***Culture Wars & Economics

One of the funniest things to be said in the political world over the last few days was Rick Santorum’s complaint that he’s not interested in starting some sort of culture war:

Rick Santorum on Tuesday stood by comments he made in 2008 about Satan attacking the United States, telling reporters here that he is going to “stay on message” and continue to talk about jobs, security, and “taking on forces around this world who want to do harm to America.”

This is the same Rick Santorum, of course, who’s been running around the country claiming the president is the apostle of a “phony theology” who is determined to stamp out the practice of Christianity, not to mention basic American liberties.

Conservative U.S. News blogger Scott Galupo calls B.S. on the dishonest attempts to pretend a separation between cultural and economic issues on the Right:

Since the firestorm over contraception and religious freedom erupted, there seems to be some kind of consensus that the “culture war” has returned to the fore of American politics. The consensus is wrong. The culture war never stopped….

Out of political convenience or cultural distance, Beltway conservatives refuse to see this: Hardcore conservative opposition to Obama has always been cultural and theological. The pop-theological mainstream of American evangelicals has so thoroughly assimilated the ideal of American capitalism that any deviation, however modest, from it is tantamount to radical godless humanism. And, in an extension of an older intradenominational debate, conservative Catholics like Santorum deeply mistrust the ideal of “social justice” as championed by the Catholic left.

Bingo. Opposing “big government” and “socialism” has for most conservatives become a stance that combines cultural and economic concerns in a virtually seamless web. That’s most apparent with the Tea Folk, whose endless citations of the Declaration of Independence as the most important document in U.S. history are typically motivated by what they consider a fundamental, “American-exceptionalist” charter for Christian nationalism and fetal personhood and absolute property rights. In terms of the conservative diagnosis of what’s wrong with the country, it’s very difficult to separate the worthless deadbeat dad from the worthless “lucky ducky” welfare parasite and election-stealing ACORN client; just as it’s hard, at the other end of the spectrum of targets, to separate the baby-killing feminist from the job-killing environmentalist or the America-hating socialist.

I wish I could believe that when conservatives talked about the “economy” or “jobs,” they really were motivated strictly by their tutoring in Austrian economics or their experience talking to small entrepreneurs; perhaps some are. But all too often, scratch a “fiscal conservative” and you’ll find a culture-warrior of one sort or another right under the surface.

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.