Mitt Romney: A Plate of Spam?

Yesterday’s Michigan primary, in which the one-time dark horse Rick Santorum came within a hairsbreadth of beating Mitt Romney in his home state (his father was its governor) will have the elites in Republican party circles racing frantically for their checkbooks, in the hope of putting out the prairie fire that is Santorum’s burgeoning candidacy by spraying it with attack ads.

They will cover their anxiety with a thick coating of smugness. When I bring up Rick Santorum, such people adopt a pose of superior worldly wisdom, easing back in their imaginary leather chairs to nod condescendingly at me, like an overly eager teenager whose hapless idealist zeal required their prudent counsel:

“Of course it’s exciting for you to have a candidate out there addressing the issues that stir your heart. That’s the sort of thing that got us all into politics in the first place. Ah yes, I remember it well. And it’s a fine, fine thing that someone is speaking out. Got to put some fire into troops every once in a while, keep up morale and all that sort of business. But really, when you get right down to it, I mean… electing a president is a sport for grown-ups. You must see that, young man, or you’ll never get ahead. The best is the enemy of the good. Politics is the art of the possible. Better half a loaf than none. A bird in the hand….”

Let me cut Bertie Wooster off before he gets to “four legs good, two legs bad.” I don’t plan to write here about the virtues of idealism versus realism, or even the fact that our nation’s survival turns on the social issues Rick Santorum addresses with eloquence unparalleled by any candidate since Reagan. (Though I’d like to point out that Western Europe isn’t threatened primarily by its debt or fiscal policies, but by demographic collapse, family breakdown, and unrestricted immigration—precisely the kind of social issues that “realists” dismiss as fodder for cranks.) I’ll pretend, for the next 1200 words, that America could chug along just fine with legal abortion through all nine months, homosexual marriage, and the liquidation of every Catholic institution in civil society via Obama’s contraception mandate. Let’s say that the libertarians and pro-business philistines are right, that faith and families mean exactly nothing in the cohesion of a country—which really is just a mechanism for enforcing legal contracts and keeping the looters off the streets. We are all just interchangeable units of economic production, and if we only learned to act in our enlightened self-interest and kept the government off our backs, the mechanism we call America would run as a perpetual motion machine.

Let’s posit all that for a moment. The fact is that anyone really committed to getting Barack Obama out of office—which is, after all, the point of nominating a candidate—would be better off voting for Rick Santorum than the choice of the “realists,” Mitt Romney. For all the hysteria generated by Maureen Dowd, Bill Maher, Dan Savage, and the other intellectual leaders of modern America about Santorum’s “dangerous” views, and all the savage attacks that they will launch at him in an election campaign for his religion, his marriage, the number of kids he brought into the world, or how the Santorums mourned the death of one of their infants, Santorum is much more likely to win in November. The Left knows that, which is precisely why they’re waxing hysterical over Santorum’s rise in the polls—as they did forty years ago when Ronald Reagan was challenging Gerald Ford. If Democrats really thought (as some pretend) that Rick Santorum was the candidate they’d find easiest to beat, they wouldn’t be attacking him so viciously; instead, they’d be crossing their fingers and praying (to Moloch, I guess) that Republicans would be dumb enough to nominate the right-wing counterpart to Dennis Kucinich. If that’s what they really thought. But they don’t.

They know that Santorum comes across as what he is: a blue-collar kid who made good, a true-believing conservative who knows how to compromise (sometimes when we wish he wouldn’t), a faithful but not self-righteous Christian who can draw both Catholics and Protestants, whose fervent support for Israel might even attract Jewish votes. He’s a powerful public speaker, whose principled talk of natural law taps into the great American mainstream, via Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln, back through Thomas Jefferson, to the medieval schoolmen and Thomas Aquinas. He deals in real ideas, which he actually understands, and takes with great seriousness. If he kept his cool, he could crush Barack Obama in the debates.

