In Defense of Rick Santorum's Sarcasm

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 17 2012 10:33 AM

In Defense of Rick Santorum's Sarcasm

This Buzzfeed story has 22,000 Facebook shares. It's been copy-pasted all over the Internet. And that's too bad, because the headline -- Rick Santorum: Conservatives Will Never Have "Smart People On Our Side" -- dresses up a culture war argument as something dumb that everybody can laugh at it.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Rosie Gray's lede:

Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum attacked the media and "smart people" for not being on the side of conservatives in a speech to the Values Voter Summit on Saturday.
"We will never have the media on our side, ever, in this country," Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, told the audience at the Omni Shoreham hotel. "We will never have the elite, smart people on our side."
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Better than the hed, but it still leaves out Santorum's point. The rest of the sentence is: "because they believe they should have the power to tell you what to do." Santorum isn't saying that intellectuals will never be conservative. He's saying that the overweening eggheads of the Left will always be there, and always have to be overcome. He's being sarcastic. They're not "smart." This is obvious when you see Santorum say the line, his lips twisted with contempt.

Was Santorum unaware of how this could sound whiny and ironic? Maybe, but his contempt for the media and institutions of official culture runs so deep that he seems to feed on it. I've got a strange respect for the way he does this. I understood why he snapped at reporters for trying to turn a dropped phrase from a speech ("on health care") into a NEW line of attack on Romney ("he's the worst Republican candidate"). The media that's based in the L.A.-N.Y.-D.C. axis is generally biased left on social issues, and look at social conservatives as strange animals who should realize that they're wrong and will be proved wrong by history. Instead of grokking why these people think the way they do, the media pretends that they're idiots. Case in point: This little Santorum meme.

(By the way, this is all very different from Santorum's accusation, made during the Michigan primary, that Barack Obama was a "snob" for wanting "everybody in America to go to college." In that, Santorum was just misrepresenting Obama's position. The president considers trade schools when he makes that statement.)

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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