Rick Santorum is trying to highlight differences between himself and Ron Paul because he knows another fourth place finish will cripple his campaign (especially if Newt Gingrich finishes ahead of him in South Carolina). In so doing he’s gone the Declarationist route according to Dan Larison over at Eunomia:
“(According to Santorum) Ron Paul has a libertarian view of the Constitution. I do not. The Constitution has to be read in the context of another founding document, and that’s the Declaration of Independence. Our country never was a libertarian idea of radical individualism. We have certain values and principles that are embodied in our country. We have God-given rights.
The Constitution is not the “why” of America; it’s the “how” of America. It’s the operator’s manual. It’s the rules we have to play by to ensure something. And what do we ensure? God-given rights. And so to read the Constitution as the end-all, be-all is, in a sense, what happened in France. You see, during the time of our revolution, we had a Declaration of Independence that said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, [that they are] endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
So we were founded as a country that had God-given rights that the government had to respect. And with those rights come responsibilities, right? God did not just give us rights. He gave us a moral code by which to exercise them.
Santorum’s position is a fairly common one among certain groups of Christian conservatives. It also confuses several things at once. It isn’t particularly “libertarian” to read the Constitution without referring to the Declaration. The Constitution is the federal republic’s fundamental law, and the Declaration was mainly a list of complaints, so there’s no reason why we should read the one in connection with the other. Constitutionalism as such doesn’t endorse “radical individualism.” Among contemporary constitutionalists, one is more likely to find people sympathetic to communitarian ideas and critical of social atomization.
The Constitution was originally a centralizing power-grab at the expense of the states, and until the Bill of Rights was added to it there was nothing very “libertarian” about it, except that it defined and limited the powers of a government. Incorporating explicit protections for the rights of individual citizens was a concession to critics of the Constitution. These protections were originally included solely to restrain the powers of the new federal government. The legal rights in the amendments to the Constitution are something different from the rights and responsibilities Santorum is describing, but he is muddling them together to tie his concerns about moral conduct to constitutional law.”
Indeed it seems Santorum is trying to claim the mantle for the Alan Keyes-wing of the GOP, which views the Declaration as the moral basis of U.S. government which therefore trumps the Constitution. This is nonsense of course and explains largely why Keyes has become a nobody in U.S. politics and why Santorum is heading this way (although I’m sure Keyes AIP would be more than happy to bestow its presidential ballot line is two or three states to Santorum this fall). To them , the Declaration is the pure example of Americanism (without all that messy, nasty stuff about slavery, which was added by the Northern states by the way) while the Constitution is just the instruction manual. No, it is law. It has the force of law and the authority of law while the Declaration, albeit a very nice document (written in humanistic language unfortunately), is basically rhetoric .
Of course you can’t convince the Keyes/Santorum crowd of this because they’ve staked their whole ideology around the Declaration. All men created equal? Are you sure about that? How does a someone who calls themselves “conservative” reach this point? Only because the Left turned secular that’s why. Keyes-Santorum wing is their opposite number, their flip side, their shadowy reflection. That’s why trying to equate Paul with Jacobins as Santorum does is utterly ridiculous. The true conservatives of France were as Catholic as Santorum but believed in France as an identity, a real place, not as idea. Santorum, on the other hand, does believe in America the Idea and believes, because of this, the Declaration exists above all else. Only a fool would believe a majority American patriots back in the Revolutionary War fought only motivated for the Declaration. They fought because the British Army was invading their land and using foreign mercenaries to kill them and their families. That’s is why they fought and joined the cause, eventually. The British violated blood and soil, not the “idea”.
The sad part is there exists on the Right a real set of Jacobins who have to be fought first and foremost before accounts can be settled with the rest.