That whiff of Reagan which they sense is precisely what has excited conservative voters about Santorum, what drove him from single digits, with almost no money, to challenge the machine-tooled, massively funded, Establishment-sponsored campaign of Mitt Romney. Against this corporate juggernaut, Santorum has wielded the only weapons he has: ideas. Core ideas, that go to the heart of what we expect from government and what we hope for our country’s future. We want the government to protect our basic rights—like the right to life, to practice our faith, to raise our children without gross interference by secular bureaucrats. We need the state to draw bright lines between the building blocks of a normal society (like marriage) and bizarre, unnatural practices. (How else to describe the marriage of two men, the production of embryos in laboratories such that hundreds of thousands are stored in freezers, the Girl Scouts’ accepting transvestites… the organized assault on the normal goes on and on.) Of all the candidates still in the race, only Santorum has had the consistent courage to call such things what they are—immoral—and to prove this not by reference to chapter and verse in the Bible, but through sound and persuasive arguments based on reason and human nature. This is precisely what we need from a leader in these, our darkening days. As bishops begin to worry that real persecution might take place in our generation, resistance to its beginnings ought to be led by a man who believes in what we defend, and knows how to articulate his reasons.

Such a man will fire the troops with enthusiasm, and win the respect even of those who don’t see the point of discussing social issues. He’ll ensure a heavy turnout of Evangelical Christians and faithful Catholics, and even attract some support from otherwise hostile voters—like the hundreds of thousands of black and Hispanic Americans who turned out in California in support of normal marriage.

Santorum’s main opponent, Mitt Romney, is something quite different. His casual, callous flip-flops on profound moral issues send a quite different message to voters: Here is a cool, detached technocrat who knows how to make the engine run—and doesn’t care where you’re planning to drive it. The Grand Canyon, Gomorrah, it’s none of his concern—here are your keys, enjoy the ride. Mitt Romney can look at a subject like abortion or religious freedom (he forced Catholic hospitals to dispense abortifacients in Massachusetts, let’s remember) with the same professional indifference as the details of the curling competition at the Olympics. Whatever job it is you want done, he promises he can accomplish it. And he can. Romney proved, as promised, a solidly pro-choice Massachusetts governor. He promised those voters government-sponsored healthcare, and he provided it. He promised them leadership on “global warming” and they got it. Then when Republican national voters wanted something different, he changed his pants from flannel to corduroy and offered it. Pro-life, small government, conservative? I can sing that—hand me the sheet music. It’s all perfectly in tune.

I’m tempted to ask, “What next?” and wonder how Mitt Romney would act when a seat opened up on the Supreme Court, and the audience he was playing to—the media, the pro-choice Establishment Republicans, the “legal scholarship community”—called for a different tune. Would he remember his promises to us, the rubes and Bible thumpers he wooed in the primaries?

But the question is irrelevant, because Mitt Romney cannot win. To be elected president, running against a skilled campaigner with a solid base and an economy on the upswing, a candidate needs the power to motivate people—to make them care, really care, whether or not he wins. And that isn’t true of Romney. Not too many people hate the idea of Mitt Romney as president, but nobody is excited by it, either. Everyone who votes for Romney sees him as an acceptable compromise candidate, someone whom other people will kind of like, maybe… they hope. He’s the dull, inoffensive movie you might get a group of people to go to, provided it isn’t raining. He’s the gift you return on December 26, the book you never throw out but never read, the person you date once then offhandedly forget—just as you forget any technician who did his job but made no impression. Mitt Romney is Howard Johnson’s. He is milquetoast. He is Spam.

Some Republicans think they’re playing it safe by nominating this plate of indeterminate potted meat, whom circumstances have molded at various moments in his career in various shapes (the pro-choice rival to Edward Kennedy, the pragmatic liberal Republican, and now the me-too conservative). They warn that a Santorum race could flame out like Barry Goldwater’s in 1964. Yeah, sure, it’s true that this could happen. But at least a Santorum campaign would have a chance, would have some voters who cared enough to turn out (rain or shine or plague of frogs) to cast their vote. And remember what Goldwater’s candidacy created: The modern conservative movement. Nominate Mitt Romney, and we know exactly what will happen. It happened to Gerald Ford in 1976, George Bush in 1992, Bob Dole in 1996, and John McCain in 2008: Select a presidential candidate who has no other reason for running except “I’m not that Democrat over there,” whose creed is mere ambition, whose core is mush, and reap your reward: a country that looks at you, shrugs, and picks the other guy. And all such campaigns leave behind is a long trail of consultants, who’ve cashed their checks.


