Santorum has put himself forward as the leader of America’s silent moral-majority.But what if there is no majority to be had? What if it is moral minority, or a moral fringe?
In the past few weeks, Rick Santorum has put on the full armour of a culture warrior, and the media is playing along, magnifying his remarks about birth control, abortion, pre-natal testing and Obama’s “phony theology.”
While these clearly are Santorum’s personal views, highlighting them is part of his electoral strategy. He thinks these are winning issues.
Over at The American Conservative, Pat Buchanan, recently ousted from MSNBC, writes the most persuasive analysis of Santorum’s electoral gambit:
First, [Santorum] is wagering that by emphasising his moral, social and cultural conservatism, he can trump Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital job-creator card.
Second, he is wagering that Obama, with his latest attempt to impose secular values on Catholic institutions, can be portrayed as possessed of an “overt hostility to faith in America.”
Third, he is wagering that he has the rhetorical and political skills to make this case to the nation through the prism of a hostile media.
Fourth, he is betting that these issues are also the concern of a plurality of Americans in a country far different from the one he grew up in.
Finally, Santorum is betting that Americans still believe this is God’s country, that America’s laws should reflect his Law, and that they will elevate to the presidency a man who presents himself as the instrument to carry out God’s will.
Notice how Buchanan doesn’t offer up whether he thinks it is a good bet.
Because it probably isn’t.
America is often said to be the most religious advanced nation. In Gallup polls around 40 per cent of Americans report going to Church regularly. But more rigorous studies show that about half of those people are lying or exaggerating the truth. On average, it seems that something like 17 per cent of Americans attend church regularly (almost every Sunday). And the trend keeps going down. Church attendance is slowly tapering among college-educated whites, and it is crashing among lower-income whites.
Even among the Church-going many are not devout. The number of Catholics who avoid contraception may be larger than just 2 per cent, but no one thinks that even a majority of regular-Church going Catholics agree with the teachings of the Church that run against the dominant culture.
Further, the modern liberal values that Santorum is running against have prestige in our culture. Those views are championed in popular and high culture. They are inculcated in our education system with only marginal objections or dissent.
In other words, while there is some segment of Americans who are occasionally uncomfortable with modern liberal values and culture, there isn’t a majority who are deeply opposed to it, or who oppose it in any coherent or unified way.
Santorum may find his cohort of voters. But if his message is almost exclusively about the culture war, it is likely to be a moral minority. These voters may not even be able to grant him the nomination of the Republican party. He can forget the White House.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.