In the aftermath of the GOP’s summer collapse in which it failed to deliver on a seven-year promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, an unlikely but familiar face was working behind the scenes to salvage that promise, the GOP’s dignity, and the American system of governance: Rick Santorum.
Santorum is one of the most underappreciated figures in modern conservatism, and perhaps American political history. As a U.S. senator, he pioneered the landmark welfare reform bill that prevented welfare from becoming another permanent unsustainable federal entitlement. He battled on the floor of the Senate like William Wilberforce to pass the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. He did yeoman’s work defending conservatism while being subjected to the most vile attacks the Left has ever mustered against a conservative — attacks too disgusting to mention or even link to here.
He was nearly recognized for his efforts in 2012, when he finished second in the race for the Republican presidential nomination to Mitt Romney. I firmly believe to this day that, had Santorum been the nominee, he would have beaten Barack Obama and made him a one-term president. Instead, the GOP settled for Romney — who had no credibility to go after Obama on healthcare and refused to seize on numerous other opportunities. We all know how that election turned out.
Unfortunately, there are very few statesmen left in American politics. The Founders imagined elected officials would serve for a limited amount of time, work for the common good, and then go back home — something that almost never happens now. Once they leave Congress or governorships, our present-day elected officials get lucrative lobbying and consulting jobs with D.C. firms and live large on multimillion-dollar salaries from those firms, on top of the lifetime pensions they get from Congress, funded by the taxpayers. Rarely do they stay involved in the movement, doing the hard work. Think of John Boehner, who got a comfortable lobbying gig upon his retirement and hadn’t been in the news for years — that is, until he surfaced recently to admit that he never really believed the GOP could repeal Obamacare.
To be fair, in the first couple years after leaving office in 2006, Santorum did snag some well-paying consulting work. But he also joined the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a little-known but very important conservative think-tank in Washington. He also offered conservative commentary on Fox News and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
After narrowly losing the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, he could have faded into the background and gotten another lobbying job. Instead, he founded Patriot Voices, a conservative advocacy group, and became CEO of EchoLight Studios, a movie company focused on making faith-friendly films. He wrote a book — Blue Collar Conservatism — which unwittingly formed the outline for Donald Trump’s unlikely rise to the presidency. And after his 2016 bid didn’t pan out, he went back to work for conservatism, most recently on the issue of healthcare.
A Politico article details how the Graham-Cassidy bill is essentially the brainchild of Rick Santorum. Rather than appearing on TV making vague calls for reform, he actually did the dirty work of writing some of the bill.
Think of that — an accomplished man who hasn’t been in elected office in 10 years and who could retire comfortably with his family choosing instead to get into the intricate details of healthcare reform and developing a framework of real federalism that will take power away from the federal government and restore it to the states. Graham-Cassidy is not perfect. But it is ingenious and authentically conservative.
Rick Santorum is a real statesman. He’s not a career politician who’s in it for himself. He’s in it for the common good — and for the common man.
There have been scattered news reports that Santorum’s name has been floated as a potential candidate for Speaker of the House should Paul Ryan resign or be ousted. I think it’s a fantastic idea. On a practical level, as a proven conservative, Santorum has real credibility with the conservative wing and the Trump wing of the GOP. And as a former senator, he has real credibility with the establishment too. It’s unlikely to happen, but we’ll see.
If the GOP prevails in finally repealing Obamacare and replaces it with Graham-Cassidy, they will have Rick Santorum, a 21st-century American statesman, to thank.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore