Not As Alarmed As He Pretends
You just knew that somehow, in some way, it made sense. Or at least it was connected to reality, Rick Santorum-style.
Mother Jones has received a transcript of a town-hall meeting held by Rick Santorum in Clairton, Pennsylvania in February of 1994. Santorum maintained
Most people agree a continuation of the current [welfare] system will be the ruination of this country. We are seeing it. We are seeing the fabric of this country fall apart, and it's falling apart because of single moms....
Open up the current periodicals—study after study, article after article, children having children is destroying the fabric of our country. If you want to close your eyes to it, if you don't care about it, if you don't want to solve it, if you want to continue the system, to let people stay and spiral—go ahead. Not with me.
Santorum contended, according to reporters Tim Murphy and Andy Kroll, that single mothers "needed politicians who weren't afraid of 'kicking them in the butt.'"
Welfare reform was enacted but there was no drop, rather an unfortunate increase, in the proportion of babies in the U.S.A. born to single mothers. Nevertheless, the percentage of children born to teenage mothers fortunately has declined, suggesting the risk in conflating the two social problems, unwed motherhood and teenage motherhood.
Still, it is notable that Rick Santorum railed against unwed and/or teenage women having children, given that he is one of the most outspoken supporters of denying to females the option of ending, or preventing, an unwanted pregnancy. In a 2006 interview, he contended contraception is "harmful to women" and "harmful to society" and in an October, 2011 interview labeled artificial birth control "a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." He pledged as president to work tirelessly to end federal spending for contraceptive services.
In a recent opinion piece in the Philadelphia media, the ex-Pennsylvania Senator from Virginia approvingly quoted Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., who maintains "The point is that any Catholic in public office - his first commitment has to be to his faith ... because it involves your relationship with God." Santorum believes that as a Roman Catholic politician, he is duty-bound to oppose abortion and birth control.
And yet that same individual was horrified in 1994, and probably still so, at the high rate of unwed- and teenage- motherhood. The contradiction is, at first glance, striking.
But there probably is no cognitive dissonance at all. Mother Jones reports
Santorum has since toned down his broadsides against single mothers (if only slightly), but he's singled them out during his presidential campaign. In October he told Family Research Council president Tony Perkins that single moms are "the political base of the Democratic party." He continued, "Why? Because it's so tough economically that they look to the government for help and therefore they're going to vote. So if you want to reduce the Democratic advantage, what you want to do is build two-parent families; you eliminate that desire for government."
Santorum's opposition to unwed mothers because they vote Democratic renders, remarkably, Rush Limbaugh accurate. On January 4, trying to credit Santorum with helping engineer the K Street project (a connection the candidate, dishonest but a little more prudent, denies) maintained "What Rick Santorum and DeLay were trying to do was disempower the Democrats' bureaucrat lobbying reach into Washington." Limbaugh added "What Rick Santorum has always been about is disempowering the Democrats."
But there is something more remarkable than Rush Limbaugh hitting upon the truth. Few people would deny that of the three major GOP presidential contenders (Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney), the extremist, reactionary Rick Santorum is actually the most principled and committed to ideology. And even he is less concerned with single motherhood because it makes "the fabric of this country fall apart" than about suppressing Democratic votes.