Reader Query: Respecting Ricky

Commenter Abe raised an entirely legitimate point in the thread after today’s first post: is my habit of referring to former Senator Rick Santorum, the current (according to public opinion polls) front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, as “Ricky” sophomoric?

I can certainly see how people might feel that way. Like Abe, I don’t much like people regularly calling Mitt Romney “Willard.” And beyond that, I generally follow the principle of calling people what they choose to call themselves.

Truth is, I formed the habit of calling Santorum “Ricky” back in 2006 when I was writing about his disastrous re-election campaign. I was a regular reader of the Washington Post sports section back then, and was probably influenced by John Feinstein’s venomous references to a certain college basketball coach as “Little Ricky Pitino.” But more importantly, I developed a really deep personal antagonism towards Santorum, probably because of his distinctive leadership role in both public sanctimony (the Schiavo saga) and private power-mongering (the K Street Project). I enjoyed his 2006 defeat as much as any I can remember.

So it was easy for me to call him “Ricky” again when he reemerged in this presidential cycle, and it soon because a useful monniker to distinguish him from Rick Perry. But now he’s the only Rick in town, and I am perfectly willing to confine my snarky attitudes about the man to his words and deeds, not his name.

If anyone feels strongly about this one way or another, you can say so in the comment thread.

UPDATE: Okay, unless some late West Coast returns make a difference, there’s a pretty clear consensus against my use of the diminutive “Ricky” for the sweater-vested conservative from Pennsylvania, though for the record be it noted a significant minority favored something more insulting. So henceforth he will be known here as “Rick,” though I will not go all New York Times-y on you and refer to him as “Mr. Santorum.” Thanks for the input.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.