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We Need a Blue Collar Conservative like Rick Santorum in the 2016 Presidential Campaign

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I am a reluctant Republican. I was raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in a blue collar family. My family felt that the Republican Party had a silver spoon in its mouth and had no concern for people like us. I know, it was a caricature. However, like many caricatures, it had an element of truth behind it.

I left the Party calling itself Democratic when it was taken over by the strange coalition which now holds it captive. That coalition purports to care about the poor but fails to hear the cry of the poorest of the poor, our first neighbors in the womb of their mother. They feign a solidarity with blue collar workers but foment class warfare and push statist economic and political policies which are a grave threat to true liberty.

They pay lip service to marriage and family while actively supporting the redefinition of the word and the demise of the institution. They do not respect the first freedom of religious freedom and treat the Church with contempt and disregard for its proper and important role in promoting the common good.

However, the control of the Republican Party by an old guard establishment only feeds the caricature I was raised to believe was accurate. The establishment of the Republican Party does seem to be aligned with corporatism, cronyism and economism. They too often fail to recognize that the source of all of our liberties, including economic liberty, is found in our shared moral values.

Let me make this point clear as I begin, I am a fan of the free market economy. It is certainly preferable to an overly centralized planned economy which stifles creativity and undermines initiative. However, the market was made for man and not man for the market. Freedom is a good of the human person. Concern for the common good, recognition of human capital and commitment to the expansion of opportunity and participation should be a part of any 2016 economic agenda.

With the 2014 midterm election already upon us, the 2016 presidential race is in the rear view mirror and coming up fast. We are a nation in crisis, on every front. The angst in the American public is evident in every poll. Our nation is threatened from within – and from without. We need a leader with clarity of thought and courage in action. We need a leader who is morally coherent.

We need someone who is not an establishment candidate. The establishment wing of the Republican Party have already begun to sing their old tired tune, insisting we should stay away from what they call social issues. FORGET IT! There is a political dualism in establishment Republican leadership. They simply do not understand that just as you cannot separate body and soul in a human person, you cannot separate social and economic issues in the body politic. There is a moral basis to a free society.

Only a people with shared moral values can expand a free market, protect freedom in the international order and build a free culture on the home front. We have often heard two quotes from the founding fathers of the American Republic – we need to hear them again in this urgent hour: First, from George Washington, Father of our nation: “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society.” Second, from Benjamin Franklin: “[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”

We need a president who recognizes and defends the moral foundations of a free and just society; one who demonstrates moral coherence in his personal life and policy positions. I find such a moral coherence in Rick Santorum. I sincerely hope he launches a presidential campaign for 2016.

He does not separate social, international and economic issues. He knows that we must care about expanding economic opportunity precisely because we respect the dignity of every human person and want to see our neighbor flourish. Santorum wants to expand participation in the market economy while respecting fairness in competition. He insists that economic policy respect human initiative, promote mediating structures and be rebuilt from the bottom up and not top down.  He affirms the dignity of all human work, precisely because of the dignity of the human worker.

His 2014 Book, Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to An America That Works is well worth reading. It is not same old/same old Republican/conservative recitations and sloganeering. The policy ideas offered in this book are also making their way into his increasing presence on the policy and political speaker’s circuit. The ideas are fresh and new. He looks and behaves like a man who is running in 2016 – and he has a fresh and exciting message. Santorum’s blue collar identification is essential as we fight the effort to push the 1% strategy of class warfare being spun as “income inequality.”

When I read his 2005 book entitled It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, I found the kind of depth of ideas which our current national challenges demand. For example, Rick Santorum understands the relationship between solidarity – we are our brother’s keeper and have an obligation to the needy – and the principle of subsidiarity. The word is derived from a Latin word which means help and assistance.

This kind of view of governing insists that government begin with the smallest unit, the individual and the family, and that all other government exists to provide them the help and assistance they need. It insists that the proper role of all government above the family and the mediating associations must be to provide assistance and help and not usurp the rightful role of the first government.

The principle of subsidiarity is not libertarianism. It does not posit the individual as the epicenter of freedom. It does not see all government as restrictive. It recognizes that we are not fully human, nor can we find true freedom, outside of relationships, and that governing begins at home. It promotes and preserves ordered liberty by promoting and protecting the family, the mediating associations, then proceeds outward to small and local governance.

It recognizes the primary role of the family and other mediating associations in the proper understanding of governance. The family is the first society, the first government, the first church, first school, first economy and first mediating institution. Santorum’s advocacy of smaller federal government is to espouse an anti-government message. However, he properly criticizes the tendency in liberal and progressive circles to exalt overly federalized government and the tendency to move from the top down.

There are many voices pointing out the failures of the federal government – but there are few voices articulating a vision for good and efficient governance. Santorum offers such a vision of good governance in both of these books. Government which is “good” in its moral foundation, as well as efficient and good in its practical application.

Santorum also stands firm for the first freedom of religious freedom, affirming the vital role that religious faith and the principles derived from such faith, play in securing freedom for all. He affirms that religious freedom is a fundamental human right and articulates a clear and compelling understanding of the First Amendment, with both its establishment and free exercise clauses.He respects the mediating role of religious institutions and recognizes the proper leavening role of the values informed by faith in the public square.

Santorum does a lot more in both of these books. I cannot handle much of it in one article. He takes on the abuse of judicial power and analyzes the problems arising out of the threats to the separation of powers with lucidity and great insight. He acknowledges the shortcomings of some fellow conservatives in failing to reach out to the poor. He presents a compelling vision for how to change that failure and often an alternative vision.

