Former Senator Rick Santorum speaks to packed crowd at Notre Dame
On Wednesday, September 17, former Republican presidential candidate Senator Rick Santorum stressed to over 400 attendees in the Carey Auditorium the importance of reforming the Republican Party’s political strategy, advocating an agenda of renewed unity, opportunity, and freedom. The event was sponsored by College Republicans.
Santorum’s new book, Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works, focuses on liberty for those marginalized by both parties, as well as on the importance of the family. His central message is one often labeled as politically incorrect: Family is our strongest economic anchor.
“And yet if you talk about the importance of family, the importance of marriage, the importance of mothers and fathers raising children, you are a dinosaur,” Santorum said. “You are an old-fashioned, out-of-step, moralizing hater—when all you’re trying to do is give kids in America a chance. Why isn’t the government on the side of marriage?”
His message is clear: America must promote the family—marriage must be held as an ideal. Supporting the family is economically and socially beneficial to America, according to recent studies conducted by the Obama Administration, and this is the message Republicans must embrace.
In addition to advocating for marriage and the family, Santorum focused on representing Americans typically ignored by Republicans and misrepresented by Democrats.
“Imagine if we actually included people who don’t think anybody cares about them. Well that’s the focal point of this book,” he noted. “And the amazing thing about this is it’s not a liberal [or] conservative issue. The policies and the ideas that we put forward actually do something that I think is really important in this country. I think people are tired of division.”
In order to restore an upwardly mobile society, Santorum suggested government officials promote “a manufacturing juggernaut in the United States.” This not only creates jobs for the 70 percent of Americans who do not have a college education, but it also “bring[s] pride back into the work we have done.”
Santorum argued that Republicans must promote stable energy costs through hydraulic fracturing. Becoming energy independent stimulates the manufacturing market, creating good jobs for middle-class America. These new jobs will open up opportunities for a well-trained labor force, and Republicans should encourage vocational and technical education.
After the speech, students had the opportunity to ask questions, many of which were focused on immigration. While the opponents of Santorum’s message made their case firmly and passionately, discussion remained civil.
Santorum tried to establish a “third-way” on the issue of immigration, saying: “[In America] you have the horrible confluence of people who are looking at this as political power on the one side, and profits on the other side. And the guys in the middle, average working Americans, get stiffed.”
According to Alex Caton, Vice President of BridgeND, Santorum’s visit to Notre Dame was less contentious than when Ann Coulter spoke in the spring. “This was much more constructive,” Caton told the Rover. “I think most students are rightly happy to go to a school that can pull in national political figures, especially ones they disagree with.”
Caton continued: “Santorum’s thoughts on getting the Republican Party to message more effectively to workers were pretty interesting. Democrats reach out to working class Americans constantly, while few GOP candidates have put forward any serious policy alternatives that would empower or appeal to workers.”
Iris Schweier, the co-Vice President of College Democrats told the Rover, “While I personally disagree with Senator Santorum on most political issues, I still think his visit to campus was positive, in that he brought to light a message worth hearing … there are significant groups of potential voters who don’t feel represented by the GOP, and I would argue this is true of the Democratic Party as well.”
Alex Streff, Social Affairs Director for College Republicans, reflected on the event, saying that it went even better than he had expected. “Off stage, the Senator was very personable and enjoyed chatting about football,” Streff said. “I was able to eat with him and our conversation over breakfast was a great opportunity for us to discuss current political issues and gain his insight into the upcoming elections and whether or not he will run in 2016.”
During Santorum’s visit, members of the Tocqueville Program had lunch with Santorum. Vincent Phillip Muñoz, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Tocqueville Program, shared his thoughts about the event with the Rover: “We were quite pleased that Senator Santorum graciously took the time to have an extended lunch with our Tocqueville Fellows.
“Some of our students seemed to agree with much of what Senator Santorum had to say; others clearly disagreed,” Munoz concluded, “but I think all agreed that it was an amazing opportunity.”
Mary Salvi is a senior political science major. Contact her firstname.lastname@example.org.