Cam­paigns should em­pha­size jobs

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - By Wes Ver­non


This is a se­ri­ous book. It is not so much a polemic against the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, though it does of­fer an al­ter­na­tive to con­ven­tional wis­dom guid­ing cur­rent White House poli­cies.

In “Blue Col­lar Con­ser­va­tives: Recom­mit­ting to an Amer­ica that Works,” for­mer GOP Sen. Rick San­to­rum ex­pands on the theme of his pre­vi­ous book “It Takes a Fam­ily”: If the Repub­li­can Party can’t ap­peal to blue-col­lar vot­ers, the Penn­syl­va­nian warns, it will never re­cap­ture the White House — and it won’t de­serve to.

Of course, he steers clear of the class ha­tred rou­tinely es­poused by to­day’s Democrats, but the grand­son of a coal miner says his dis­cus­sions with mid­dle-in­come peo­ple dur­ing pre­vi­ous cam­paigns (added to his own fam­ily back­ground) have val­i­dated his con­cern that mil­lions of “blue-jeaned work­ers” who once had good salaries and pen­sions “now seek part-time jobs at big-box stores or have even been en­ticed into pub­lic as­sis­tance.” They are amenable to the Repub­li­can Party’s mes­sage of hope, pro­vided it is ex­pressed in lan­guage to which they can re­late. Tax cuts only for the CEO won’t cut it.

Again, that is no en­dorse­ment of Pres­i­dent Obama’s di­vi­sive “top 1 per­cent” rhetoric. Mr. San­to­rum thinks the en­tre­pre­neur should be re­warded, es­pe­cially if his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties re­quire long hours to keep fac­tory ma­chines hum­ming and of­fice lights on and, not in­ci­den­tally, main­tain the sol­vency and prof­itabil­ity to sup­port a work­force whose jobs are not sent over­seas.

How­ever, the au­thor has seen ghost towns (in­clud­ing some in his home state) where trade poli­cies, in his opin­ion, have hurt more than helped the econ­omy. Therein lies a big part of Mr. San­to­rum’s recipe for GOP suc­cess: Cam­paigns should em­pha­size jobs and the needs of the em­ployee, right along with the case for re­duc­ing, or prefer­ably killing, the U.S. cor­po­rate-tax rate, which is huge by world stan­dards.

Mr. San­to­rum ac­knowl­edges that in some places, the fac­to­ries have been re­placed by “of­fice parks, high-tech man­u­fac­tur­ers, and of course, Wal­marts, Cine­mark the­atres and Home De­pots.”

In other venues, the old fac­tory lo­ca­tions are now home to oil and gas devel­op­ment made pos­si­ble by “hy­draulic frac­tur­ing.” North Dakota has cashed in on that boom in pro­duc­ing en­ergy from rock. “North Dakota shouldn’t be alone,” the au­thor writes.

Yet, even though the United States has be­come “the Saudi Ara­bia of shale rock [nec­es­sary for the frack­ing in­dus­try],” the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, “in­cred­i­bly enough” is try­ing to side­line the frack­ing rev­o­lu­tion by its re­fusal to per­mit con­struc­tion of the Key­stone pipe­line, which would cre­ate “thou­sands of new jobs.”

The San­to­rum agenda is any­thing but boil­er­plate. Take the chap­ter on ed­u­ca­tion. The for­mer (and pos­si­bly again in 2016) pres­i­den­tial can­di­date ar­gues that we should rec­og­nize that ex­pect­ing the fed­eral or even state gov­ern­ments to run our schools is a bad idea — a “relic of the late 19th cen­tury,” he opines. That was when peo­ple were leav­ing the farm to work in fac­to­ries in the dawn­ing in­dus­trial age as they left the lo­cally run one-room school­house for “ed­u­ca­tion fac­to­ries that mass pro­duced cit­i­zens in con­form­ity with state rules.”

The se­na­tor tack­les an­other sa­cred cow. Says he: “Not ev­ery­one has the ap­ti­tude or can af­ford to go to a four-year col­lege. For many kids, a job or vo­ca­tional train­ing may be the bet­ter op­tion.”

He adds, “I’d much rather my chil­dren know how to fix an eigh­teen-wheeler or en­list in the Navy than spend $150,000 to mar­i­nate in four years in the toxic ide­ol­ogy of academia while never miss­ing a week­end party.” (Mr. San­to­rum and his wife, Karen, are home-school­ers. They have seven chil­dren.)

Speak­ing of “toxic ide­ol­ogy,” Mr. San­to­rum de­spairs that while teach­ing from the Bi­ble is for­bid­den in most Amer­i­can pub­lic schools, the most fre­quently as­signed his­tory text­book was au­thored by “an anti-Amer­i­can Marx­ist named Howard Zinn.” (In­deed, upon his death in 2010, Zinn was re­vealed in an FBI file to have been an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant in many Com­mu­nist Party ac­tiv­i­ties for years, in­clud­ing lec­tur­ing at Com­mu­nist Party func­tions.)

If Mr. San­to­rum had dis­cussed these ed­u­ca­tion views as promi­nently in 2012, it likely would have “stirred the pot.” That in­tel­lec­tual grenade will en­ter the de­bate mix if he again seeks the pres­i­dency.

Self-govern­ment is not nec­es­sar­ily easy, the for­mer se­na­tor be­lieves. Cer­tainly, not when so many pow­er­ful forces are ar­rayed against it, many of them us­ing your tax dol­lars in the process.

If Mr. San­to­rum tries for an­other run in 2016, it will be noted he lost a sen­a­to­rial re-elec­tion bid in his state in 2006 and failed to se­cure the 2012 pres­i­den­tial bid. Does he de­serve an­other shot at it?

Sup­port­ers think that af­ter eight years un­der Mr. Obama’s “trans­for­ma­tion,” Amer­i­cans may be ready to em­brace such be­liefs as: “Fam­ily is not some­thing to be tin­kered with or re­de­fined by govern­ment.” “Par­ents, not govern­ment, know what’s best for their chil­dren.” “Doc­tors, not govern­ment, know what’s best for their pa­tients.”

That’s just for starters. Wes Ver­non ended his broad­cast ca­reer af­ter 25 years with CBS Ra­dio. His col­umn ap­pears at Re­new Amer­

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