Have you ever watched an athletic contest in which you have no particular rooting interest, but pick a team to root for anyway based on some logical reason (they are geographically closer, you have a friend who likes them, you like one particular player, etc.), but found yourself rooting at an emotional level for the other team against the team you logically decided you should support? Maybe I’m weird, but that’s what last night was like for me.
This illustrates the emotional and visceral nature of politics. People do not always vote logically as much as us wonkish types would like to believe they do. People often vote based on their gut. Yesterday my gut was talking to me.
As Walter points out, Romney is probably better on immigration although I don’t trust either Santorum or Romney on the issue. I could see Santorum doing a sentimental Catholic squish on immigration as well as I could see Romney doing a moderate squish on immigration.
Where I think Romney is likely better is foreign policy. Romney has surrounded himself with neocon advisers and his public foreign policy pronouncements are pitch perfect neoconservatism, but Romney is fundamentally a moderate in both policy and temperament. Therefore I think he is more likely to proceed with caution and carefully weigh all the political ramifications before plunging us into another war. Santorum, on the other hand, has distinguished himself for his comical alarmism.
I think foreign policy, specifically not plunging us into a disastrous war with Iran, is the most imminent issue. (I hope to distinguish between important and imminent issues in a future post.) This alone is reason enough to support Ron Paul. Paul will not plunge us into war with Iran. All the others might. Romney may be marginally less likely to do so than Santorum. So by logic I should have been rooting for Romney between the two, but emotionally I wasn’t. Emotionally I was rooting for Santorum.
Here’s why and it is mostly visceral identity politics as you will see. Every four years the Republican Party has a charade of a primary and then eventually nominates the inevitable Establishment centrist who everyone knew was going to be the nominee to begin with - George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain. Why bother even having a primary except to make the Buchanan or Forbes or Thompson or Keyes (etc., etc. etc.) supporters of the world think they actually have a say in the process? This is extremely disheartening and illustrates either the power of the Establishment and/or the sheep like nature of the plurality/majority of the Republican primary electorate. Once, just once, it would be nice to see this cycle broken. Just once I would like to see some upstart beat the inevitable nominee.
I am under no delusion that Santorum somehow represents authentic conservatism vs. Romney’s Establishment centrism. If Ron Paul is not the Republican nominee, I will vote third party. But Santorum is the ”conservative” alternative to Romney according to the current distorted paradigm whether we like it or not.
Those of us on the “far right” who see ourselves as to the right of “mainstream conservatism” have two tasks on our hands. The first is to break the stranglehold of the centrist Establishment and pragmatic politics on what passes for conservative politics these days. The second is to convince those “conservatives” who see themselves as conservatives and in opposition to centrism to embrace authentic conservatism and reject the inauthentic version they currently mistakenly believe is the real thing. If Romney is the nominee we still have both tasks to accomplish. If Santorum somehow manages to get the nomination, then we have only the latter task to complete. Of course this isn’t the real world, but is my conceptual gestalt visceral way of looking at it and explains why my heart was rooting for Santorum while my head was telling me I should have been rooting for Romney.