GOP attacks on Santorum begin in earnest

Republican insiders seem to have suddenly woken up to something that others have been noticing for years, that their party has been taken over by open cranks. Hence it is hardly surprising that the Republican party establishment has begun attacking Rick Santorum in earnest.

Columnist David Brooks lambastes the party for being asleep while the ‘wingers’ (his own word) took it over. Former senator Alan Simpson calls Santorum “rigid and homophobic”. Rudy Giuliani thinks that Santorum’s and the Republican party’s stance on gay rights makes it not look like a modern party. And these last two are people whom you would normally think of as pretty crazy themselves.

Jon Oliver on The Daily Show explains that the Republican party is so scared of a Santorum candidacy because he has abandoned the strategy that other politicians have perfected that uses ambiguous language while giving a nod and wink to the crazies, thus enabling them to cobble together a winning coalition of voters. The problem with Santorum is that he is quite direct and open, proud even, about his anti-sex, anti-woman, anti-gay, pro-rich, gung-ho-for-Jesus agenda.

(This clip appeared on February 23, 2012. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post.)

One other thing that hasn’t been noted that much is how gloomy Santorum’s basic message is. It is all “We are going to hell” all the time. And he means hell literally. I am not sure that people can take too much of that. All the candidates’ negative message has party insiders worried since that is usually not a winning approach.

If Santorum defeats Mitt Romney in Michigan today, expect to see a full-blown Republican party freak-out as they desperately seek a way to bring him down. It is not that they are scared of losing the presidency in November. I think they are already bracing for that. It is that they are afraid of the long-term alienation of a huge swath of voters who will see their party as representing backward-looking haters.