Rick Santorum's creepy gift: Why his next run for president is weirdly positive

Here's hoping the sweater vest model gets the GOP nomination in 2016. But not for the reason you may think

Published October 16, 2014 10:59AM (EDT)

Rick Santorum                     (AP/Charlie Neibergall)
Rick Santorum (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

It's been a week of tolerating mansplaining on affirmative consent, fearing for nurses and other healthcare workers whose lives and safety have been compromised by alleged employer negligence, nervously awaiting the next step in Texas' ongoing fight to protect abortion access and following close as activists in Ferguson continue to demand an end to racist police violence. Which is maybe why I felt a little relief at the comparative non-story that is Rick Santorum wants to run for president again.

“I’m doing everything right now as if I’m running,” Santorum told RealClearPolitics in an interview that ran on Wednesday. "So we’re moving forward and trying to line up supporters -- both grassroots and donors."

He also isn't worried that everyone thinks he's terrible. In fact, Santorum believes that being seen as a non-viable candidate makes him a spunky underdog, which is something that Millennial Republicans like this guy are totally into nowadays. “The greatest blessing I’ve had in politics is being underestimated and overlooked. And it’s happening again, and I’m very grateful,” he said. “I know we have a strong base of support, and I think when we have an opportunity to show our message, that base will grow and will be in places that no one will expect.”


Santorum should definitely run for president again. The first, and perhaps most obvious, reason is that his winning the nomination in 2016 is the stuff of progressive fantasy. He has very little traction on the issues that American voters report caring most about -- the economy and jobs, namely -- and the most possible baggage ever on the issues they're breaking with the GOP on, like equal marriage and women's rights.

The second reason, which kind of dovetails with the first, is that Rick Santorum -- as out of step though he may be with many voters -- is a walking, talking embodiment of the GOP's actual platform. He shares his racist, homophobic and misogynistic views openly, whereas other, savvier candidates, have to couch those things in talk of "personal responsibility" and "family values." He is, in short, the candidate that most represents the GOP, the candidate that the GOP most deserves. They should be judged accordingly.

So please, Rick Santorum, run for president again! Because you are the Republican party.

In another act of kindness from the universe, the Santorum story ran on the same day that a Washington Post poll revealed that the American public, in general, is over the GOP's culture war bullshittery. So since Santorum is kind of the king of the land of GOP culture war bullshittery, I figured I'd line up some of the takeaways from that poll with some of the things he thinks about the world so we can all ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ together.

Let's start with women. On the question of which political party American voters "trust to do a better job handling issues that are especially important to women," respondents overwhelmingly favored Democrats. A full 52 percent of voters think Dems are better for ladies, whereas just 25 percent went with Republicans.

So here's Rick Santorum talking about women, often at times that he was trying to become president.

Remember that "Ali G" episode where he asks Newt Gingrich if Americans should be worried about electing a woman president because she might fall in love with Saddam Hussein? Santorum pretty much thinks that, too. After all, women are pretty emotional in high-stress positions. "I do have concerns about women in front-line combat, I think that could be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission, because of other types of emotions that are involved," he said on CNN, before immediately backpedalling with an excuse about, Oh, I meant that men will try to protect women instead of focusing on the mission at hand. (As if that's not also totally ridiculous and patronizing.)

Now let's do a lightening round of Santorum on the gals:

On contraception: "It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

On single mothers: "[B]reeding more criminals."

On forcing women to carry rape pregnancies to term: "[M]ake the best out of a bad situation." (Related: The WaPo poll also revealed that 48 percent of Americans believe Democrats have views that align with their own when it comes to abortion, versus 33 percent for Republicans.)

And now on to marriage equality, an issue that has 48 percent of American voters siding with Democrats compared to 31 percent throwing their hats in with the GOP. Even people who don't know much about Santorum know that he believes that equal marriage is comparable to bestiality. It's kind of his thing. Because obviously allowing two committed adults who want to maybe only have sex with each other and name one another as their healthcare proxy and fight over who watched that DVR'd episode of "The Big Bang Theory" without them comes first, then comes an abrupt spike in man-on-dog sex. “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality,” Santorum remarked back in 2003. “That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.”

But as much as equal marriage is like man-on-dog sex, it is also like wanting to marry your own brother. “Is anyone saying same-sex couples can’t love each other? I love my children. I love my friends, my brother," he explained. "Heck, I even love my mother-in-law. Should we call these relationships marriage, too?”

And let's begin to wind down this exploration through Santorum's history with the topic of, per the language of the poll, "the economic problems people in this country are having" and which party is "more concerned with the needs of people like you." In January 2012, a time when Santorum was actively trying to become president, he told a crowd in Iowa: “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn money.”

Now maybe you're thinking, "Hey, maybe someone asked him, Do you want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money" and that he was just answering as prompted. But, nope! He was just Santorum-ing in a response to the question: "How do we get off this crazy train? We've got so much foreign influence in this country now ... where do we go from here?" by making a racist and factually inaccurate statement implying that only black people receive federal assistance.

Now the extra ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ thing about Santorum's pariah status is that it kind of makes no sense whatsoever. He will probably never become president, but different versions of him -- named Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Rand Paul and others -- are still considered by plenty of people to be very, very viable candidates for 2016. Maybe it's the sweater vests, maybe it's just the cycle of new candidates, but the GOP is not here for Santorum 2016. But that doesn't mean he's an outlier. Because as openly terrible as Santorum is on these and virtually every other issue, he is only as terrible as the least terrible marquee member of the current GOP establishment -- and one of those dudes is going to get the GOP nomination in 2016.

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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