Or is it weak liberty in the sexual field? Peter Wehner has an interesting post over at Commentary saying the tendency of the current GOP field to say things “ranging from odd and exotic to downright weird” will risk alienating the American people from the eventual GOP nominee, and thus abetting the reelection of the current, failed president. A key example Wehner cites is a comment by Rick Santorum: “One of the things that I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the sexual liberty idea and many in the Christian faith have said, you know contraception is OK. It’s not OK because it’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”
I suspect Obama is so weak, such a conspicuous failure as president, that even a candidate whose campaign consisted of typing out Santorum’s statement thousands upon thousands of times, à la Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and throwing fresh reams of the typed pages out of his campaign bunker’ s windows every day to the waiting press corps, would not be a sure loser in the general election. (I could be wrong; I often am.) But more generally, I think it’s important that we not discourage candidates with offbeat or eccentric ideas from using campaigns as a platform for airing them; it was, after all, the standardized, ultra-conventional politics of the last half-century that landed us in our current national mess. Perhaps a fear of alienating voters with unconventional thought is not, at this point, what we should fear the most?
And please, to those out there who fear theocracy, do not take what I am saying here as an endorsement of Santorum’s position. I could not disagree more with his view. I believe in sexual liberty, as just about everybody else in this free country does; and that sexual liberty, as far as I’m concerned, includes the liberty even of those who choose to practice their sexuality in accordance with the opinions of one Rick Santorum about “how things are supposed to be.” As it happens, we’ll never find out how much of a Santorum presidency would, in fact, be dedicated to exhorting Americans to conform their sexual opinions to those of the commander-in-chief; and as for the 2012 GOP nominee, he or she will not be calling for the hiring of millions of contraception cops as a solution to joblessness. (A measure I strongly oppose, not just in principle — because it would be an infringement on personal liberties — but because it would raise some tricky administrative questions: What if an applicant for one of the contraception-cop jobs said he favored contraception? Would there have to be a conscience clause protecting his right to be hired?)
In the meantime, not to worry. If Obama somehow manages to eke out reelection, it will not be because of minor instances of crankiness on the part of particular Republicans. It will be because the American people somehow became convinced that the GOP has even less of a clue about how to get us out of this catastrophe than the Democrats do. And if it comes to that, the foibles of quirky candidates will be the least of our problems.