The Corner

Rick Santorum: Not Exactly Ronald Reagan

A handy reminder from the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein:

Nobody expects the Republican presidential nominee to be a libertarian purist, but it helps if he or she at least has a libertarian streak. In Rick Santorum’s case, he’s actively hostile toward libertarianism, and that’s an obstacle not only to him winning the nomination, but also to having a chance in a general election against President Obama…

Santorum [has] explicitly declared, “I am not a libertarian, and I fight very strongly against libertarian influence within the Republican Party and the conservative movement.” This is a stark departure from Ronald Reagan, who had this to say to the libertarian Reason magazine in a 1975 interview: “If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.”

Ever since [1975], Republicans have gotten into trouble when they have veered too far from libertarianism. If Santorum had a modicum of respect for libertarian philosophy, he would have been reluctant to embrace big government Republicanism during the Bush era. Instead, he cast votes that will make it harder for him to consolidate conservative support in the weeks and months ahead as his record undergoes more scrutiny. A libertarian streak would also make him a bit more skeptical about government’s ability to shape a more moral society. And by promising to lecture Americans on sex as a president as the GOP nominee, he’d ensure a Democratic rout in November.

And not just in the race for the White House.

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