Last weekend, the conservative Family Research Council held their annual “Values Voter Summit,” which hosted a myriad of conservative politicians, including former- presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
During his speech, he essentially summarized the primary message of today’s GOP: Intellectualism does not matter, or worse, that it should be vilified.
“We will never have the elite, smart people on our side because they believe that they have the power to tell you what to do,” Santorum declared. “So are colleges and universities … they are not going to be able to understand.”
Shortly after, he declared that, “…without the church and the family, there is no conservative movement, and there is [sic] no basic values in America … and there is no future for our country.”
Unfortunately, Santorum represents the lack of intellectualism that has engulfed many within the GOP. Due to their primordial fears against the educated, students and the government, they are able to justify alarming political moves socially and economically.
As University of Minnesota students, there is a tendency for many of us to lean to the left, or at least have similar views concerning the best interests of minority populations and what we can collectively group as the 99 percent. However, outside of our college-lecture halls lay vast pockets of communities that are affright with vastly different ideas, akin to politicians just like Santorum.
Intellectualism is also rooted in many Republican voters — much of the people that vote Republican, white males ages 20-50, are without a college education, yet it is not just this population that disproportionally support the party. Wealthier, educated Americans are also supporters. The irony is that Santorum has a doctorate in law, which corresponds with half of the wealthiest of Americans who have a graduate degree or higher. Displaying higher education as pejorative seems to be a veil covering up tacit intentions of the Republican leadership.
While the average conservative voter supports the candidates that obstruct legislation that would have a direct, positive impact upon them, the rich are treated as special by these same obstructionists. The economic plans of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, for example, directly benefit them while increasing the burden onto the rest of society, including conservative voters.
So while Santorum panders to the masses of the conservative movement, as well as to the numerous conservative organizations that have a vested interest in his propaganda, such as the Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council, he is also contributing to the palpable intellectual gap within the GOP. As the moral zeitgeist continues to shift to the left though, the Republican Party may find itself left in the political gutter, and even the loyal GOP voters may realize the opportunities that a strong education — specifically higher education — can provide and join the movement toward a more just, inclusive society.
As a citizen, when I hear politicians such as Santorum say that higher education is, essentially, not important, I realize it comes from a different idea of success. For many in the U.S., those without a college degree would not be able to achieve social mobility or pursue their dreams. Moreover, intellectualism supports skeptical, rational and civil discussions — far from the type that we see in Congress nowadays — and the ability to learn. Santorum’s comments were, indeed, a clear representation of not only the antithesis of the American dream, but also of the direction that the “Grand Old Party” is heading.