For many Republican voters, the whittling down of the 2012 GOP presidential field to Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum was a window into the alarming state of leadership on the Right and the sorry state of the Republican Party as an electoral force.
Romney was, by most accounts, the “next in line” candidate after running and failing in 2008. The GOP establishment rallied around him just as it had done with John McCain in 2008 and Bob Dole in 1996, with the same disappointing results.
But Santorum, whose 2012 candidacy went further than anyone could have imagined, managed to cobble together a coalition of disaffected GOP base voters out of the wreckage of the Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry camps to emerge as the standard bearer for the conservative wing of the GOP.
Santorum's success was surprising, given that his previous foray into elected politics had been an abject disaster—a 59-to-41 drubbing in the 2006 Senate race at the hands of Democrat Bob Casey that swept him out of office.
For most politicians, a loss like that would be career-ending. But for Santorum, it’s merely a bump in the road.
Santorum is in the midst of a heavy spate of political endorsements: Joe Conger for Senate in Oregon, Sam Clovis for Senate in Iowa, Karen Handel for Senate in Georgia. That comes after a pair of wins—Ben Sasse for Senate in Nebraska and Alex Mooney for the House in West Virginia, both of whom won GOP primaries earlier in May. And amid the activity, asked by CNN’s Candy Crowley whether a 2016 run is in the offing, the former Pennsylvania senator said, “I’m thinking about it.”
He might be thinking. He ought to think again.
Santorum is the wrong guy for 2016, and 2016 is the wrong project for Santorum, for one key reason.
Politics is downstream from culture.
Andrew Breitbart is the most famous recent purveyor of that American truism, but the Right is slowly waking up to the fact that the loss of nearly all the vehicles driving American culture to the Left has had a devastating effect on conservative electability. The loss of academia puts many if not most Millennial voters out of Republican reach. The inability to penetrate the TV, movie, and record industry outside of a few redoubts like country music makes low-information voters almost monolithically Democrat. The ghettoization of conservative media into talk radio, Fox News, and the conservative blogosphere insures that conservative politicians will be hounded by loud accusations of bigotry and worse.
Santorum knows this. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have taken a job as the CEO of EchoLight Studios, a Christian film production company, back in June of 2013. EchoLight is one of a small but growing number of firms focused on producing cultural content extolling the virtues of traditional American culture in a sea of rot.
Hollywood-driven leftist decadence didn’t become the norm overnight. It took a decades-long onslaught to produce a culture where films like Elysium and White House Down aren’t universally rejected as scandalous anti-American propaganda, and the problem won’t be solved overnight.
One year and one Christmas film isn’t enough to change the equation. If Santorum truly wants to save America, building EchoLight into the conservative answer to Universal or Paramount would be an excellent start. He might even consider leading the company out of the “Christian” box and into a larger mission of telling the stories Hollywood won’t tell.
For example, the Eddie York story.
Eddie York was a West Virginia operator of heavy machinery caught in a 1994 labor dispute between the United Mine Workers and the Arch Mineral Corporation. For his decision as a non-union operator to cross a picket line, he was shot and killed. Workers attempting to come to his aid were beaten by a union mob. York’s family ultimately settled a wrongful death suit against the United Mine Workers for $27 million after it came out that the union’s president Richard Trumka had acted in a fashion instigating the violence leading to his death.
A movie about Eddie York would be worth losing every penny of its production costs just to paint Trumka and the AFL-CIO he currently runs in their proper light. Santorum could make it. He might even find himself with a box-office hit on his hands. The York story is a good one to tell.
Santorum could also make a movie about Matthew Shepard, the gay Wyoming murder victim whose death was made a cause célèbre by the Left as an example of the intolerance and violence homosexuals are subjected to, and that led to the passing of hate-crime legislation around the country. Except Shepard wasn’t quite what it was claimed he was, and subsequent evidence shows he was most likely murdered over drugs rather than his sexual orientation. A movie exposing how the gay lobby turned Shepard’s death into a propaganda tool would do the country and the culture great service—particularly given the current Reign of Terror that lobby is conducting throughout America.
Let’s face it: Rick Santorum isn’t going to be elected president by the same country that elected Barack Obama twice. Political views aside, what this culture defines as cool enough for the White House doesn’t include Rick Santorum. That’s not an attack on Santorum, by the way—if the incompetence, lawlessness, mendacity, and corruption of the man in the White House is cool and he’s not, which is where we are, it’s an indictment of where we are.
The culture is the real fight. Santorum is poised to help win it in the long term. Abandoning that to engage in a long-shot run for president is a shame.