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Obama vs. Santorum. Two Populist Candidates,Two Views of Freedom

 

Deacon Keith Fournier

February 20, 2012

Catholic Online

   
 

Rick Santorum's view of government - and economics - is from below, with the family as the first government and the first economy. All other government must assist and not usurp its primary role. It must proceed from the bottom up. This is about more than "limited government", though it certainly is that. This is about good government. Can government be good? Yes,when freedom flourishes. Good in the sense of efficient, deferring to mediating structures first - and good in the sense of recognizing the moral foundation needed for a truly free society.


WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Finally, we might have it; a real Presidential campaign - with a real choice between two candidates with two very different worldviews. This election will also be a choice about who we are - and who we will become. It is a choice which addresses the foundation of our identity as Americans and the nature of true freedom.
 
President Obama is in full reelection mode. His campaign theme is that our Nation is divided between the "1%" and the rest of us; between the super rich and everyone else. His rhetoric purports to be "populist", peppered with the mantras of "fair share", and "fair shot". He adds that we should all be playing by the same set of rules.  However, his populism is top down; the federal government is the one to ensure that we are somehow all equal through wealth redistribution, legislative compulsion and coercion.
 
The Obama 2012 campaign wants to take on Mitt Romney in the General election. He is a perfect "uke" (ookie). The term is from the Martial Arts. It refers to the one used in class demonstrations to receive the strikes and techniques from the instructor. Mitt Romney looks as though he stepped out of "central casting" as a caricature of a "1%"er. The Obama reelection campaign believes he is suited for a campaign of caricatures and class warfare.  Romney is, from all indications, a good man. However, that is not why they want him to face him in the general election. He fits their narrative.
 
Rick Santorum strikes a very different image. He is also a populist. He is the grandson of an immigrant coalminer who communicates well with real folks because he is one of us. He does not pit groups against one another but speaks the language of a very different form of populism; one which calls for expanded economic opportunities for all in a free market. However, he recognizes that freedom is a good of the human person. He knows the market is truly free when it recognizes the primacy of "human capital" and expands to offer increased opportunity to all. 

President Obama is a big government candidate. He has presided over the largest expansion of Federal power in my lifetime. His solution to perceived needs is to expand federal programs. His concentration of governmental power favors the executive branch. He favors centralized federal economic controls. His multiplication of unelected Czars, a practice begun under his Republican predecessor, has placed the principles of representative democracy and separation of powers in jeopardy. The most blatant example of his misguided governmental philosophy is federalized health care.

Rick Santorum's view of government - and economics - is from below, with the family as the first government and the first economy. All other government must assist and not usurp its primary role. It must proceed from the bottom up. This is about more than "limited government", though it certainly is that. This is about good government.

Can government be good? Yes,when freedom flourishes. Good in the sense of efficient, deferring to mediating structures first - and good in the sense of recognizing the moral foundation needed for a truly free society. Santorum is not afraid to say that America is a moral enterprise. He may be mocked for doing so - but he stands on the shoulders of giants, including the American founders. 

During the last campaign, President Obama spoke of our obligation in solidarity to the poor. Yet, he refuses to hear the cry of the poorest of the poor, children in the first home of the human race, their mother's womb. He does not respect the fundamental human right upon which all other rights are founded, the Right to Life. His administration mouths the sophistry of those who promote abortion throughout all nine months of life. However, he does much more; he is their enabler in chief.
 
Rick Santorum is a champion of the Right to life. He also walks the talk. His Pro-Life record of public service is the strongest of any candidate who has ever run for the Presidency. His family life speaks even more loudly. During this Presidential campaign, the smile of his little daughter Bella Santorum, who has trisomy 18,spoke the truth of the Pro-Life message more eloquently than words ever could. America knows the truth about life. It is revealed in little Bella's smile.

We operate on our neighbors in the womb. We send sonograms of their movements in gift cards. We prosecute criminals who, in the course of another crime, kill them. Efforts to call Santorum's Pro-Life position "extreme" are failing. So, the opponents of the Right to Life are resorting to fear mongering. They want the American people to think that Rick Santorum is a religious "extremist".
 
The recent efforts to denigrate Rick Santorum have nothing to do with the availability of contraceptives. One only has to go down to the corner drugstore and see whether contraceptives are available. What is at issue is the Federal Government seeking to compel the Church to dispense abortion inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization, against their conscience and deeply held religious beliefs, or face the punitive measures of the Federal Government.   

Rick Santorum's stalwart support of the Free Exercise of Religion - in the face of the recent unconstitutional HHS Decree - is rooted in his proper understanding of the facts. This is a First Amendment issue. His courageous response stands as one more contrast between his candidacy and the reelection campaign of President Obama.

Santorum understands that religious freedom is a fundamental human right. So did the American founders. They called it the "First Freedom." He also understands that the First Amendment, with both its establishment and free exercise clauses, protects religious freedom precisely because it is a fundamental human right. Finally, he believes that people of faith, religious institutions, and the ideas informed by religious faith are not a threat to liberty but help to secure its promise for all.  

President Obama has a jaundiced and severely limited understanding of the Free Exercise of Religion. He has an equally poor understanding of the Establishment Clause. He seeks to confine the practice of Religion, at least the Christian religion, to the four walls of a Church building. He is at odds with the American founders and the Western tradition in attempting to redefine the Free Exercise of Religion as a Right to Worship rather than a robust Right to practice the faith in the public square.  

This election has everything to do with how we will define freedom and how we will pave the path to our future. Authentic freedom must be exercised with reference to what is true and what is good. Human persons can only flourish when they choose the good. In an age that has mistaken a "right" to do whatever one wants as 'freedom," the former Senator from Pennsylvania affirms a freedom to do what is right, grounded on what is good, with a responsibility to one another and at the service of the real common good.

He reminds all of us that America truly is a Moral Enterprise and that freedom itself must be set free. Campaign 2012 may present us with two populist candidates with two different visions of freedom and the future. What a refreshing change that would truly be.

   
 
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