Jason Jones was the executive producer of Bella (2006). He is founder and president of H.E.R.O. (Human-rights Education and Relief Organization). He has has been at the forefront of the campaign to provide water in Darfur, to promote a moratorium on stoning in Iran, and to educate the upcoming generation on how to promote human dignity and create a culture of life. Learn more about his pro-life initiatives at

  • L E Gabriel Smith

    Very persuasive!
    I like Santorum too, and for the same reasons.
    It gets tough, though, when Santorum/Romney/Gingrich talk about Iran. 
    Ron Paul sounds  good when the Afgans treat us like the enemy.  

  • Kasey

    From my point of view, the only reason to vote for Santorum is because he is able to articulate the role of the family in society.  He has a solid understanding of Catholic culture.

    On policy, he is not reliable.  He’s voted for Sarbanes-Oxley, No Child Left Behind, Medicare Prescription Drug expansion, and a whole host of bills that a principled conservative would not touch.  I am not catching a whiff of Reagan.  I smell George W. Bush II.

    Romney, on the other hand, has a solid conservative voting record.  He vetoed 800 bills as governor (his legislature was 85% democrat), balanced the budget, tried to push through tax cutes each year, and vetoed minimum wage increases.  

    I smell more Reagan in Romney than in Santorum.

    • paulzummo

      This makes no sense whatsoever.  You oppose Santorum because he voted with the Republican caucus on a  number of bills, and instead prefer a man who signed into law the legislation that helped serve as a model for Obamacare.  He ran as a moderate-Republican in Massachusetts, and governed as one.  The actual record shows that Santorum is a lot more Reagan than is Romney.

    • Marchmaine

      If you smell Mr. Reagan anywhere, it is the stench of mortal decay (or perhaps residue from Mr. Santorum’s lunch he so famously up-chucks).

      Mr. Romney is no Reagan, and Mr. Santorum is neither Reagan nor Kennedy (thankfully, I might add).

      But turning to the article, Mr. Jones writes: “the fact that our nation’s survival turns on the social issues Rick
      Santorum addresses with eloquence unparalleled by any candidate since

      This is just unjust to Mr. Reagan… Santorum may be dogged and direct but he is in no way “eloquent.”

      Both NPR and Fox juxtaposed Reagan and Santorum on Kennedy…we see here why Reagan earned his epithet “The Great Communicator.”  So, whatever else we might admire about Mr. Santorum, let us not confuse the issue with comparisons to Mr. Reagan.  See for yourself:

      And, lest we forget, it was Mr. Reagan who taught (perhaps inadvertently) a new generation of Republicans that Deficits do not matter…so long as you control the things on which the money is spent.  In that sense, Mr. Santorum may claim a small fragment of Mr. Reagan’s mantle.

      And finally, if Mr. Romney is a man of “big ideas” as some here seem to hint…then I would expect him to trot them out, at least occasionally, for us all to admire.

      Let us leave Mr. Reagan to his eternal rest; there are no men in this race with either his big ideas (however flawed they may have been in retrospect) or his wit and gifts of speech.  Pace Gipper.

    • Kasey, please read my comment. I address the hypocrisy in Mitt Romney’s accusations against Santorum, and I provide evidence for my claim. Please also FACT check Mitt Romney’s claim in vetoing 800 bills as Gov. I realize some people actually believe the TV ads released by the candidates and their super pacs, but they are not reliable in choosing a cnadidate. Pro-Romney forces are looking beyond Michigan, hammering Rick Santorum in four other states with a new TV ad making some misleading claims.
      The ad claims Mitt Romney turned around Massachusetts’ finances without raising taxes, when in fact he raised hundreds of millions in new government “fees” when he was governor.It also rehashes a boast that Romney issued 800 vetoes, but fails to mention that more than 700 were overridden.It attacks former Sen. Santorum for “voting for billions in waste,” but fails to note that Santorum was given a lifetime “hero” rating by the anti-pork group Citizens Against Government Waste, and was consistently rated better than most of his Republican peers by the fiscally conservative National Taxpayers Union during his dozen years in the Senate. 

