As Nat noted below, Markos Moulitsas, owner of Daily Kos, has called for Democrats to vote for Rick Santorum in the upcoming open primaries (such as Michigan). In doing so, they can encourage a long and bruising battle for Republicans, and produce a nominee who has no chance at beating Obama. Tactical voting isn’t a horrible thing — for instance, I know Republicans who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 in the hopes he’d get 5 percent of the vote, qualifying him for federal funding in 2004 (he didn’t). But this tactic says something pretty sad about the Left (at least, inasmuch as it’s represented by the Daily Kos).
However, the Daily Kos’s plan is disingenuous for two reasons. First of all, working to see that a ludicrous (to the Left) candidate is nominated by one of the two major parties suggests a thoroughly cynical view of democracy. The Left’s work here isn’t really like what Nat notes about Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos” in 2008, where he encouraged Republicans to vote for Hillary, when Obama looked to be running away with the nomination. Rush was hoping for a long, expensive, and drawn-out primary battle, but ultimately one which would still produce a mainstream and viable Democratic nominee (indeed, he encouraged voting for the more moderate of the two). The Daily Kos is hoping for a wasteful primary battle, but also one that produces such a ridiculous, far-right candidate that Obama will have no trouble beating him. Whether or not that’s true, it doesn’t seem like a particularly good-faith view of democracy, that they’d like their candidate to run essentially unopposed, and watch the other party self-immolate.
Secondly, liberals needs to make up their mind as to whether Santorum is a great threat to democracy, women’s rights, and sexual liberty (in order of increasing importance to the Left), or whether he’s a political joke. If he is in fact the former — today’s “Torquemada,” as Gary Wills seems to argue over at the New York Review of Books — then they shouldn’t consider it remotely funny to see such a man gain support in a presidential election. If his views genuinely are either offensive and hateful or dangerous and pernicious as many have claimed, how can they possible desire to see him in the center of American life? No one on the Right (that I know of) suggested that conservatives should be donating to the SDS, for instance, or supporting any of the anti-war Left, in the hope that they would overplay their cards and scare people off liberalism, because such groups were indeed damaging to America, and often offensive in their flirtations with Communism and their treatment of veterans.
Either liberals know they’ve constructed an utterly dishonest caricature of Santorum and his views, or they’re just not remotely scrupulous in their choice of tactics.