Good post by Steven Taylor over at OTB and Rick Santorum’s odd morality:
Having said that (and hopefully have forestalled comments along those lines), Santorum does keep saying things that I think a substantial portion of the population believes. To wit: he frequently makes moral claims that paint the picture of a universe in which all outcomes are justly generated by the actions of individuals. In this universe, people are successful because they work hard and make good choices and people fail because they do not work hard enough and/or because of bad choices.
Now, let me stipulate another point: it is doubtlessly true that hard work and good decisions are incredibly helpful to the generation of success whilst slothfulness and bad decisions frequently lead to bad outcomes. This is not the issue. The issue is the degree to which is it possible to neatly categorize the citizenry into nice, neat boxes of the good and hard-working (i.e., the successful) and the bad and slothful (i.e., those who have failed in one capacity or another). Indeed, this issue is the crux of the social policy debate and is at the heart of contemporary partisanship (e.g., it is why Republicans frequently cast tax increases as “punishing achievers”—a phrase rife with normative judgments about the way the universe works).
Along these lines we can go back a few weeks to a town hall meeting in Iowa where Santorum extolled the value of “suffering” and apparently finds it problematic that various policies (e.g., food stamps, Medicaid, etc.) ameliorate suffering because, after all, “suffering is part of life and it’s not a bad thing, it is an essential thing in life.”
The thing is, Steven doesn’t realize it, but the only thing that separates Santorum from most of our elites is how blunt he is- he actually uses the word suffering, and not some euphemistic bullshit like “shared sacrifice” that David Brooks or Douthat or some other douche bag might trot out. It’s the core of the entire mythology they have used to divide “real America” from the decadent coastal elites. Real Americans understand “belt-tightening” and don’t want a “handout” and will “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” It’s so ingrained in our conversation that we actually have people making the honest-to-goodness argument that we shouldn’t extend unemployment benefits during the worst recession since the Great Depression because… we don’t people too comfortable while unemployed or they might not look for a job.
Now, mind you, as with everything else involving the GOP, this is a hoax. When they talk about suffering, they aren’t talking about the rich and well-to-do. They are talking about everyone else out in idiot America who hasn’t been able to see through this shit and keep voting Republican because both sides do it or the baby jeebus told them to save snowflake babies or because Obama is coming for their guns or because gays make them feel icky. That’s how they can simultaneously argue that the payroll tax should die but god forbid any tax cuts on the rich expire.
And don’t get me started on the glibertarians, who think basically the same thing, except without the religious component. To them, if you are suffering, it was because you made unwise choices in our fabulous free market FAP FAP FAP. At any rate, suffering is the entire core of the GOP philosophy. It’s just that you are the one they want suffering. But cheer up, I’m sure Chris Matthews will agree it builds character.