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    I am reminded of Walter Bagehot
    “Most men of business love a sort of twilight. They have lived all their lives in an atmosphere of probabilities and of doubt, where nothing is very clear, where there are some chances for many events, where there is much to be said for several courses, where nevertheless one course must be determinedly chosen and fixedly adhered to. They like to hear arguments suited to this intellectual haze. So far from caution or hesitation in the statement of the argument striking them as an indication of imbecility, it seems to them a sign of practicality. They got rich themselves by transactions of which they could not have stated the argumentative ground–and all they ask for is a distinct though moderate conclusion, that they can repeat when asked; something which they feel NOT to be abstract argument, but abstract argument diluted and dissolved in real life.”

  • William Edmund Fahey

    Mr. Jones is making a very interesting point here (well, several interesting and very… spicy points).  Here is the one I mean: “And remember what Goldwater’s candidacy created: The modern conservative movement.”  This may or may not be conceding defeat for Mr. Santorum, but it is asking for us to rise from the ashes and take a long view, a Catholic view—a view that may well go against typical political wisdom of working only with what is currently possible.   The question he raises is whether any of the candidates could ignite a cultural and political revival or help start an enduring movement.  If so, then we should vote on principle, not on pragmatism.  He clearly feels that Santorum, even in defeat, could launch a long-term revival.   Can he?  Can anyone?  I would add another question: is there such a thing as “conservatism” anymore, when we look over the field of candidates and seek something that unites them?  Does anything of principle unite them—beyond a kind of patriotism?

  • This nails it exactly. Well done, Jason.

  • Awesome article! There are many reasons why I will never support Mitt Romney. The main reason- he is a total hypocrite.  Romney condemned Santorum for No Child Left Behind- Mitt supported NCLB.
     He condemned him for earmarks- Romney was an earmark seeker.
     He condemned him for Specter- Mitt Romney Lobbied Arlen Specter for Federal Money In 2005.
    Romneycare is the BLUE PRINT for Obamacare! He has defended Romneycare repeatedly! He doesn’t say he was wrong- he thinks he was right. How will he ever repeal Obamacare when he doesn’t think it’s wrong??  Romney also supported individual mandates for healthcare; he supported Wallstreet bailouts, and supported Cap and Trade, believed in the manmade global warming. This man is not a conservative! He is BIG GOVERNMENT!
    Mitt is a serial hypocrite with no integrity. He is the same as Obama. Santorum admits the things he has done wrong. He does not attack other candidates for doing the same things he has also done. He apologizes for his minor bumps in the road whereas the other candidates do not even admit them. Mitt LIES about his record and the record of Santorum:
    Mitt doesn’t have a chance to defeat Obama. He is his little twin. Why would anyone vote for him? He does not even excite the base…2nd time running for Prez and he still isn’t doing that great. 

    • Carl

      I see McCain II coming!
      It’s almost like the fix is in…McCain too was tough on the more conservative candidates in the primary but was super soft and didn’t attack Obama in the general election.

      I predict Romney to repeat this soft on Obama agenda—why?

      The Republicans remind me of Mel Gibson’s Braveheart movie, a simple man rises from the country side with all the right motives and faith only to have a behind the scenes elite-leprous-backstabber make deals with the King (Obama and the Demorats). 

  • E

  • Excellent and cogent analysis of why Mitt can’t seal the deal.  See my comments here:

  • Carl

    What no one is talking about…A two man race.  The Paul vote would split and the Gingrich vote would go entirely to Santorum.  Santorum wins MI easily and barely loses AR .

    • Carl

      Update: It looks like Santorum did no worse than split the electoral votes, probably will get more because he won more Congressional Districts in MI—still counting.

  • poetcomic1

    Poof!  The whole tea party vanished and  McDoleney the Magician pulls yet another endless colored scarf out of his sleeve.  Ain’t buying.

  • Mat

    Principled? A true conservative? And he sends out robocalls for Democrats to go out and vote for him to defeat Romney. I don’t buy it, and neither did the majority of Catholics. He’s a whiny political insider who has made plenty of money mainly in the political arena.

    • Carl

      Michigan is an open primary (which I think wrong, should Angelic cardinals vote for a Pope?) why shouldn’t Rick go after Dem votes?

      Does the fact the majority of Catholics voted for a liberal Mormon say more about Rick or the Catholics themselves?

      Clearly, Romney, has the political insiders support over Santorum.

