Rick Santorum – The New William Jennings Bryan

About two months ago, when I wrote a post regarding the dearth of good GOP candidates, I did not give Rick Santorum the time of day. I felt that most people would see him for what he is and, other than the evangelical right, would not give him a lot of credence. Unfortunately, with the “anyone but Mitt Romney” sentiment within the ultra-conservative GOP wing has now found Santorum as their new ambassador after the failings of others – remember Bachmann, Perry and Cain? Newt is still around, but people are now seeing Newt’s history first hand.

I worry that Santorum may carry the day from the GOP side and, if the economy shows any fall back of the steady improvements it has made, he could win the election. That would be quite unfortunate given his stance on a number of issues that would, indeed take our country back – back to the 19th century. I chose this time period judiciously as he reminds me of another historical figure who ran for president a couple of times and is known as one of the great orators in history – William Jennings Bryan. Some folks may remember him more as the prosecutor in the “Scopes Monkey Trials” where a teacher was put on trial for teaching evolution. This trial was captured in the movie “Inherit the Wind” where the names of the participants were changed. A famous scene occurred when Clarence Darrow put Bryan on the stand and Bryan proceeded to say the Bible shows conclusively that the world is only 6,000 years old. Now, where have we heard that recently?

Bryan could easily be labeled an evangelical candidate then and today. In spite of being one of the finest orators, a view held by all sides, he never won the presidency. His evangelical positions were even too much for the times and he was short on practical ideas to lead the country.From my reading of history, Rick Santorum is the new William Jennings Bryan. Not as gifted an orator as Bryan, Santorum is a good candidate and does more grassroots politicking than his competitors. I give him credit for meeting the people. Yet, his conservative positions on contraceptives, women’s rights, gay rights and now the environment trouble me greatly.  I do not deny any person the right to believe what they believe, yet I need the same treatment from them.

When we hear people bring up the constitution and the need to go back to it, I find it ironic. At the heart of the constitution is the separation of church and state. Our forefathers got it right, as we should not let a person’s beliefs dictate what others can and cannot do. Of course, those beliefs make us who we are and help us form our character, but the religions of the world have a lot more similarity than people would be led to believe. To try to tell someone your religion is more righteous than others can be viewed as arrogant. Especially, when the key tenet of almost all religions has some variation of the Golden Rule in Christianity. There are far more non-Christians in the world, than Christians.

As an independent voter, I tend to advocate for justice and fairness. My religious persuasion makes me believe in the premise of Gandhi that a society’s greatness is measured by how it takes care of the less fortunate. He is echoing what Jesus said earlier about taking care of the lesser of these when contrasting people who were less fortunate to those who are so. This is one of the concerns I have had about the Libertarian party. We cannot be left totally alone. We need to help people help themselves and, yes there is a need for government to do that which has been a tenet of our country for sometime.

So, addressing my concerns over Santorum – I very much support the rights of LGBT to have the same opportunities as others in our country. I very much support the rights of women. To me this is a major reason the middle east has trouble overcoming the problems they face. If they gave rights to women such as are held in the western world, they would be far better off. Just using Malcolm Gladwell’s point in “Outliers.” They are overlooking one half of their intellectual capital by denigrating women. They can never compete with one arm tied behind their back.

I very much support the widespread use of contraceptives. This is not only a women’s health issue, it is a family planning and global health issue. There is a huge amount of data  which shows correlation between poverty and size of family. Plus, we will run out of resources to feed, water and shelter people if the population grows too rapidly. And, there is data that shows when contraceptives (specifically prophylactics) are limited, sexually transmitted diseases and AIDs increase, especially in third world countries.

Yet, the key is a woman having the right to decide with her significant other when she wants and can afford to have a child. What I tell evangelicals is you can preach all you want about abstinence, but people are going to have sexual intercourse outside of wedlock. I believe a church should embrace this and have informed sexual education classes held at the church. You can talk about abstinence and protected sex together. That would be the best of counseling letting teenagers know the real truth.

If this were not enough, Santorum is now attacking the environmental and global warming issues as political issues. The sad truth is this inane rhetoric is bleached into the GOP platform. Newt was even vilified for appearing with Nancy Pelosi in a public service ad saying he was wrong about global warming. That is one of the few issues I can say I agree with Newt on. Folks, the science is overwhelming and global warming is here. I have noted earlier in posts that the Republican Party is the only organized body in the world not to understand this as a problem. Since, the GOP is supposed to be party of economic conservatism, let me phrase it this way – the deficits won’t matter if our environment continues to deteriorate the way it is. The cost to shore up problems – holding back the sea as a true metaphor for all the problems – will dwarf the deficits we have.

So, Ricky and your fellow Republicans, we must do something about global warming now. And, the only person in the race for President to have done something is the incumbent. This is no longer a political issue. The scientific data will not let you make it one. So, if Santorum does win, I pray that our God will get him to read more than the book he quotes from most. God gave us a brain for a purpose – we should use it.

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