It was an amazing spectacle. Here was a Republican aspirant for his party’s presidential nomination urging Democrats to vote for him rather than his rival. Had this request come from a Democrat, it would have been regarded as a dirty trick. To cross over and vote for an opponent who cannot win the general election so as to deny victory to one who might, was surely not how the founders believed elections should be run.
But this is what Rick Santorum wanted. What is more, he was utterly unapologetic when caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He presented some lame excuse about how the folks who nearly gave him a win were really Reagan Democrats. The only one’s who believed this, of course, were his rabid partisans.
So why did Santorum assume he could get away with this ploy? The answer is that he is convinced of his own moral credentials. He is—to put the matter bluntly—dangerously self-righteous. In his heart, he knows that he is a better person than almost everyone else.
Santorum is confident that he is on solid ground when he behaves in ways that would be immoral for others because he believes he always does things for honorable reasons. So far as he is concerned, his ends are so superior that his means can be flexible.
We also see this attitude in an anti-Romney ad produced by his people. From start to finish, it portrays Mitt as a malicious, gun-toting campaigner. Nevertheless, when I saw it, I nearly laughed out loud. Here was a mean spirited negative ad complaining about negative ads.
Apparently the only reason Santorum hasn’t taken the low road before is because he did not have the financing to do so. Now, with the dollars pouring in, he can be as scurrilous as he desires. Evidently, with his opponents always more evil than himself, they deserve whatever he can heap upon them.
This may sound like an overblown criticism, but on several occasions Rick has stated that it is more important to do what is right than what is legal. Needless to say, he will be the one to determine what is right. Much as with Barack Obama, he confers upon himself the role of final arbiter. Others may perceive this as arbitrary, but for him it reflects the triumph of his impeccable virtue.
If Santorum ever gets off his soapbox, he may realize that moral fanaticism is perilous. Indeed, moral zealots have perpetrated many of history’s worst tragedies. They do not see the harm they perpetrate because they are dazzled by their own radiant aspirations. Be they a Hitler, a Napoleon, or a Pol Pot, they always assume they know best.
As for the rest of us, these folks should make us uneasy. They want to be our leaders, but when we allow them to do so, all too often they direct us over a cliff.
Rick Santorum needs to pull back so that he notices that in undermining our political institutions, he is weakening the political infrastructure that might allow him to do good if he were elected.
He has also revealed his true colors—and they are not flattering.