      By definition politics is “whiny!” LOL

  • Cord_Hamrick

    The problem I have with all of this is that, so far as I can tell, Rick Santorum is exactly as principled a conservative as George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush were.

    Which is to say: Not really that conservative, and not really having any grasp of conservative principles.

    To be a (political) conservative, one must recognize what one is trying to conserve…or, in the case of the United States where the thing cannot merely be conserved but must be restored because it has been mostly lost already, what one is trying to restore.

    Conservatives are trying to conserve, or to restore, the Natural Law, Constitutional, and Federalist Constraints on the Actions and Authority of Government.

    That is political conservatism.

    Now, side-by-side with political conservatism, there is a thing called cultural conservatism, and I’ll buy that Rick Santorum is one of those.

    But to be a political conservative as well as a cultural conservative — to be about the business of conserving or restoring that which was good about American government in earlier eras, and not just that which was good about American culture in earlier eras — you have to have some dim grasp of what it was about American government in those eras that was so good, and how it came to be lost, and what you’re trying to restore.

    There is, sadly, little evidence that Rick Santorum knows any of that.

    He doesn’t seem to grasp that government in America is the servant of the people, hired by the people to organize and normatively exercise their God-given just authority to use force in the defense of innocent persons, and the necessary policy implications of that. This is the Natural Law constraint on the power of government.

    He doesn’t seem to grasp that the Constitution of the United States delegates only certain enumerated powers to the government, and that all powers not delegated are expressly retained by the states or the people, per Amendment X. This is the Constitutional constraint on the power of government.

    He doesn’t seem to grasp that the Federal system of the United States mirrors the Catholic wisdom of Subsidiarity in granting the central government only that tiny sliver of authority required to allow it to accomplish what the states and towns and families and individuals cannot accomplish on their own. This is the Federalist constraint on the power of government.

    You see, the churches, and especially the Church, would have been able to sustain cultural conservatism through the 20th century had it not been for the compulsory power of the state gradually driving the churches into irrelevance. But unconstrained government helped make this task impossible.

    So cultural conservatism isn’t enough. You need a political movement which will do the hardest thing of all: Constrain government to its Natural Law, Constitutional, and Federalist boundaries, thus making room for the churches to play a significant role in society.

    I have said that Rick Santorum doesn’t seem to grasp the Natural Law, Constitutional, and Federalist constraints of government. What is my evidence?

    Well, first, he doesn’t talk about them at all. He gives no sign that they’ve ever crossed his mind.

    I mean, sure, if you asked him outright, he’d fumblingly say he believed in Natural Law and in the Constitution and maybe he’d even use the F-word (Federalism). But if you asked him to explain what that means to him and how it would play out through his execution of the office of president, he’d get those big vacuous Bambi deer-in-the-headlights eyes and a frozen smile, and change topics, wouldn’t he?

    Secondly, he’s been standing side-by-side with Ron Paul in all these debates. Ron Paul and his base are largely motivated by these principles in a core way. You hear them raise these topics. So it’s not as if Santorum didn’t have opportunity to affirm some of these ideas.

    Did you ever hear him engage with Ron Paul on the principles of limited government? In any of the debates? Anything?


    My final piece of evidence that Santorum, for all his cultural conservative credentials, has no grasp of political conservatism, is his repeated inclination to trash-talk his potential political allies who grasp political conservatism best.

    Do you know who, out of all the colorful spectrum of the American right, has the best grasp of those three principles?

    Libertarians, that’s who.

    But from Rick Santorum’s perspective as a cultural conservative, he doesn’t recognize libertarians as allies, not because they aren’t politically conservative, but because a slight majority of them aren’t culturally conservative.

    You see, somewhere around 45% of American libertarians are culturally conservative. They’re mostly Evangelical Christians and Catholics and a few Jews and Agnostics and Atheists. They tend to be pro-life and to want Roe v. Wade overturned because, applying the principles of libertarianism to the intrinsic dignity of human beings, they conclude that the defense of the unborn is a just exercise of force in the defense of the rights of the innocent.

