Americans love to talk about politics in apocalyptic terms. This is a function of a creed that is bathed in religious rhetoric, a belief in American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny as preordained by God, and a long vein of Protestantism and a sense that individuals are part of the Elect few--and by implication that nations follow a similar rule. In all, great nations dream great, succeed greatly, and are greatly paranoid, as they struggle to reconcile their great destinies as part of the long arc of history and the greatness of divine providence. The United States is no different in this regard. In many ways, we are Rome.
Americans are also dramatic and histrionic. The end of times is always around the corner. This has been to the credit and gain of the country, as she fought two great wars and "made the world safe for democracy." It has also been to her disadvantage, as foolish escapades abroad have been sold to the public by elites and yellow journalists using the language of patriotism, imminent threat, and supporting the troops.
Rick Santorum is part of this tradition. He argued that President Obama is Hitler and/or Satan. In his, and other Christian Nationalist Dominionists' eyes, the United States is under siege by the devil. Moreover, the Culture War is not a political abstraction. Rather, it is real struggle for the hearts, souls, and futures of good white folks, those "real Americans" and "Christians," from sea to shining sea.
In keeping with this Manichean logic, Rich Santorum has observed that the secular world is possessed of evil and sin. Universities and academia have apparently fallen to the seductive power of the Dark Prince. When challenged, Santorum has doubled down on his depiction of a world under siege by the devil. There is no retreat as he channels the worst parts of the paranoid and conspiratorial style in American politics.
I am not religious. I do not understand the religiously minded. I do not believe in white bearded deities floating in the sky who make judgments about the deeds--good or ill--of humankind. However, I do take folks at face value and try to work within the frameworks of reality which they have offered. What follows then is an obvious and reasonable question: Is Rick Santorum (and the conservatives of his stripe) evil? Are they under the influence of Satan?
Turnabout is fair play. Progressives, liberals, pragmatists, and reasonable conservatives lose the fight with radical Right wing populists because they want to keep the high ground. Their enemies will beat them over the head with bats, cut them with razors, and unleash mustard gas in order to win a fight. The pitiful Left and its allies smile and inhale the poison because they are content to "occupy the high ground."
Therefore, I engage Rick Santorum and his narrative of good and evil on its own terms. By analogy, when the myth of the liberal media is discussed, few counter-attack by pointing out the fallacy of the premise: as Noam Chomsky has pointed out, we should in fact ask, "what type of media do we have, and granting this fact, what is its ideological bent?"
Mirroring this example, when Rick Santorum suggests that Obama and those foul academics are evil, and the country is under assault by Satan, the question to him should be, "what side are you on?" As Jim Wallis has pointed out in God's Politics, the Right has cooptated Christianity and the language of Christian faith. Despite their hostility to the poor, war mongering, bigotry, and intolerance, the Right is able to maintain a monopoly on the rhetoric of Jesus and his teachings. This is as much a result of the cowardice of progressives, as it is the complicity of the media in circulating and validating a lie.
I have a long-standing interest in the occult. From reading about Nazis and their fascinations with the elder gods and objects of divine power, to Malachi Martin's books on demonic possession, one theme resonates across those disparate literatures. Evil is seductive and expert in seeking out a person's weaknesses. Those who channel the language of good and evil in order to gain selfish power and disparage others are often surprised by the outcome of their deeds and words. This is the hubris of Rick Santorum and his Tea Party GOP brethren. They exist in an echo chamber which is fueled by narratives of Eliminationism, and destruction for those that are not sufficiently conservative. In breathing this ether, Santorum and the American Taliban never ask if it is they who are in fact tools of evil and the devil. To do so is outside their realm of awareness, introspection, or thought.
Satan is a trickster. He lies without lying. And considering the policy positions offered by Rick Santorum and the other Tea Party GOP presidential candidates--a clique which claims that god gave them a personal revelation, and that the presidency was their calling--is it that outside of the realm of possibility to entertain the thought that they are evil, doing the work of Satan, and are the tools of the dark forces which they project onto others?
The myopia of the authoritarian Right is exemplified by the fact that they could never ask such a a self-reflective question. Rick Santorum and his allies' arrogance is a universal claim to good. Their shortcoming is an inability to consider that they could actually be a cautionary future chapter written in the next volume of the Good Book which conservatives always cite to disparage others with whom they judge to be insufficiently pious.
Ultimately, The Book of Job is one of my favorite myths. I wonder, what will the tale of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich be when it is written centuries or thousands of years in the future? Will it be triumphant or tragic? And will they care to even know the difference?