The presidential primaries are usually a time when the people of a particular party come together. They coalesce to elect someone they feel has the chutzpah (here’s looking at you, Michele Bachmann) to throw out the incumbent. How the primaries are run is often an indicator of how strong the base of a party is. Take, for instance, the 2008 Democratic primaries: Candidate Barack Obama rode a fevered excitement, with the help of rousing endorsements from the likes of Ted Kennedy, all the way to the White House.
Going into this year’s elections, the major Republican players are Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Both represent different ideologies, Santorum being a staunch conservative, while Romney can appear sketchy. Excitement for both candidates has been tempered, particularly for one Willard Romney. However, many on the right have decided that enough is enough, in terms of the democratic process, and that Romney should be the de facto nominee, as they say is inevitable.
Santorum, however, is not going down without a fight. As has been Republican practice throughout the primaries, he has simply doubled-down with his comments. Santorum, in the past, has been no stranger to outrageous commentaries. In 2002, in the midst of the Catholic sex scandal, he wrote that the scandals, particularly those that happened in the Boston area, occurred because America was too liberal. In 2003, his likening of homosexuality to bestiality landed him an alternative definition to his name, at the hands of gay rights activist Dan Savage. In 2005, he compared the Democrats’ use of the filibuster to Nazism.
Recently, Santorum has been more calculating, as you have to be when running for the presidency. However, this hasn’t prevented him from playing the race card, intentional or not. In early 2011, Santorum told Cybercast News Service that President Obama’s chancy stance on abortion is “almost remarkable for a black man.” That wasn’t the last time he made a racially charged statement, or the most offensive one.
Nearly a year later, this past January, a video of the former Pennsylvania senator made the rounds online and through the pundit parade. Santorum told a crowd in Iowa that he didn’t “want to make black people’s lives better by giving them other people’s money.” Later, he went on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor and stated that everyone simply misheard his comments. “I looked at [the video] and I didn’t say that,” he said. “What I started to say was a word and then it sort of changed and “blah” came out. And people said I said “black” and I didn’t.”
Then came an incident a little more than a week ago, that more or less served as the nail in the coffin. During a stump speech in Janesville, Wisconsin, Santorum nearly dropped the “n-word” in reference to Obama, while discussing the President’s “anti-war” stance with a gathering of supporters. “We know the candidate Barack Obama, what he was like, the anti-war government nig—,” he said, stopping and switching to a tangential point, “America was a source for division around the world; that what we were doing was wrong.”
Santorum, of course, denied the allegations. But at this point, his follies seem almost comical, a caricature of conservative values. In the end, it comes down to desperation; Santorum was seen as the conservative base’s proverbial favorite son, and this can be seen as a last-ditch effort to rile up his base.