Election 2012

Why Santorum Can't Pull Libertarian Voters: Because He Thinks Like a Liberal and Wants to Legislate Morality.

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Tim Carney has a must-read col up at the Washington Examiner. It's about how Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) just can't hide his desire to control how we all should live our lives.

Snippets:

When asked about contraception [in a GOP debate], which Santorum and the Catholic Church hold to be destructive of marriage and family, Santorum replied, "You know, here's the difference between me and the Left, and they don't get this. Just because I'm talking about it doesn't mean I want a government program to fix it. That's what they do. That's not what we do."

So far, so good, suggests Carney. One of the major points of libertarian political philosophy is to shrink the size of state-sanctioned coercion. Libertarians can get along with anyone pretty much, as long as they're not forcing you to behave a certain way.

Santorum's debate answer hit the conservative sweet spot -- the moral law should guide our personal actions, and individual liberty should guide our political decisions. But a few moments later, Santorum showed he didn't really believe it. When Ron Paul pressed Santorum on his votes for federal family planning funding, Santorum explained his response: "I said, well, if you're going to have Title X funding, then we're going to create something called Title XX, which is going to provide funding for abstinence-based programs."

Sure enough, if you drill down on Santorum's record, he frequently thinks that problems of personal morality do merit a federal response. Nowhere in Article I, Section 8 does the Constitution authorize Congress to teach kids to forswear sex before marriage. Nor is Santorum's proposed federal funding of crisis pregnancy centers a legitimate federal function. Sure, the Left hits first in the culture war by imposing their morality, but that doesn't mean the correct response is subsidized conservatism.

For libertarian conservatives such as Carney, this is enough to drive a person mad. And with good reason:

St. Augustine wisely asked "what does it really matter to a man whose days are numbered what government he must obey, so long as he is not compelled to act against God or his conscience?" This ought to be the Right's threshold in the culture wars. More often than not, in the United States these days, it's the secular Left imposing its morality on the religious Right….

An alliance between libertarians and conservatives is natural and right today. But Santorum has not only behaved as if he wants to drive the libertarians away, he has openly stated so -- repeatedly….

Increasing the size of government, even in the name of a more moral society, simply gives the Left more weapons to turn on the Right in the culture war -- Obamacare is the perfect example.

Whole column here.

I'm less convinced than Carney that Santorum doesn't harbor an interest in squelching the sales of contraceptives. Last fall, long before the current flap, he said that if he was president, he'd jawbone the nation from the bully pulpit about the "dangers of contraception," which is more than a bit discomfiting.

In any case, it is stunning how quickly Republican candidates and proxies such as Rush "I Like to Watch" Limbaugh have managed to FUBAR the first obvious example of how health-care reform is going to invade every nook and cranny of our private lives like a slowly leaking bottle of K-Y Intense spreading over the contents of a handbag.

In a month's time, we've gone from discussing the right of conscience to the cost of law students' contraception bills to what a pathetic jerk Rush Limbaugh and by extension all multiply-married GOP men really are.

As Jacob Sullum has pointed out re: Rubbergate, it just ain't a difficult concept to grasp that reproductive freedom doesn't mean the freedom to charge your lifestyle to somebody else's credit card. That conservative Republicans seem incapable of making and sticking to that basic principle is disturbing for any of us who believe that laws should be designed to facilitate social peace rather than ram one-size-fits-all life choices on all of us.