Potter Political Pickle

Answer Well


March 11
As a political observer and registered Independent, I enjoy discussing my opinion. It didn’t take long for my wife to name these occurrences “The Jeremy Potter Lecture Series.” But I’d prefer to take them public as an enthusiastic motivational “speaker” writing to challenge America’s assumptions and perceptions. A political science degree propelled my pragmatic growth as an analyst in the government-contracting industry. Now, I’m complementing, and perhaps complicating, my perspective in law school. Combining my writing experience and personal passion, I intend to accelerate political progress. Thank you for considering my qualified, yet independent voice.


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JUNE 7, 2011 8:08AM

Rick Santorum: A genius?

Rate: 9 Flag

First things first.  As I wrote this last night, I was listening to the video of Rep. Weiner's press conference where he apologized for sending inappropriate pictures of himself over Twitter to someone that was not his wife.  Great.  I'm not really prepared to write about that story without excessive profanity and perpetual disappointment in these men.  So, instead, I'll hold off and write the piece I intended to post today.

In high school, Rick Santorum spoke at my high school and those of us in the Teenage-Republicans (TARs) were able to meet then Senator Santorum and have a photo with him around the flagpole.  Classic Americana.  Well, I've come along way since then.  I'm still politically active and (generally) fiscally conservative.  Though I live in Connecticut, attend law school and am a registered Independent.  From the outside it probably looks like I'm a long way from the TARs.  In reality, I like to think of it as a change toward the Center and for the better.  I started the pickle to try to apply two principles to the national political stories I read - practicality and common sense.  Does it make sense? And can you pull it off? So, a few years ago, I voted for President Obama.  It made sense and I believed him.

On the other side, this is where Rick Santorum and I part ways.

Since that day over 10 years ago, I haven't heard him say one thing that's realistic for the way our political culture and society operate.  If you like idealism, get ready.  Santorum is the king of playing the party line and providing the most idealistic vision of what conservative politics are all about.  In some ways, I respect that.  It's pretty consistent and he actually believes in that vision.  My problem is that it's totally unrealistic.  Santorum's messages are marked by sweeping changes, dramatic shifts in the social and economic landscapes and radical departure from our government's current structure.

This is why I think Santorum is a genius.

By declaring his candidacy for President, Santorum moves the entire dialogue farther to the Right.  Pawlenty, Romney and Gingrich now have to contend with a candidate who rivals Sarah Palin on the far Right.  By doing so, the major news outlets portray a Republican party still dominated by social conservatives.  Whether or not Santorum actually thinks he can beat President Obama in 2012 is irrelevant.  His presence in this campaign provides the perception to everyone else - Republican or otherwise - that the GOP and the country is far more conservative than I think we actually are. News outlets report Santorum's popularity, broadcast his speeches, report his poll numbers and all of the sudden Santorum is a major part of the campaign season.

So what?

In the early Republican primaries, we'll likely have voter turnout somewhat lower than in 2008.  That means if 60% of all registered Republicans show up to vote and Santorum gets 25% or 30% of that vote in Iowa or South Carolina, an incredibly small group of people will give him the perception of popularity and strength.  Then, those voters will end up propelling a very conservative agenda to the national headlines.  Literally a few thousand people here or there in two or three states will drive several news cycles (or more) and end up giving the country a (false) impression of how strong the far Right agenda is.

I cannot imagine this strategy is good for a Republican party that needs moderates and Independents to beat President Obama. But it is very good for social conservatives and "Teavangelicals" to continue to dominate Republican politics.  Is the country actually moving Right? Do Republicans and Tea Partiers really want to split the Republican party? These questions, including continued debate over Santorum's message(s) and media attention on the GOP, will have the effect of bringing Santorum's agenda to center stage.

This strategy is how Ralph Reed types continue to scare moderate Republicans and strong arm the centrist candidates in primary season.  By running for President, Santorum has not given the Republican party a better chance of beating Barack Obama in 2012, but he has ensured that we'll continue to talk about the power of the religious right and may even get a few pundits talking about how the country is moving Right. Genius.

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I don't think the country will swing that far right in this particular election, and if Obama is put out, it will be by a moderate. Still, your article is an interesting one.
I believe that Rick Santorum is mentally ill, suffering with some sort of Delusional Disorder. I like to call it Presinoia. (Please go to UrbanDictionary.com for the full definition.)

Santorum's chances of getting elected POTUS are the exact same as him becoming the next president of Pakistan.

Unfortunately, the entire gaggle of Republican POTUS wannabes are in the same boat.

BTW - I am a moderate Republican.
Here in Pennsylvania, Santorum is a boy-nitwit that was thrown out of office last time by a huge (18%) margin. His announcement was a hollow anti-Obama rant that made little practical sense.
Agreed. I didn't mean to imply that Santorum has a chance. He does not. But what I think he will do is put pressure on the more moderate-types like Pawlenty and Romney. Although one upside for those two is that Santorum makes them look reasonable and electable. The bad news for the rest of us is that we have to watch while he moves the primary to the Right and the media happily reports it as if he's a legitimate candidate (at least until the first debate or primary shows otherwise).
I thought it was abundantly clear from what you wrote that you think Santorum will get a rather trivial level of support (in actual terms) that will be wrongheadedly portrayed as a groundswell of popularity (in MSM - we have zilch understanding of proportion or any other vaguely mathematical concept - terms) and this will, as you said, shift the whole playing field to the right.

It's really about the perception of where the country is politically (Jon Meachem's constant 'we're a center right nation' meme) versus where it actually is. I just read an article that claimed somewhere between 60 & 85 % of people support a minimum wage increase. I don't know if that is true, but I do know I was incredulous. I'm so used to hearing about the Tea Party et al, I just couldn't believe it. And yet, 15 years ago, I would've been surprised if it wasn't true.

Have Americans changed that much in the last decade or two, or merely my perception of what they believe?

And if Santorum can be taken seriously espousing notions of restoring some pseudo 1950s free market paradise that only ever existed in an alternate universe of his own imagination then he may well be a genius ;-}
An excellent piece.
An excellent piece.
Rick Santorum is another vapid yapper without an original thought in his head who knows which phrases will elicit Pavlovian grunts of approval from the Tea Party cretins. In these fallen times, that is considered genius in Rightwing circles.

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This is an interesting article. I do disagree with a few points. First, I disagree that the Republicans need a watered down centrist to win the election in 2012. They tried that in the last election cycle and it did not go well. I believe they need someone who can create a clear vision, articulate it clearly, not waiver in their core beliefs, and make us believe that it will help the country grow stronger.

Secondly, I haven't heard anything from Santorum that is so radical and idealistic that it cannot be accepted by a majority of Americans. Remember that we don't have to be on board with a candidate on every issue to vote for them, otherwise no one would vote! On abortion, for example, Santorum is no more radically to the right than Obama is to the left. I know many people that disagree with Obama on abortion that still voted for him.

Also, I don't think you have to be a "right-winger" to vote for someone as conservative as Santorum. I am no evangelical, but I have no trouble voting for someone who is. I will vote for the candidate that I agree with most on the issues that I believe are the most important to me and the good of the country. In this cycle the social issues may not play as big a part of my decision as the fiscal issues and national security issues will. In this arena I have more faith in someone like Santorum than I do Obama. To me, Santorum just makes more sense.