Will Voters Elect a Liberty-Loving Romtorum?

By Dailey, Ruth Ann | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), March 19, 2012 | Go to article overview

Will Voters Elect a Liberty-Loving Romtorum?


Dailey, Ruth Ann, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


The choices on display in this year's presidential campaign represent factions as old as the European colonists' arrival in North America. It's the Puritans vs. the Liberals all over again.

But that's only among the Republicans. The few true liberals remaining in the Democratic Party -- people who believe in the rights of the individual and fight against an all-powerful state -- are the "blue dogs" who haven't been heard from since their anti- Obamacare whimpers died away.

The ongoing triumph of the leftist, statist wing in driving the Democratic agenda is a given -- given the incumbency of Barack Obama. With his "affordable" health care reform and unprecedented use of policy czars, President Obama leads the march to a vast nanny state. The road to serfdom is apparently a shovel-ready project.

No, the real contest of visions is on the right, where the two frontrunners, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, have galvanized interest in areas of personal liberty -- economic, moral and cultural -- with their mishmash of positions and personas.

Mr. Romney is a religious conservative with a big-government, big- business past. He's a devout Mormon who governed the left-leaning state of Massachusetts with a big-government agenda, after making his fortune in private equity.

Mr. Santorum is a religious conservative with small-government leanings and almost no business past. He's a devout Catholic who worked briefly as a lawyer before running for Congress and whose 16 years of service in the U.S. House and Senate segued smoothly into work as a D.C. lobbyist.

So which man is the Puritan candidate and which the Liberal? (I'm using "liberal" in its noble, classical sense, before it became a dirty word.) Though they share some ideals, Mr. Santorum has emerged as the Puritan candidate -- he just makes it so easy -- and Mr. Romney as the Liberal (in both the classical and the modern, twisted meaning).

Puritans and liberals started out as co-religionists, coming to the New World on the same ships. They split within years of arriving, though, because the Puritans who'd fled religious persecution in England soon began practicing it here -- punishing colonists for working on the Sabbath and denying nonbelievers the right to vote.

Roger Williams, a disillusioned Puritan, bought land from the native tribes, rather than seizing it, and established a colony (the future Rhode Island) to provide a sanctuary for those fleeing the Puritans or any other oppressor. …

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