Santorum Talks Political Career, Liberal Culture

LAUREN SEIBEL/THE HOYA Former Senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) spoke on his political career and perspective of liberal culture in a “Reflections on Running” event hosted by GU Politics on Monday.

LAUREN SEIBEL/THE HOYA
Former Senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) spoke on his political career and perspective of liberal culture in a “Reflections on Running” event hosted by GU Politics on Monday.

Former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) discussed his experiences running for president and his views on liberal values at an event hosted by the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service as part of its “Reflections on Running” series in Old North on Monday.

GU Politics Executive Director Mo Elleithee moderated the discussion, which was attended by over 70 people. Elleithee previously spent nearly two decades working as a communication specialist for the Democratic Party.

Santorum began his career working for former Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.) during his time at the Dickinson School of Law from 1983 to 1986 and acted as the Pennsylvania Senate’s local government committee director from 1981 to 1984. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990, before becoming a senator in 1994. He served two terms until losing his re-election bid in 2006.

Santorum said he first ran for Congress in a tough election cycle but, despite the odds, won by sticking to his principles and working hard. Santorum specifically pointed to the lack of support and funding he received from political action committees and the Republican National Committee.

“I got no support from anybody. I got no PAC money, no support from the RNC, no support from the congressional committee,” Santorum said. “I just decided that you had to go out and stand for what you believe in. I went there, and I figured I’m going to do the right thing and just spend my two years and then go do something else.”

In his 2012 presidential election, Santorum lost the Republican nomination to former governor Mitt Romney (R-Mass.). He ran again for president during the 2016 primaries, earning only a fraction of the support he enjoyed four years ago.

After withdrawing his candidacy for the nomination Feb. 3, Santorum endorsed Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who later also dropped out on March 16.

Santorum highlighted Donald Trump’s divisive politics and rhetoric as a clever political strategy.

“He’s good at angry. He’s good at blaming folks. In my own opinion, he did what Barack Obama and the Democrats did very well,” Santorum said. “They segment the population, and they try to maximize the votes from different groups of people.”

Despite this, Santorum said he would support the Republican nominee, even if it turns out to be Trump.
“I will vote for whoever the Republican nominee is,” Santorum said. “To the extent that I can, I will try to help him.”

Following Elleithee and Santorum’s conversation, audience members were given the opportunity to ask the senator questions.

Responding to an inquiry about same-sex marriage legalization, Santorum expressed vehement opposition, stating that the law could set a precedent for the legalization of other sexual relations.

“How do you say that two men can marry, two women can marry, but three can’t?” Santorum said.

Santorum took issue with the ability of the Supreme Court to approve laws that could potentially be implemented without restriction, comparing this to Congress’ more limited legislative powers.

“When the Court passes a law, which is what they did, it is a broad sweeping right that has legal reasoning and ramifications that flow from it, whereas when the Congress says here is what it is and there’s nothing more than that, we can limit it. Courts can’t limit. And that is the problem with courts doing this,” Santorum said. “They open up Pandora’s box.”

Santorum also discussed the implications of a liberal Supreme Court, a possibility in light of President Barack Obama’s recent nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the court. Santorum said it would result in the importation of secular, European values.

“It is a completely secular society where man establishes rights and rules and so my point is, what the Supreme Court will do, is adopt European style rights and import them into America,” Santorum said. “What is Europe doing except being co-opted, corrupted and displaced now by immigrants who have a fundamentally different culture than they do and they don’t even have the courage to fight on that? Europe is dying. They’re dying. They’re not leading. They’re not fighting for anything or against anybody other than just to keep their stuff.”

Santorum warned the audience that the United States could share what he viewed as Europe’s disastrous fate if a more liberal culture finds a national foothold.

“This place will die and become just like Europe,” Santorum said.

Roey Hadar (SFS ’17) said he respected Santorum’s principled outlook but said he found it difficult to listen to the senator’s statements during the question and answer session.

“In the Q&A portion, Santorum just used such inflammatory rhetoric, some logical fallacies, so much over the top rhetoric that it was hard to sustain the previously gained respect that I had before,” Hadar said.

Ellie Singer (COL ’18), who identifies as a Republican, shared Hader’s sentiments and said, while Santorum provided valuable insight, his rhetoric was problematic.

“I think it was really valuable to hear Santorum’s opinions, and it’s difficult to push past the inflammatory rhetoric to get to the conservative principles that will actually bring our country together,” Singer said.

Amy Qin, a student from the University of Chicago who attended the event, said she did not agree with Santorum’s views on immigration and felt he was unfairly targeting certain groups, which made her uncomfortable.

“He was making kind of a personal attack on the people in this room,” Qin said regarding her perception that Santorum specifically directed his rhetoric at minority audience members. “I really felt he was singling out a lot of immigrants.”

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