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.