FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

News

CPAC Is Full of Santorum

In CPAC's unreality bubble, Santorum's own brand of uplifting nonsense is actually pretty moving.
February 10, 2012, 7:25pm

Today marks the big day at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference. In Washington, all the heavies of the Grand Old Party: candidates, think-tank whores and the screamingly evil flunkies of the conservative alternate-reality press will assemble like the Gathering of the Juggalos. Of course, that's not an entirely fair comparison. One group is made up of disturbed violent clowns committed to the destruction of everything decent in America. The other is made of ICP fans.

There's real hope an actual candidate will say something actually interesting, striking some through-note from the noise of the 2012 GOP competition. Ronald Reagan owned CPAC, shaping the conference according to his vision of conservatism. Everyone would feel relieved if Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum likewise seized the event for himself—a derailment of "Mittmentum," a confirmation of Santorum's inertia or at least a sense that Gingrich has some idea what direction he's going in anymore.

Advertisement

You might think Newt is the obvious CPAC darling. After all, he mentions doing things with Ronald Reagan all the time—like stalkers in mental institutions, who think that working out in front of the TV when Reagan is on it constitutes "being at the gym with Ronald Reagan," and, "Ronald Reagan totally asked me to spot him when we were both benching 500 lbs."

But it's hard to see Newt reversing the course of his campaign with one speech. "We're being demonized by the elite media!" doesn't work so well as an applause line with the audience who ginned up that bullshit argument decades ago; these guys are the elite media. Besides, Newt will be speaking to the same people who've spent weeks attacking him on Romney's behalf, while keeping silent on things like Romney's 13,000 Florida ads to Gingrich's mere 200.

Santorum's the natural pick for making an impact, coming off a surprising three-state clobbering of Romney and a poll bump. He benefited from seeming too innocuous to be worth Mitt's public abuse, and also from sitting back and letting Mitt and Newt beat the shit out of each other and come off like absolute assholes. It's easy to be the high-minded guy when nobody contradicts you.

Rick's got a lot of things to recommend him. Liberals mainly know him as the feces-and-ass-lube guy, who brought his dead baby home for a sleepover, dresses his daughter in clothing that matches dolls and has a son who looks like he'll go on to a fine career of standing in the azaleas in people's front yards and determinedly masturbating. But while Newt plays well to the paranoid, victimized poor GOP, and Mitt does great numbers among the wealthy, Rick’s culture-war populism is appealing to rich and poor alike, as long as they hate gays and Iran.

Advertisement

His rhetoric is all vapor, but it's spiritually comforting vapor. Santorum seems to think him being elected president would reverse everything that makes China preferable to America for manufacturers, some Americastantiation whereby waving hands in front of factories and muttering incantations will bring back people with metal lunchpails who are still solidly middle class. By his will alone, caring about America will erase the advantages China has in paying workers shit and treating their immediate environment like an open-air sewer and chemical dump.

He sounds smart, too. While it's tempting to write off Santorum because he'd happily criminalize birth-control pills and onanism, he does his foreign-policy reading. It's just that, like a bad student or a less donnish Niall Ferguson, he's managed to study all sides of the issue in order to be wrong about it.

CPAC will eat up his opinions about Iran because his knowledge of the subject is both deeper than that of cheerful idiots like Herman Cain and aligned with boilerplate GOP warmongering. He's the only guy in the debates who's been able to keep up with Ron Paul when the subject turns to Mossadegh, Israel, or Carter's response to the Islamic Revolution. But, at the end of the day, he still honestly believes that Iran will force a Middle East nuclear apocalypse because nuclear strategy will always take a backseat if you can destroy civilization to usher in some whackjob fantasy of Twelver Shiism.

Which, in a way, is sort of perfect. Fundamentalism makes sense when you subscribe to another version of it, and righteous passion is a natural response when it's your own. You can do the reading on free trade and manufacturing cost and think that you can reverse reality when your global conception is already faith-based. In CPAC's unreality bubble, Santorum's own brand of uplifting nonsense is actually pretty moving.

@mobute