The result American conservatives are going to find most difficult tonight is the very likely defeat of two-term Senator for Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum. The conservative National Review magazine recently asked if Pennsylvania would do the right thing? Almost certainly not. NR's John J Miller wrote:
"Santorum has served as a leader on welfare reform, Social Security, and foreign policy. His dedication to the pro-life movement and traditional marriage is unmatched. Democrats and liberal pundits are eager to interpret his looming downfall as a repudiation of conservatism itself and some Republicans might even believe it. There would be a chilling effect, warns a GOP aide. A lot of Republicans who arent as gutsy as Santorum would conclude that social conservatism is for losers. Because of this, there may not be a more important election for conservatives in the entire country this year."
Liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans both have trouble with Rick Santorum. He's a leading opponent of gay marriage, stem cell research and abortion. His beliefs stem from his deep Catholicism. Miller again:
"He was an architect of the effort to ban partial-birth abortion, a strategy that energized the pro-life movement and allowed it to go on the political offensive. By visiting the brain-damaged Terri Schiavo in Florida last year, Santorum may have hurt himself with voters, but he also demonstrated that he's willing to take political risks to promote a culture of life. Ten years ago, his own pro-life convictions were put to the test when his wife, Karen, became pregnant with a child who was diagnosed in the womb with a fatal condition. The couple refused to consider abortion. Their son, Gabriel, died two hours after delivery. Today, the senator wears a lapel pin of an angel to honor the boy's memory. (The Santorums have six other children.) "
Although U2's Bono has described him as a "defender of the most vulnerable", Rick Santorum gets much less credit for the role he has played in championing a more compassionate form of conservatism. David Brooks did, however, give him some credit in a recent New York Times column. Brooks lists some of his achievements:
"In the mid-1990s, he was a floor manager for welfare reform, the most successful piece of domestic legislation of the past 10 years. He then helped found the Renewal Alliance to help charitable groups with funding and parents with flextime legislation. More recently, he has pushed through a stream of legislation to help the underprivileged, often with Democratic partners. With Dick Durbin and Joe Biden, Santorum has sponsored a series of laws to fight global AIDS and offer third world debt relief. With Chuck Schumer and Harold Ford, he’s pushed to offer savings accounts to children from low-income families. With John Kerry, he’s proposed homeownership tax credits. With Chris Dodd, he backed legislation authorizing $860 million for autism research. With Joe Lieberman he pushed legislation to reward savings by low-income families. In addition, he’s issued a torrent of proposals, many of which have become law: efforts to fight tuberculosis; to provide assistance to orphans and vulnerable children in developing countries; to provide housing for people with AIDS; to increase funding for Social Services Block Grants and organizations like Healthy Start and the Children’s Aid Society; to finance community health centers; to combat genocide in Sudan."
Brooks concludes by noting that Rick Santorum's recent book - It Takes A Family - contained the important observation that, for conservatives unlike libertarians, the family - not the individual - is the essential unit of society.
Related link: A Conservative Vision Of Social Justice by Iain Duncan Smith and Rick Santorum.