propose policies that take money from the poor and middle class and give it to the wealthy, plus the special commission that was supposed to work on reducing the debt, but instead proposed policies that shift even more of the tax burden away from the wealthy and onto the backs of everyone else while cutting spending for jobs, infrastructure improvements and education.

Brooks wants us to judge Santorum on his style and not his substance. In advertising, that’s called selling the sizzle instead of the steak. Santorum’s steak is a tough chew for the 39% of the population that is working class whites, the group for which Brooks proposes Santorum as a “white knight.” (Brooks doesn’t consider the fate or needs of the non-white working class in his article).

The separation of the working class into white (and the unmentioned “others”) is another example of the ruling elite trying to divide and conquer. The interests of working class whites and non-whites are exactly the same. To divide the groups may make sense for analyzing voting patterns, but in a discussion of issues and “best interests” it is patently racist.  

Santorum, like all the current Republican candidates, says that he supports the working class, but his policies say otherwise. An old saying goes, “Look at what I say and not what I do.” In considering Santorum, let’s change it a bit: Don’t look at what he says he represents, look at what he says he’s going to do. And what he says he’s going to do will further erode the economic well-being of anyone who doesn’t have a lot of money, which means most people and all of the working class.

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