    Sadly, the other 55% of American libertarians are more culturally moderate or even libertine. A lot of them support marijuana legalization, and not just in an abstract principled way, but because they want to smoke dope and already do. They are unconvinced that the unborn are persons, and thus unconvinced that they have any rights the government is obligated to defend. They still retain their Federalism, though, and would typically like to return the issue to the states.

    So Rick Santorum, not seeing the hallmarks of cultural conservatism in all libertarians, has concluded the following:

    1. That libertarians “believe in having no government at all…which is anarchy.”
    2. That libertarians “think anything goes, no matter how immoral” (libertinism).

    Yep, those are quotes (well, the latter’s a paraphrase). Santorum is seriously that ignorant about libertarians.

    This is the kind of thing he says about libertarians whenever the topic comes up.

    So as a consequence, limited government conservatives and libertarians, when they hear Santorum repeating the same ignorant libels against libertarians that Leftists normally use, assume that he’s a political enemy, not a friend.

    And they are thus inclined to think that a Santorum government would outlaw even non-abortifacient contraceptives, would outlaw consensual sexual acts between unmarried persons, would funnel tax money to churches and require schools to teach “creation science,” and stuff like that. You know: The kinds of things a culturally conservative but politically anti-conservative person would do.

    And Santorum does nothing to disabuse them of this idea.

    Thus the flight of all small government conservatives away from Santorum towards Ron Paul (despite his occasional wackiness) or towards a “maybe Romney’s not so bad” stance or even a third-party spoiler.

    If someone would just kindly explain to Rick Santorum what the difference is between libertine and libertarian, and between libertarian and anarchist, and between political conservatism and cultural conservatism, and get him to give a speech or two explicitly championing the principles of limited government, he’d have the nomination and a pretty good chance at winning independents.

    But at the moment, he’s not speaking the limited-government “language.” When he tries to sound conservative, he sounds like a culturally-conservative statist. He speaks conservatism with a clumsy accent, like he’s a new arrival to the country. He sounds about as comfortable with it as Mitt Romney.

    What a shame.

    • Carl

      While I agree with you Cord about Santorum’s adventures working “with the team” and trying to appease the majority of voters who vote for Democrats nationally in Pennsylvania; I think you take it a step to far and call him a Bush Republican.

      We are being crushed by entitlements and no one the past twenty years in Congress has been more outspoken in trying to reign in these costs.

      Did you read “It takes a family?’ We the People, not We the Government!

      In this book Santorum explains natural law and Church teachings in a non-partisan fashion—which is honorable.

      For example:

      Catholic Subsidiarity:

      “Habits of Association” Chapter VI
      “Tocqueville didn’t credit America’s success to geography, to its abundant natural resources, or even to its laws and political leaders.  Rather, he largely credited what he saw as American’s unique ability to form associations, a habit of building bonds between citizens to both achieve something beyond ourselves and to find a fulfillment unavailble to us as individuals.”
      “Tocqueville also worried about the future, however.  He wondered if it would be possible for Americans to maintain this virtuous habit of association under the conditions of democracy.”

      • Carl

        In “It Takes a Family”  Santorum’s  emphasis is on the “village elders” (government), “no-fault freedom” (licentiousness),and how on the government’s dole through the welfare state is destroying us.  

        And how the foundation of society is The Family, along with “social capital” (virtue and morality), and beginning with and emphasizing local communities and Churches (subsidiarity) we can get back on track and live our founding fathers US Constitution.

        So, I while do agree with you that Santorum does need to expand his “limited-government language,” he is for better or worse the best candidate to accomplish this task.

      • PJA

         While the original article can be recommended, Cord – your analysis is way more spot on.  I too keep waiting for someone other than Ron Paul (whom I admire) to start talking about limited government, sound money, and fiscal sanity. Increasing the dependent exemption, two tax rates (with most deductions intact), favorable treatment of manufacturers – yawn, it’s more of the same. 

    • William Edmund Fahey

      How do we know that 45% of Libertarians are culturally conservative and 55% are “moderate or even libertine”?

      • Cord_Hamrick


        It’s a rough number, not a hard fixed one; so I said “/about/ 45% of libertarians” not “45% of Libertarians.” And be aware (from the small “l”) that I was intending to describe folks who call their political philosophy libertarian rather than card-carrying, capital-L, members of the Libertarian party.

