Santorum, Race, and Abortion

by Ramesh Ponnuru

I agree entirely with Kathryn and Shannen that Santorum’s comments on welfare and on abortion were not racist. But two additional points seem to me to be worth bearing in mind.

First, Santorum racialized the abortion issue in a particularly objectionable and unhelpful way. What he as much as said was that the president has some special responsibility to take the pro-life view because he is black. Conservatives hate that sort of argument in general, and we’re right to do so. And is it really going to help conservatives make headway among blacks for white conservatives to tell blacks that they’re letting down their race?

Second, while any politician is going to make the occasional remark that causes controversy and requires his allies to explain or defend him — especially any conservative politician, given the world we live in — Santorum seems to do this more often than most. The good side of this tendency is that he is unlikely to be rhetorically intimidated. The bad side is equally obvious.