Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum spoke to the convention on the evening of August 28th. More uncomfortable than his constant focus on hands were his right-wing talking points, such as disdain for government aid, abortion, and LGBTQ rights. At the 2:41 mark, Santorum scoffed at the idea of fair wages or benefits when discussing his immigrant coal miner grandfather. The idea that those benefits might be a vital safety net during these tough economic times was not considered.
"My grandfather, like millions of other immigrants, didn't come here for some government guarantee of income equality or government benefits to take care of his family. In 1923, there were no government benefits for immigrants except one: freedom. Under President Obama, the dream of freedom and opportunity has become a nightmare of dependency, with almost half of America receiving some sort of government assistance."At the 5:06 mark, Santorum made the tired, simplistic correlation between "government dependency" and the absence of fathers in the home. For good measure, he also threw in a lament over the alleged "assault" on marriage.
"Marriage is disappearing in places where government dependency is the highest. Most single mothers do heroic work and an amazing job raising their children, but if America is going to succeed, we must stop the assault on marriage and the family in America today."Like some other right-wing voices, Santorum took a dim view of the Department of Education while claiming to champion education as a path to success. At the 6:27 mark, he told listeners that "Mitt Romney believes that parents and the local community must be in charge of schools, not the Department of Education."
Santorum's speech was full of barbs directed at President Obama. At the 8:10 mark, he suggested that President Obama's decisions were a danger to democracy.
"President Obama rules like he is above the law. Americans, take heed. When a president can simply give a speech or write a memo and change the law to do what the law says he cannot do, we will no longer be a republic."After telling the audience about his daughter Bella, Santorum praised the GOP for its anti abortion stance at the 13:01 mark.
"I thank God that America still has one party that reaches out their hands in love to lift up all of God's children, born and unborn ... and we say that each of us has dignity, and all of us have the right to live the American dream."On the evening of August 29th, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee addressed the convention. Amidst Huckabee's repetitive mantras of "We. Can. Do. Better." and "We. Will. Do. Better." were the usual jabs at Democrats. Huckabee ridiculed President Obama for being allegedly anti-business, calling the Democratic Party under Obama a "liberty-limiting, radical left-wing, anti-business, reckless spending, tax-hiking party."
Perhaps the most striking part of Huckabee's speech were his remarks on Obama and Romney's faith. At the 8:51 mark, he called President Obama a "self-professed evangelical" and lambasted him for his positions on abortion and LGBTQ rights. Furthermore, he accused President Obama and the Democratic party of supposedly attacking religious freedom.
"People wonder whether guys like me, an evangelical, would only support a fellow evangelical. Well my friends, I want to tell you something. Of the four people on the two tickets, the only self-professed evangelical is Barack Obama, and he supports changing the definition of marriage, believes that human life is disposable and expendable at any time in the womb, even beyond the womb, and he tells people of faith that they have to bow their knees to the god of government and violate their faith and conscience in order to comply with what he calls health care. Friends, I know we can do better. Let me say it as clearly as possible that the attack on my Catholic brothers and sisters is an attack on me. The Democrats have brought back that old dance, the limbo, to see how low they can go in attempting to limit our ability to practice out faith. But this isn't a battle about contraceptives and Catholics, but about conscience and the creator. Let me say to you tonight, I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do about where he takes this country."Finally, presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivered his nomination acceptance speech on the final night of the convention. His many references to family life was no doubt meant to humanize him and appeal to voters on an emotional level. His speech was peppered with encouraging rhetoric about women, a voting demographic that the GOP has alienated as of late. His positive depiction of Bain Capital may have been meant to counter negative messages surrounding his time there. Finally, his condemnation of Obama's economic policies was in full conformity with Republican rhetoric this election season.
Two remarks stood out for me in Romney's speech. First, despite all his positive-sounding rhetoric, Romney remains staunchly conservative, as suggested by his words at the 31:03 mark.
"As president, I'll protect the sanctity of life, I'll honor the institution of marriage, and I will guarantee America's first liberty, the freedom of religion."I do wonder if by "freedom of religion," he means "freedom for religious institutions not to provide reproductive health care coverage to women," as some Religious Right figures use the term. Hmmmm.
Second, Romney's remarks on climate change were chilling. At the 31:32 mark, he had this to say about President Obama and the environment.
"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans [audience laughs], and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family."The implications of these words, if sincere, are unsettling. Climate change has serious long-term impacts for all life on Earth, and should be treated seriously by anyone with presidential ambitions. To boot, climate change is having observable public health and economic ramifications, making it an economic issue as well as an environmental concern. If Romney is elected to the White House, I worry about what his environmental policies could be.
In short, the Republican National Convention confirmed what we have come to expect from conservative Republican figures. While the convention speeches did not necessarily hold surprises, they serve as a reminder of the values that many GOP leaders hold, values that are at odds with LGBTQ equality, women's reproductive rights, or a mature environmental ethic.
For additional commentary, visit the following links.
Think Progress: As Experts Warn the Door Is Closing on Climate, the GOP Mocks the Problem
Christian Science Monitor: Rick Santorum: Why His Convention Speech Matters
CNN: Five Things We Learned at the Republican National Convention