Michael Gerson has hit two homeruns in one week with his Washington Post column. On Sunday, he knocked it out of the park with a broadside of Ron Paul’s libertarianism. Today, he hits another one over the fence with his remarks about Rick Santorum. Gerson writes:
Perhaps the most surprising result of the Iowa caucuses was the return of compassionate conservatism from the margins of the Republican stage to its center. Rick Santorum is not just an outspoken social conservative; he is the Republican candidate who addresses the struggles of blue-collar workers and the need for greater economic mobility. He talks not only of the rights of the individual but also of the health of social institutions, particularly the family. He draws out the public consequences of a belief in human dignity — a pro-life view applied to the unborn and to victims of AIDS in Africa.
Electability Republicans can live with Santorum’s populism and moralism. Anti-government activists cannot and have begun their assault. Santorum is referred to as a “pro-life statist.” David Boaz of the Cato Institute cites evidence implicating him in shocking ideological crimes, such as “promotion of prison ministries” and wanting to “expand colon cancer screenings for Medicare beneficiaries.”
But Santorum is not engaged in heresy; he represents an alternative tradition of conservative political philosophy. Libertarians may wish to claim exclusive marketing rights, but there are two healthy, intellectual movements in American conservatism: libertarianism and religious (particularly Catholic) social thought…
In a 2005 speech at the Heritage Foundation, Santorum argued that men and women should not be treated either as “pathetic dependents” or as “radical individuals.” “Someone,” he argued, “always gets hurt when masses of individuals do what is only in their own self-interest. That is the great lie of liberal freedom. .?.?. Freedom is liberty coupled with responsibility to something bigger or higher than the self. It is a self-less freedom. It is sacrificial freedom. It is the pursuit of our dreams with an eye towards the common good.”
Santorum is far from a perfect candidate. His nomination is unlikely. But his success should not really surprise. Every four years, Republicans eventually realize that they need a hopeful domestic policy agenda — some vision of the common good — that appeals beyond their base. If Santorum does not win the nomination, the winner would be wise to listen to him.
Read the rest here.