Business Times - 14 Feb 2012
Republicans won't beat Obama by alienating white middle-class voters
By LEON HADAR
ONE of Mitt Romney's electoral assets as a Republican presidential candidates has been what could be described as the 'nostalgia factor'.
A tall and fit white man, with broad shoulders and a strong jaw, exuding energy and optimism, the former Massachusetts governor reminds many white Americans of the baby boomer generation of America's post-1945 Golden Age, when political leaders and business executives who looked like Romney ruled America - and the world.
It was time of prosperity and you even didn't have to lock the door when you left home - a reflection of strong social solidarity.
Indeed, Romney, former house speaker Newt Gingrich and the other Republicans seem to relish in this Politics of Nostalgia, suggesting that they could revive the spirit of the good old days of the 1950s, make America militarily and economically strong again, and return the country - in danger of being taken over by a confederation of blacks, Hispanics and other alien groups led by that Kenyan/Muslim White House occupant - to its rightful owners.
But there is one Republican presidential candidate who resists this nostalgia for the 1950s. Instead, former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum who, after coming first in the recent Republican races in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota, seemed to have displaced Gingrich as the anti-Romney candidate of the week.
Santorum longs for the pre-Enlightenment Era of, say, the 1550s, when women stayed at home raising traditional families, when birth control was unknown, when religious institutions and not secular governments set the standards for social behaviour, when homosexuals did not enjoy legal protection, when the community and its values took precedence over individual rights.
The notion that Santorum, a leading member of the Republican Party's social-conservative wing could emerge as a serious presidential candidate would have been frowned upon by most political experts a few months ago when the conventional wisdom had it that economic policy would dominate the election campaign and that the Republicans would place issues like abortion, gay rights, and the campaign against the 'secular-liberal elites' on the back burner.
What the Republicans needed to do was to elect a presidential candidate who could fix the economy, as opposed to electing someone who could lead them in the culture wars. But with only ten months to go when the American people were supposed to decide whether to choose a president that gives a precedence to cutting taxes (a Republican) or one who wants to narrow the social-economic gap (a Democrat), it is starting to look as though the presidential race would revolve over which candidate is for or against birth-control contraceptives.
After the Obama Administration proposed that religious-affiliated organisations, such as universities and hospitals had to pay for mandated health insurance plans that offer birth control, representatives of religious groups, including the Catholic Church that opposes most forms of birth control, accused the White House of infringing on their religious rights.
Obama Administration officials defended their plan by noting that many, if not most, employees working for, say, universities and hospitals owned by the Catholic Church are not Catholic and that most of them - like the majority of Catholics in America - do practice birth control.
But Santorum, who like Gingrich, is a practising Catholic, and joined by the other Republican candidates, lashed at President Obama and accused him of persecuting people of faith, suggesting that Obama's alleged anti-religion campaign was the first step on the road to bringing back the guillotine. (The Obama Administration has tried to quiet the criticism by announcing on Friday a relaxation of the requirement on contraception.)
The hysteria fanned by Santorum is part of an effort to exploit the fears of many practising Christians in America who believe that their faith is under attack by the secular elites, atheists, Hollywood, the mass media, and let us not forget the Muslims - like-you-know-who - who want to replace the US constitution with the Shariah law.
Santorum has been very consistent in his condemnation of social-cultural norms that have been accepted by the majority of Americans in recent years, He has warned against the 'dangers of contraception in this country' which he described as 'a license to do things in a sexual realm, that is counter to how things are supposed to be.'
'Radical feminism's misogynistic crusade to make working outside the home as the only marker of social and self-respect' explained why women were not staying home to take care of their kids, Santorum wrote in his book, It Takes a Family.
And Santorum who has pledged to renew the ban on gays serving in the military and to make gay marriage illegal has even compared homosexuality to bestiality. 'If the Supreme Court says you have the right to consensual gay sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery,' Santorum said, adding: 'That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.'
While Santorum's social-cultural views may be popular among many Republican activists and primary voters and could help him win votes in the so-called Bible Belt in the South with its large number of Christian evangelists as well as among other conservative Christian voters it could alienate many independent white middle class voters, especially women, who by a large majority support making birth-control contraceptives available.
These are exactly the kind of voters that the Republicans need in order to beat President Obama in November.
These voters whom have yet to recover from the Great Recession are looking for a Republican candidate with a plan to fix the economy, not a plan to outlaw abortion. Some of these voters may be nostalgic for the 1950s, but certainly not the 1550s.
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