Magazine | March 19, 2012, Issue

Weird Politics

Seeking respite from the disappointments of the Republican-primary season, I have been in Australia — where, upon every TV or radio appearance, I get asked about the Republican-primary season. News does not travel well; it gets winnowed to its essence. Rick Santorum is a crazed, stern-faced theocrat who wishes to impose a Christian version of sharia law on America and round up gays and single mothers. “That’s certainly why I’m supporting him,” I say.

If there’s a follow-up question, it tends to be about why he’s demonizing Satan, so to speak. “Well, there’s a lot of things said in the heat of a primary campaign,” I say. “I’m sure by the time of the convention he and Satan will have patched up their differences. Wouldn’t rule out Rick offering the prince of darkness the vice-presidential slot in the interests of unity. Dream ticket, and all that.”

Even to those Aussies of a conservative bent, the weirdness of Santorum is a given. I’ve spent maybe 15 minutes in his company, at a GOP county dinner in southern New Hampshire, where we talked mostly about the Habsburg Empire — his grandfather was a bit of imperial cannon fodder on the Russian front who managed to survive the Great War and get on the boat to Pennsylvania. Santorum didn’t seem weird to me — or at any rate no weirder than the normal weirdness quotient required of those who decide to run for president of the United States.

On that night in the Granite State, I said something like, “Wow! Two generations from immigrant to presidential candidate,” and Rick said something like, “Only in America.” But the old clichés don’t exert quite the same pull. After all, we live in fast-moving times: In the course of two generations, what doesn’t change? The Habsburg Empire for which Grandpa Santorum fought is dust, and, according to the Vienna Institute of Demography, by mid-century a majority of Austrians under the age of 15 will be Muslim. As I wrote here last year: Salzburg, 1938 — singing nuns, Julie Andrews, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” Salzburg 2038 — How do you solve a problem like sharia?

Old settled societies appear like a frozen river in my part of New Hampshire: On the surface, all is still. Underneath, the icy water is fast-moving. That’s where all the business that really engages Santorum is — and he’s not wrong on most of it. As Congressman Mike Pence said a year or two back, “To those who say we should simply focus on fiscal issues, I say you would not be able to print enough money in a thousand years to pay for the government you would need if the traditional family collapses.”

But Pence’s doomsday scenario is already here: What “traditional” family? Seventy percent of black children are born out of wedlock, as are 70 percent of the offspring of poor white women, as are a majority of Hispanic babies. Forty percent of American children are born outside marriage; among women under 30, a majority of children are. Well, so what? It’s the same in Scandinavia, isn’t it? Well, not quite. Our progeny are fatter, sicker, riddled with childhood diabetes. Dennis Prager wrote a couple of years ago that Obama saw the United States as a large Sweden. A large Sweden is a contradiction in terms, and out there in the Dependistans of America we’re better at being large than being Swedish.

#page#Well, okay, say the Santorum detractors, but you guys are supposed to be the small-government crowd. Why is this any business of the state? A fair point, but one that cuts both ways. Single women are the most enthusiastic constituency for big government: A kiss on the hand may be quite continental, but statism is a girl’s best friend. One can argue about whether the death of marriage leads to big government or vice versa, but simply raising the topic shouldn’t put one beyond the pale, should it?

Let’s take it as read that Rick Santorum is weird. After all, he believes in the sanctity of life, the primacy of the family, the traditional socio-religious understanding of a transcendent purpose to human existence. Once upon a time, back in the mists of, ooh, the mid–20th century, all these things were, if not entirely universal, sufficiently mainstream as to be barely worthy of discussion. Now they’re not. Isn’t the fact that conventional morality is now “weird” itself deeply weird? The instant weirdification of ideas taken for granted for millennia is surely mega-weird — unless you think that our generation is possessed of wisdom unique to human history. In which case, why are we broke?

Look, I get the problem with a Santorum candidacy. And I get why he seems weird to Swedes and Aussies, and even Americans. If you’re surfing a news bulletin en route from Glee to Modern Family, Santorum must seem off-the-charts weird, like a monochrome episode that’s been implausibly colorized from a show too old even for TV Land reruns. It would be healthier to thrash these questions out in the culture, in the movies and novels and pop songs. But Hollywood has taken sides, and the Right has mostly retreated from the field. And somebody has to talk about these things somewhere or other. Our fiscal crisis is not some unfortunate bookkeeping accident that a bit of recalibration by a savvy technocrat can fix. In the United States as in Greece, it is a reflection of the character of a people. The problem isn’t that Rick Santorum’s weird, but that a government of record-breaking brokeness already busting through its newest debt-ceiling increase even as it announces bazillions in new spending is entirely normal.

– Mr. Steyn blogs at SteynOnline (www.steynonline.com).

Mark Steyn — Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist. That’s to say, his latest book, After America (2011), is a top-five bestseller in ...

In This Issue

Articles

Politics & Policy

The Team Player

Rick Santorum is embraced by conservatives on the campaign trail. On the rope lines, gray-haired activists crowd around his tall frame, lightly grip his sweater-vest-covered shoulder, and whisper good wishes. ...
Politics & Policy

Still the Alinsky Playbook

Forty years after his death, Saul Alinsky — the father of the community-organizing model that inspired both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — is more politically relevant than ever. Leading conservatives ...

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

An Inverted System

The Founders of this country, according to lore, created a system in which federal and state power balanced each other. During the New Deal, however, the Supreme Court stopped maintaining ...
Politics & Policy

Rediscovering America

How do you spell “triumph”? Try “The new American Wing Galleries for Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts,” which opened at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in January. From every ...

Sections

Politics & Policy

Letters

The Tank Buster Bravo to Daniel Foster for his paean to the A-10 Warthog (“Justice for Warthogs,” March 5). In World War II, I was an enlisted combat aircrewman in Marine Corps ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Who knew “Race to the Top” was his plan for gas prices, too? ‐ The Mutiny of 1857 was sparked by rumors that cartridges issued to Indian soldiers were greased ...
Athwart

Dim College Years

Rumor said the prof flipped out: pulled a pistol in front of the class, declared he was the son of Otto von Bismarck, and started yelling in German. No doubt ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

LULLABY FOR THE STOMP CAT Sleep, darling! Your accessory After the fact is here — that’s me. I see you fluffy, ten weeks old. You smirk. We’re too surprised to scold. The kitchen floor is ...
Happy Warrior

Weird Politics

Seeking respite from the disappointments of the Republican-primary season, I have been in Australia — where, upon every TV or radio appearance, I get asked about the Republican-primary season. News ...

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More