When we look at Rick Santorum we may be looking at a paradox. On the one hand he is the worst fear of LGBT people and women: a militaristic culture warrior waging a battle for the White House, who, if the power would turn the clock back fifty years on gay and women's rights. On the other hand he represents a possibility to decide, once and for all, the culture war. And now may be the best time to face a militaristic culture warrior.
If the economy keeps improving the likelihood of an Obama victory, regardless of his opponent grows stronger. Presuming that happens let's consider what might happen if Obama wins in November. So, let's consider the two most likely scenarios if the economy continues to strengthen between now and election day.
Scenario one: Mitt Romney is Obama's opponent. The economy is strong, and as usually happens under this condition the incumbent wins. The question here isn't who will Obama appoint as Supreme Court Justice, or whether Obama will fight fiercely for ENDA and an end to DOMA. The question must be what becomes of the Republican Party as a result of this. Because what becomes of the Republican Party at the end of this election will tell us what battles we will fight in the future. If Obama were to beat Romney by the seven points he beat McCain or by the ten points in the latest Battleground Poll, what lesson will the GOP base learn from that? In all likelihood they will learn the same lesson they did in 2008: that the GOP lost because their candidate was insufficiently conservative enough, and by insufficiently conservative enough they will mean: not radical enough on the culture war issues.
Scenario two: Rick Santorum is Obama's opponent. The economy is strong, and as usually happens under this condition the incumbent wins. I firmly believe that a Santorum candidacy represents a great final battle in the culture war. As we can tell, independents are increasingly turned off by Santorum's culture warrior stance. While his culture warrior stance will motivate the culture warriors in the GOP base to get out and vote, it also increases the likelihood that independents and liberals will also be motivated to get out to vote. I would even expect nearly the same level of GOP voters defecting to Obama as we saw in 2008 because of Santorum's militarism on culture war issues. I predict, that under these conditions, Obama will not merely repeat his seven point victory over McCain, but that this could be the biggest Democratic landslides in the popular vote since LBJ. What lessons will the GOP base learn from that kind of trouncing against a truly authentic culture warrior? My belief is that they'll have no choice but to concede defeat on the culture war. This could be the culture warriors' armageddon. This would be great for women and gays because that means that the contests in the future between Republicans and Democrats would have to be about normal policy issues like economics and international affairs.
I understand why many people here fear a Santorum candidacy and the legitimacy a nomination by the GOP could give him and his issues, and I concede that that is a possibility. But these aren't the 1990s. Take a look around. Pay attention: the culture war is coming to an end. The American people are rapidly siding with liberals on the issue of gay rights, and in case you didn't notice: the GOP's war on women is rapidly backfiring as they have awoken the sleeping giant of the women's liberation movement. A Romney nomination and a loss in the general election promises to keep the culture war going for at least another four years, and we don't know what conditions a culture war candidacy would operate under in 2016. What we do know is this: there isn't a better time to face a culture war candidacy than now because we can put that war to rest permanently this year.