08 November 2006

why i'll miss santorum

Even though I didn't vote for him, part of me will nonetheless miss Senator Rick Santorum. Not that I'll miss his sometimes flustered, goofy, and impolitic comments before the media. And not that I'll miss many of his political positions, a number of which I would reject, a few rather strongly.

But what I will miss is the fact that, whatever you may think of Santorum's views (or, on the part of many Pennsylvanians, even his intelligence), he is nevertheless a genuine, honest, straightshooting guy and loyal family man, which is saying a lot for a politician.

Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, as a faithful Roman Catholic politician Rick Santorum was a bi-partisan leader on issues of poverty relief, visiting blessing upon orphans and widows in their affliction. As David Brooks wrote in a recent New York Times editorial, Santorum
has pushed through a stream of legislation to help the underprivileged, often with Democratic partners. With Dick Durbin and Joe Biden, Santorum has sponsored a series of laws to fight global AIDS and offer third world debt relief. With Chuck Schumer and Harold Ford, he’s pushed to offer savings accounts to children from low-income families. With John Kerry, he’s proposed homeownership tax credits. With Chris Dodd, he backed legislation authorizing $860 million for autism research. With Joe Lieberman he pushed legislation to reward savings by low-income families.
In addition Santorum has sponsored legislation on a slew of social justice issues: fighting tuberculosis, assisting orphans and at-risk kids in the developing world; providing homes for people with AIDS, financing community health centers, raising awareness of the Sudanese genocide, to name a few.

By positioning himself, however, as a leader in the so-called "culture wars," Santorum has managed to turn himself into a casualty of that war, as well as a casualty of President Bush's Iraqi war policy, of which he was a strong supporter.

Bob Casey, Jr., also a faithful Roman Catholic politician, will replace Santorum next year and will, I think, strive to continue along some similar paths as Santorum on issues of poverty relief, AIDS, abortion, public health, and so on - that's to say, implementing his own understanding of a comprehensive Catholic social ethic, and perhaps doing so in a way that corrects what many would regard as some of the infelicities of Santorum's tenure.

So, while I will miss Santorum's work and witness on poverty-relief and some other issues, I hope and expect that, with Senator-elect Casey taking his place, those who are most vulnerable to the whims and winds of politics will not miss out.