        And the 55% number is just subtraction; I’m saying that these are the folks among libertarians who are /not/ “culturally conservative.” I said “moderate /or even/ libertine” because I didn’t want anyone thinking that all of the remaining 55% of libertarians are libertines (drug-using free-love types). They clearly aren’t!

        The reason I put the more-conservative and less-libertine group of libertarians in the 45%-ish range among libertarians is because of:

        (a.) Religious identification (and more than half say their religious beliefs are an important part of their lives…though admittedly only half of those attend weekly);

        (b.) About 37% of libertarians are pro-life, and I would expect that number to be somewhat lower than any measurement of the fuzzier concept “culturally conservative”;

        I dug around and found there’s a 2004 Pew Research thing, plus two Cato
        institute PDFs from 2004 and 2010 on libertarian demographics and voting
        patterns, and they say basically agree, including the 37% figure.


        (c.) I know from the two years that I was an LP member that, every year,
        there’s either a small majority or large minority of Libertarians who
        complain about wanting to downplay the marijuana legalization side of
        LP, in order to get away from the perception that they’re all stoners.

        Taken together, these seem to be good proxies for identifying folks who
        are “conservative culturally while small-gov politically” as being a
        large minority, not quite a majority, of libertarians.

        Now, my own experience interacting with libertarians and Tea Partiers
        would suggest that a /majority/ were pro-life and religious. But I live
        in Georgia. In Georgia, there are a lot of libertarians, but
        libertarians there tend to be rightward-leaning compared to libertarians
        in the country generally. So nation-wide, a large minority rather than a
        majority seems more probable.

        Thanks, though, for calling me on where I was getting the numbers. I
        think I’ll go post a note qualifying them as estimates, so nobody gets
        the wrong idea.

        — Cord

    • Cord_Hamrick

      As a qualifier, I should point out that there’s no direct demographic study of what percentages of libertarians are “culturally conservative” in the senses I meant in the article.

      There is a 2004 Pew Research study and two papers from 2004 and 2010 by the Cato Institute. Taken together I think these paint the picture of religious or “culturally conservative” people making up a a large minority of libertarians, if we use the fact that 37% of libertarians are pro-life and more than half consider religion an important part of their life, and that they often swing Republican when not voting Libertarian as “proxies” for being religious or “culturally conservative.” Plus I’m factoring in my own experience a bit, having once been an actual LP member and on good terms with a lot of libertarians.

      So be aware: I was making an estimate; but, I think, a fair one.

  • LV

     “Not too many people hate the idea of Mitt Romney as president, but nobody is excited by it, either.”

    This is, frankly, putting the case too mildly.  No one on the Republican side will be very excited by him as the nominee, true.

    The Democratic side, on the other hand?

    The core of President Obama’s base is the Occupy movement and its supporters.  Mitt Romney is a living, breathing embodiment of the “1%.”  He’s just as certain to drive them into a fury as Rick Santorum (if not more so).

    Nominate Santorum, and there is a chance, with two energized bases, of replicating George W. Bush’s tightrope walk from 2004.

    Nominate Romney, and you get an energized Democratic base versus an unenthusiastic (at best) Republican one.  That’s a recipe for an Obama wipeout somewhere near the scale of Bush-Dukakis, if not Reagan-Mondale.

  • Pedro Erik

    Great post

  • Asza

    Cord_Hamrick: The last time I checked marriage, family, and the sanctity of human life are natural law principles. If natural law principles are a litmus test for true conservatism, then it must follow that those who are on the left (=wrong) side of these issues (either by supporting violations of natural law or relegating the life principles to a merely “cultural” category) are being “cafeteria” conservatives of the worst kind

    • Cord_Hamrick


      It is immoral to have sexual relations outside of marriage; it is immoral to seek mutual masturbation with a person of the same gender; it is immoral to render the marriage bed intentionally unfruitful as if children were a disease; it is certainly immoral to kill one’s child in the womb. Now, we have all that information from Divine Revelation, true…but it is also revealed to us in nature and by right reason, showing itself to be the will of Nature’s God apart from Divine Revelation. So you are correct to say that marriage, family, and the sanctity of human life are Natural Law principles.