The 2005 book was titled to contend with a theme espoused by Hillary Clinton which became a book the following year, It Takes a Village. It is interesting that the 2016 election is shaping up to be a match between Hillary Clinton and a Republican opponent.It would be a dynamic race if it was between Rick Santorum and Hillary Clinton.

Rick Santorum offers a governing vision rooted in a recognition of different types of capital; social, economic, moral, cultural and intellectual and how together they can serve the common good. The subtitle of the 2005 book affirmed that this vision for a free and virtuous society is tied to his affirmation of the classical vision of the common good.

He takes on the struggle over the very nature and definition of freedom which lies at the foundation of so many of our contemporary needs. In an age that has mistaken the right to do what one wants as freedom, Santorum re-presents the western vision of the freedom to do what is right, good and true, with responsibility to the other and at the service of the common good.

By far, the strongest part of the 2005 book was its affirmation of the role of the family as the foundation of a truly free and virtuous society. We are experiencing an erosion of the moral foundation of our social order as we fail to protect the privileged place of marriage as between one man and one woman, intended for life, open to life and formative of family, as the first vital cell of civil society. The practicality of the 2014, Blue Collar Conservatives, and its offer of easy to understand policy ideas only complement the substantial insights offered a decade before in the larger book.

Santorum places a respect for the dignity of every human person front and center, using it as the lens through which every other policy issue would be approached, economic, social and international. That is because Rick Santorum is a defender of the Right to Life from conception, through every age and stage of life, up to and including natural death. He is unafraid to state what is true, every person has human dignity, whether they are in the womb, a wheelchair, a soup kitchen, a hospice, or a prison cell.

The American Founders were similarly forthright. We are created in the Image of God and endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights, beginning with Life. Life begins at conception The truth about the dignity of the child in the womb and his or her Right to Life is now winning the hearts and minds of the majority of Americans.

The 4d ultrasounds we share with one another are simply one more celebration of the truth which we are all finally acknowledging, the child in the womb is our neighbor. It is always and everywhere wrong to take the life of an innocent neighbor. Medical science has confirmed what our conscience has always confirmed. The Pro-Life position is a solidarity position.

I find in Rick Santorum the whole package – desperately needed for a nation which is losing its moral compass. We need renewal from the inside out. We also need a courageous leader as we face the growing specter of militant jihadist ideologies from abroad – and the steady erosion of our national moral foundation.

Rick Santorum has been consistent and courageous in speaking out against the rising tide of Islamic radicalism for many years. In fact, as we face the growing threat of the Islamic State (ISIS), Rick Santorum is owed an apology from some who alleged that his warnings of this threat, were overblown. He was correct. He recently opined in an outstanding editorial written for Philly.com and entitled “Face Reality In the Mideast“:

It is painful beyond words to behold the bloodthirsty brutality of the jihadists in the Middle East right now. But perhaps even more disturbing is the sight of an American president unable or unwilling to accurately assess the magnitude of the threat to America and our allies, and taking hesitant, awkward, vacillating half-measures in response.

The forces of radical Islam are on the move. In Syria, nearly 200,000 people are dead. Millions are on the run. In Iraq, the jihadists are slaughtering Muslims, Christians, and other minorities. In Gaza, the radicals have fired more than 4,000 rockets aimed at massacring Israeli civilians.

The jihadists may use different names (ISIS, Hamas, Islamic Jihad) and different tactics (rockets, tunnels, beheadings, crucifixions), but their goals are the same. Obliterate Israel. Topple our Arab allies. Establish an Islamic caliphate. Then launch a series of catastrophic attacks on the United States.

In this editorial he offers a reasoned, strong and clear agenda for confronting this threat with specific and practical policies. Rick Santorum is a man of courage in an age of cowardice.

In 1947, C.S. Lewis addressed the decline of Britain in an insightful book entitled The Abolition of Man: How Education Develops Man’s Sense of Morality. He warned of the subjective and relativist trends in the British educational system and reasserted the timeless moral truths of Christianity.

Lewis called for a return to the classical Christian vision of the human person and the cultivation of virtues as the path to true human flourishing and freedom. He defined what he called “the chest” in this work as the “higher emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments or character.” He wrote that without this “chest”, men and women devolve into self-idolatry, losing their human dignity and true freedom. They become slaves to disordered appetites.

The West is indeed in a mess, just as Lewis warned. With its decline we face the eclipse of true freedom. Lewis’ words in this book are timely:

And all the time – such is the tragicomedy of our situation – we continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more “drive,” or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or “creativity.”  In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

Rick Santorum is a statesman in an age of salesmen – and women. He is a man with a chest. I will be watching his movements over the next few months. If he decides to run, and I hope he does, he will bring along with him into his presidential campaign a wonderful wife and family. It does indeed – Take a Family. I have had the privilege of getting to know the Santorum family over many years. Their sincere love for one another and refreshing example of healthy and real family life would be a true blessing to our nation. Having such a family in the White-house would be an honor for our nation in our time of national need.

Rick Santorum is not an establishment candidate. He threatens establishment leaders in both major political parties. he has always played the role of the underdog and been counted out by the many self-professed experts. That is one of the greatest assets he would bring to the 2016 presidential campaign. He has the potential to draw voters from across party lines and help to forge a new governing coalition which can resuscitate the American dream and set us on a course to brighter future. I sincerely hope he runs.



 

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