“There are no second acts in American lives” is a famous quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hardball host Chris Matthews is often fond of adapting that to say that ‘There are no second acts in American politics.’ Matthews is a pretty bright guy and usually knows his stuff, but on this point he’s dead wrong. Any time you hear a news anchor say on election night that someone is “fighting for his political life,” you know that they’re trying to make their coverage appear a bit more interesting than it is.
If anyone ever lost a ‘fight for his political life’ it was Rick Santorum in 2006. Santorum lost his Pennsylvania senate seat by 19 percentage points, which is a bona fide landslide in a state like that, and conventional wisdom holds that his time has come and gone. People on both sides of the political spectrum are doing their best to black out the horrible muck of the Bush years. The religious right has lost a lot of its clout over the last few years and being the holiest of holies is no longer a write-your-own-ticket in national politics.
That said, the religious right may have fallen too far too fast. Now that a lot of the old fucks (think Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond) have died off, and people are long tired of Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin has finally been pretty well discredited, evangelicals lack a top-tier name to act as a ‘crusader’ in the national media. Enter Rick Santorum.
In a manner of speaking, the Santorum campaign is no second act at all, but the same old tired Jesus-and-pony show that they’ve been running all along. No mistake: Santorum is one of the most hateful, bigoted, venomous figures in American politics ever. In 2012, he’s become pretty good at hiding that venom behind a milktoast sweater vest and a bunch of family photos. That’s exactly what the right wing wants; someone who can dress up discrimination and hatred to make it presentable and even attractive to a modern audience.
Trayvon Martin is still the most important thing in America right now. We as a country have spent more than 6 weeks watching the developments and talking over the case. What we’ve noticed, what has stood out to us the most is that some people want to look at you with a straight face and deny that there is any racial element to it at all. These people are the biggest racists you will ever meet in your life. Newt Gingrich is one of them. Rush Limbaugh is another.
Racism is as real as it’s ever been. It needs to be called out and confronted more loudly and fiercely than ever. There were deniers of the holocaust, deniers of the Armenian genocide, and now there are deniers of Trayvon Martin. That’s not a stretch. It’s not hyperbole. It’s people masking their racism behind a desire to go along and get along.
We have the same trouble with Santorum. Santorum absolutely hates gay people. Don’t fool yourself- in Santorum’s ideal America gay people would not be allowed to teach school or donate blood or go in the locker room at the gym… let alone get married. Santorum would love to lock every gay person in a church basement somewhere under the guise of ‘family values.’ Don’t think he wouldn’t.
And the way Republican politics work, he’ll probably get a chance to try it again. Romney was a primary runner-up in 2008, as was John McCain before him. No matter what happens this primary season, we haven’t sniffed the last of the frothy mix that is Santorum.
Drinking Liberally meets at Liam Flynn’s Ale House tonight, 7 pm and open to all. Just look for the red, white and blue bottle on the table.