I am convinced that Rick Santorum is going to win the Republican nomination. And I am not saying this just because he came first last night in Alabama and Mississippi. He’s on a roll. He will probably win again in Louisiana, where all those transplanted Nova Scotians share his Roman Catholic faith. And he already showed his strength in Missouri. It’s just a matter of time before someone makes Newt Gingrich an offer he can’t refuse and he drops out of the race.
One on one, Romney can’t beat Santorum. Not in rural America for sure. Not in the South. Not in the Midwest, where Catholics abound. Remember the contest is for the hearts and minds of Republicans, not Independents or Democrats. And Republicans dominate in the parts of America where time has stood still for the past half century.
I wonder why anyone thought a Mormon would be the Republican candidate. This is the Republican Party, where bigotry rules. Not just racial and social bigotry. Religious bigotry. The kind of bigotry that proclaims: Believe as I do or burn in Hell forever!
The nomination of a man like Romney was never “inevitable” in such an environment – despite his unconvincing protestations of “conservatism” and the predictions of the pundits.
I got the feeling that it is Santorum who is “inevitable” when he reported last night that people were coming up to him and saying, “I’m praying for you.”
Romney is running a campaign. Santorum is leading a crusade. (Gingrich? He’s just in it for the ego boost and the money he’ll be making from his books and speaking engagements when this is all over.)
As an Obama supporter, I am tempted to bask in the prospect of Santorum facing the President. But I have an uneasy feeling that the contest might not be as one-sided as I think.
I know how powerful religious crusades can be. History abounds in illustrations of their might. And I see that kind of zeal today in Islamic suicide bombers.
The Santorum crusade could inspire the fire a Romney campaign could never ignite. And that fire could spread.
It’s a fire of faith. And faith by definition defies reason.
If Americans perceive Santorum as a prophet who will vanquish the cool academic in the White House and vindicate their discredited notions , who will “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” who will purge the Temple of Congress of its unholy money changers… If he achieves that kind of transfiguration, he could ride a groundswell of fervor to victory.
Of course, Santorum is a false prophet. He is a narcissistic, pompous prig with no understanding of Christ’s message. His interpretation of Christianity is perverse and depraved. A latter-day Pharisee, he preaches hate, bigotry and self-righteousness, not love, tolerance, humility and forgiveness.
But false prophets have prevailed before. And this one could prevail now.
If he does, look out! He would impose his Puritanical views on the rest of us, dragging America back to the dark days of religious and racial oppression.
As Thomas Jefferson observed: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.