Santorum’s Rhetorical Surge

I don’t know if it’s because he doesn’t have enough money to devise a more subtle message, or because he fears the attacks on him as insufficiently conservative. Or conversely, maybe his poll numbers have gone to his head and he truly thinks extremism in the defense of liberty can be no vice. But based on this press report from a rally in Idaho, Rick Santorum is really losing all inhibitions in expressing the rawest right-wing sentiments on the campaign trail. Gaze in awe and wonder:

Rick Santorum had a Boise crowd in his hands Tuesday, affirming his faith, ripping his GOP opponents and President Obama, and setting high stakes….The crowd was a big part of the event — booing U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., calling Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “traitor!” and reminding Santorum that American revolutionaries had more than muskets.

How high are the stakes in this election, according to Rick? Losing means the very end of American liberty:

“I believe that if we are unsuccessful in this election that we will have failed in that duty and it will have horrendous consequences. … It will be the end of the great experiment in the order of liberty and freedom.”

Obama’s re-election, Santorum indicated, will represent the final triumph of the parasitical lucky duckies who don’t pay taxes and depend on government for a living:

“We are reaching a tipping point, folks, when those who pay are the minority and those who receive are the majority. Freedom in an election process is not something people will care about. They’ll care about whether they get their piece.”

Santorum did not neglect to blow the “Declaration of Independence” dog-whistle by which “constitutional conservatives” assert that the Founder’s Design include God-given, immutable rights for property-owners and zygotes:

Wearing his signature sweater vest, jeans and worn cowboy boots, Santorum waved a copy of the Constitution, which he called “the operator’s manual of America.”

But he said many Americans neglect another founding document — the Declaration of Independence.

Santorum began reciting, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their — ” but paused for the crowd to shout “Creator!” — before continuing, “with certain unalienable rights.”

Ah, but this Godly country is being seized by un-American elites with alien values who hate people like you:

Santorum said the Obama administration believes it has the right to force the Catholic Church to hire women priests. “They’re going to fight because they believe their secular values should be imposed on people of faith.”

He added, “Don’t you see how they see you? How they look down their nose at the average Americans. These elite snobs!”

Worse yet, suggested Santorum, these looter-feeding, God-hating elitists don’t understand Iran is a greater threat than the Soviet Union ever was, and that we must launch a faith-based preemptive war to stop the mullahs:

He noted his longtime call of alarm about the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, saying the Cold War arms race that checked the Soviet Union won’t work with the mullahs.

“Mutually assured destruction worked. Why? Because they didn’t want to die. Because when atheists die, that’s it. Or, maybe better stated, they think that’s it.”

But in Iran, “They believe these end of times (are) a good thing for them, that’s the time they will conquer the world and rule it for Allah. … Bringing about Armageddon for them is not a deterrent. It is an inducement.”

It’s time, the candidate vowed, to separate the red-state sheep from the blue-state goats, achieving a sort of cultural apartheid:

During a 28-minute question-and-answer session with the audience, Santorum said he would separate the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals [a 9th circuit panel just declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional] from Idaho and other Western states, leaving it to cover only California.

Seriously, folks, Ronald Reagan didn’t talk this way. Barry Goldwater went about half this far and was eternally labeled the most extremist major-party candidate in U.S. history. If in 2008 Barack Obama had used this sort of rhetoric about the electoral stakes of victory or defeat, or the nature of the opposition, he would have been accused of introducing Kenyan Mau Mau tactics to American politics. Even now, he’s called a dangerous demagogue for suggesting Wall Street was partially responsible for the recession, or that the richest people on the planet ought to pay higher tax rates than their employees.

Perhaps Santorum’s rhetoric will prove his undoing. If Mitt Romney had an ounce of real courage, he’d call him on it.

But the scary fact is that his intraparty opponents would prefer to go after him for representing, as Mitt’s surrogate Sen. Roy Blunt said just yesterday, “the liberal wing of the Republican Party.” If that’s the case, the “conservative wing” must have taken a long flight from reality.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.