      There is one area, though, where you ought to exercise caution. I am certain you agree with me in saying that out of all the immoral things humans do, not all of them ought to be prosecuted as criminal acts by government, right? The set of all evils is not coterminous with the set of all things which ought to be criminalized.

      What distinguishes the members of one set, from the members of the other?

      There are various possibilities:

      – Perhaps the things we don’t criminalize are merely less severe than things we do criminalize.

      – Perhaps the things we don’t criminalize have a character which makes it impossible for us to be sure of who the perpetrator is, or who the victim is, or what the harms are, or when and where it happened, so that for practical purposes human police are not competent to investigate the crime, or human attorneys to prosecute it, or human judges and juries to decide it.

      And of course these two may overlap. But to these two possibilities I would like to add a third:

      – Perhaps the evils we don’t criminalize have a character which makes it immoral for us to oppose them forcibly…and since criminalizing something means using force (or the threat thereof) against someone who has committed (or is committing, or might commit) that act, it is God’s Moral Law that prohibits us from criminalizing it.

      And of course there may be times that this third item overlaps with the previous two. So IF we are considering an immoral act, but which isn’t severe, or the details can’t be pinned down effectively enough to allow investigation and trial, or is of a type which doesn’t cross the threshold for just use of force against our fellow man, THEN we may not outlaw it, even though it is immoral under Natural Law.

      In that case we have to combat such evils through persuasion and exhortation, because we are denied just authority to criminalize it.

      One example, perhaps, is willful prevention of pregnancy via condom. Immoral? Yes. Immoral under Natural Law? Yes. But is it the kind of evil which we are justly authorized to oppose by force, under God’s Moral Law? Are you allowed to hold your neighbor at gunpoint to prevent him from doing it?

      I don’t think so, and the reason is because Natural Law tells us that our power to use force against other human beings is immoral to use except in a very narrow set of circumstances, generally involving a need to deter, halt, or punish a wrongful forcible act which violates the rights or dignity of some victim. This could include physical force (e.g. murder, rape, robbery) or even merely intellectual force (e.g. fraud, or contract violation which is a form of fraud).

      Asza, I bring up all these ideas in order to say that while marriage, family, et cetera are all Natural Law concepts, and while we want political candidates to root their policy proposals in Natural Law, that does not mean that every possible policy proposal intended to defend marriage and family is therefore in accord with Natural Law. Some policies would support Natural Law in one way while violating it in another.

      An attempt to outlaw abortion would be entirely in accord with Natural Law: The evil is severe, the evil has a definite victim and perpetrators and harms, and the evil is of a forcible nature, depriving an innocent person of their unalienable right to life. Case closed.

      But an attempt to outlaw non-abortifacient contraceptives or, say, the private holding of heretical opinions would not, in my view, be in accord with Natural Law. Granted, such policies would support Natural Law in certain ways. But they would violate Natural Law in other ways, by authorizing the use of force to oppose evils where God’s Moral Law does not warrant us to use force.

      Therefore, a “culturally conservative” candidate who didn’t want to outlaw abortion would be less than politically conservative, and a “cafeteria conservative” as you say. But a “culturally conservative” candidate who didn’t want to outlaw condoms or membership in the Jehovah’s Witnesses would not therefore be a “cafeteria conservative” in my view.

      Make sense?

  • ForsythiaTheMariner

    I also must disagree with Mr. Jones’ analysis, and agree with much of what Cord Hamrick wrote.

    I believe Rick Santorum is culturally conservative, but not politically, and a true conservative must be both. Rick Santorum has, quite literally, been standing next to Ron Paul during the debates. Almost every word out of Ron Paul’s mouth is about limited government. And yet Santorum somehow gleans over this. Perhaps he’s written about it, but his voting record is not that of a conservative. It seems like that of a pro-life (for the unborn, at least) neo-conservative who is in favor of expanding Big Government. 

    Santorum doesn’t strike me as a bad man, but he also never struck me as a real conservative. Furthermore, I could not support someone who seems so eager to go to war, when the cause of war goes against any Just War criteria.

     I agree, perhaps people aren’t excited about Mitt Romney, he seems like the candidate one will “settle” for (like spam when nothing else is available, perhaps?) But let’s face it, the only real conservative up there is Ron Paul, by a longshot. I only wish more conservatives and the pro-life movement realized this a long time ago.