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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Higher Education is a Liberal Conspiracy, Everyone Should Carry Uzis, and Barney Frank's New Job: What I Learned at that Rick Santorum House Party in Iowa Where That Picture Was Taken

Posted by Dan Savage on Thu, Dec 15, 2011 at 2:14 PM

1323757535-santorumspellsitout.jpg

The person who took the above picture—which made its first Interwebs appearance here—emailed me this morning to explain how it came to exist.

I thought you might enjoy some background on the Santorum picture.

It was taken at a Santorum campaign house party just north of Cedar Rapids. Two brothers from Pennsylvania brought the sign to the party. Somehow they got tickets to the 12/10 debate in Iowa and decided to stick around and attend some campaign events. They told the party's hosts that their whole family had been following the campaign and that they were proud that Rick Santorum was from Pennsylvania. They told Sen. Santorum the sign had been made by their eight-year-old nephew. I don't know if any of this is true. What I can confirm that the sign was done in fingerpaint with little bits of clip art glued on. Sen. Santorum definitely was not "in on the joke."

That said, I think it's worth telling you about the rest of my experience that night, as your readers might like to know what it's like to attend a Rick Santorum campaign house party.

The rest after the jump!

The house was in this wealthy community that looked like something from a Tim Burton movie. The walkway up to the front door had candles and little American flags. The house was really, really lovely. When my wife and I walked in, we were greeted warmly by the owner of the house who took our coats. The refreshments table had little bottles of water, snacks and punch. Most people seemed to know each other. Everyone was well-dressed. The whole atmosphere was very friendly and pleasant—I almost forgot where we were until I listened as Iowa State Senator Tim Kapucian chatted up the two guys from Pennsylvania who brought the sign. He told them the following joke: "Why did Barney Frank decide to leave congress? Because he got offered the head coaching job at Penn State!"

Awkward.

Rick Santorum was working the crowd. To be fair the following needs to be stressed: he is really quite warm and friendly in person. In Iowa we get to see so many of these stuffed shirts who think they can be leader of the free world but don't actually interact with people like fellow human beings. But Rick Santorum is a warm and friendly guy—who also happens to hold wildly offensive political beliefs. But it's worth noting his friendliness, because he should get some credit for that. After talking with him I found myself reevaluate how I feel about him.

Then he gave his stump speech.

There was nothing explicitly homophobic in his remarks, as some might expect. His points were more generally about values and America. But contained therein was some pretty oddball conspiracy theories. To summarize, Barack Obama is purposefully pushing for college to be more affordable because he wants our children to be indoctrinated with liberal thinking. He called out the University of Iowa and Cal Berkley in particular. Apparently 62% of people of faith who go off to college become less religious as a result. Also, Obama's emphasis on an information-economy rather than an old-style manufacturing-based economy is a plot to drain people out of the heartland into the big cities, where they become liberal. "Look at the map" he asked "where are the biggest pockets of blue? In the cities." And all this is eroding America's heritage and values, etc. As someone who was born and raised in a big city and continues to live there, and also went to college, I felt as though I and my friends and family were being made out to be the enemy, and somehow less-American that people who live in rural areas. So, that offended me.

Another thread was a Romney-esque critique that Obama doesn't think this country is great. Or rather, seizing on a comment (real or not) that America only really became truly great with the advent of programs like Social Security. Santorum's point was that America has always been 100% incredibly great and anyone who says otherwise is out of step with American values. A lot of head-nodding in the room for that one. I'm not saying that America wasn't pretty good in say 1850, but it's a lot better now. Also the Senator gave the US credit for the industrial revolution. For almost 2000 years, he pointed out, life expectancy was more or less steady. Then America comes along and life expectancy doubles over a century. While tempted to point out the difference between correlation and causation, I ate some chips instead.

Also, during the Q&A period, a little girl asked a question about gun rights. Sen. Santorum pointed out that in Israel, everyone walks around with guns, that businessmen have Uzi's on their shoulders, and street crime is virtually non-existent. So if everyone in America had a gun, we would all be a lot safer. I doubt Israel has zero street crime. But even if it does have low street crime, how would he explain the dozens of countries in Europe that have strict gun laws and low gun ownership but also have very low rates of street crime?

What made the whole scene so weird was that everyone was so nice and pleasant, while simultaneously united in their desire to return America to a perceived perfection and purity that they seem to feel existed at one point but is now under attack by higher education and tolerance.

I mean really, college is the enemy?

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