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Rick Santorum represents everything that is wrong with the Republican Party

The Santorum Scam

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Dismantling a bloated federal government is a primary concern for conservatives today, but former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum has spent a career promoting big government. Conservatives have also made putting an end to massive government spending a top priority as well, but Santorum has a record of championing out-of-control spending. And while many believe that our debt is the greatest threat to our national security, the former senator has always considered everything but the debt to be a far greater threat to the U.S.

In a 2003 Wall Street Journal column "Big Government Conservatism," The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes explained George W. Bush's distinct GOP brand. "Reagan was a small government conservative who declared in his inauguration address that government was the problem, not the solution. There, Bush begs to differ," Barnes wrote. "The essence of Bush's big-government conservatism is a trade-off. To gain free-market reforms and expand individual choice, he's willing to broaden programs and increase spending."

During the Bush administration, Santorum was just as much a poster boy for big government as the president. Throughout Dubya's debt-doubling agenda — No Child Left Behind, Medicare Plan D, you name it — Santorum was completely on board. And for that entire period, the Republican Party was completely off course.

Heading into the 2012 campaign, the former senator sounds more like the ghost of the GOP's past, invoking Bush's name more often and favorably than any other candidate. Santorum has also been beating the drums of the culture and foreign wars, hoping that the sound might drown out the cries of his big-government record. Last week, Santorum even tried to make amends with small-government conservatives by publicly apologizing for his support of Medicare Plan D. It's too bad that Santorum is running during an election cycle in which conservatives are fed up with candidates who constantly apologize yet never change.

Let us examine the Santorum scam: In positioning himself as the most socially conservative candidate, Santorum has been successful in spending as many taxpayer dollars as the Democrats by seeking right-wing refuge in his pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-gay marriage positions. The problem is, "conservatives" of Santorum's stripe rarely do much to actually advance these issues. Is America any closer to overturning Roe vs. Wade? Do we have more federal gun laws today or less? Has homosexuality become more or less culturally acceptable? For most Republican politicians, social conservatism has always been more of a fashion statement than a mission statement. You even get the sense that politicians like Santorum know they can't do much about these issues and thus enjoy the cover a socially conservative agenda provides them. A 10th amendment revolution in this country might give social conservatives more victories than they've had in decades, but it would also mean the loss of a valuable election tool for Republicans who always favor impossible-to-pass federal legislation.

The Bush era term "compassionate conservatism" suggests that plain, old-fashioned conservatism is lacking and gives even more insight into Santorum's philosophy. In a 2005 piece entitled "Goodbye to Goldwater," Reason's Jonathan Rauch explained how Santorum's rejection of traditional conservatism tied in with the senator's essentially statist philosophy: "As Goldwater repudiated Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, so Santorum repudiates Goldwater and Ronald Reagan."

Rauch adds, "Santorum shows no interest in defining principled limits on political power. His first priority is to make government pro-family, not to make it small ... The bold new challenge to the Goldwater-Reagan tradition in American politics comes not from the left but from the right."

With grassroots conservatives rediscovering the limited-government philosophy of Goldwater and Reagan, Santorum's Jurassic GOP is more out of step than ever. As a pre-emptive 2012 political strike, Santorum now laughably describes himself as being "Tea Party before there was a Tea Party." RedState.com's Ben Domenech has zero tolerance for such revisionist history. "Does Rick Santorum have any clue what the Tea Party movement stands for?" Domenech asks. "Doesn't he realize that the big government solutions he advocated for in his book [It Takes a Family] are exactly the reason so many Tea Partiers today don't call themselves Republicans anymore?" Domenech adds, "It's precisely the Republican Party of Rick Santorum that even makes the Tea Party movement necessary."

Rick Santorum represents everything that is wrong with the GOP. He is a candidate who has consistently proven he possesses both the will and the intention to do as much harm to the cause of limited government as the current president he seeks to replace.

Jack Hunter co-wrote Rand Paul's The Tea Party Goes to Washington. Southern Avenger commentaries can be heard every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on The Morning Buzz with Richard Todd on 1250 AM WTMA.

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