In this write-up on my latest reading of Rick Santorum’s It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, I’ll highlight where Santorum tries to add a tone of moderation to his controversial positions. Here are three areas in which he seeks to do so:
1. Earlier in the book, Santorum appeared to argue that it’s preferable for a mother to stay at home rather than pursue a career. On page 211, however, he states:
“The 1950s were not without moral blemishes. Many conservatives recognize that there was something unsustainable about the role of women made normative in that period, for example. Allen Carlson has argued that whereas the household had once been a center of productive activity, the advance of industrial technology and suburbanization often left women with few roles beyond those of infant caregiver and consumption specialist, i.e., shopper.”
This sounds a lot like Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, which argues that consigning women solely to the domestic sphere leaves them bored and unfulfilled, resulting in damage to the women and also their families.
2. Santorum argues that Griswold vs. Connecticut, the 1965 Supreme Court decision that struck down a state law against the use of contraceptives and affirmed the right to privacy, was a bad decision, a reason being that it established a right to privacy that went beyond what the framers of the Constitution intended and set the stage for Roe vs. Wade. But Santorum makes clear that he does not agree with the Connecticut law against contraception, and that he believes that the judges who decided Griswold vs. Connecticut were acting according to a tradition of common law, which held that the government should not intervene in the lives of married couples.
3. Santorum criticizes Lawrence vs. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court decision that invalidated laws against sodomy. Santorum tried to clarify remarks he made that this could set the stage for a right to bigamy, polygamy, incest, and adultery. Santorum says that he was not equating homosexuality with those things. But Santorum does argue that the Lawrence decision has set the stage for state-sanctioned same-sex marriage, and he notes that polygamists have challenged statutes against polygamy on the basis of the Lawrence decision.
So does Santorum support criminalizing homosexual sex? To be honest, it’s tough to tell. On page 215, he says that he’s not in favor of the government “snooping through people’s private lives”. At the same time, he does appear to argue that liberty must coincide with virtue, and that a lack of virtue leads to more government restrictions. Does that mean that he’s open to the government restricting people from doing what he considers to be contrary to virtue? Of course, most people are for the government prohibiting certain wrong behaviors (i.e., theft, fraud, murder), but does Santorum think that homosexuality should be banned as something that is not virtuous?