Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting To An America That Works, by Rick Santorum
Like many people who have an interest in politics and especially those politics that are somewhat right of center , I had certain ideas about this author from his unsuccessful campaign in 2012. Despite my dislike of much of the press and the way that it distorts the picture of political candidates, I must admit that my impression of the author was not initially positive. Upon reading this book, though, I have to say that my impression changed a great deal. I found the author to be particularly relatable and not someone all that much unlike myself–he was deeply concerned with the well-being of working families and has a political worldview not unlike my own. Also, whoever ghost wrote this book with him (unless he wrote it himself) did a great job at giving him a favorable voice and allowing him to be both gracious and score a few political points. Sometimes you have to cut out the middleman of how the media biases one against candidates and read what they have to say for themselves. This book is certainly appealing for one whose political views are similar to myself in being deeply concerned about government inefficiency and a high moral tone as well as intact families and a chance for honest and decent people to earn a good living.
This roughly 200 page book, which reads extremely quickly, is divided into eleven chapters (after its introduction) that give a solid platform for the GOP even if they have not yet done much for the author’s own political career. The author begins by introducing his target audience, conservatives of modest means and educational levels, what he calls “blue collar conservatives,” and what in an earlier generation would have been Reagan Democrats and independents. He then discusses the need to restore the American dream for workers, appeals for a GOP that stands up for everyone, points out how recent administrations of both parties have ended up putting more holes in the boats of poorer Americans, and appeals for a renewal of the pursuit of happiness for all. The author goes after the inability of government to read bedtime stories, provides a thoughtful and reasonable (and straightforward) plan for health care reform to replace Obamacare, gives some ideas to innovate and personalize education, and discusses some policy moves that could give American workers a fighting chance in the face of global competition. The book ends with an optimistic appeal to raise hope instead of taxes and shows an optimism in America’s future despite our present political and cultural crisis–the sort of book one would expect any political hopeful to present.
I’m not sure what the future holds for Rick Santorum. I don’t know if he will ever hold high elective or appointive office ever again. I don’t know how well read this book was. What I do know is that this book hits all the notes you would expect from someone who is a similar type of conservative to myself, and someone who deserves a kinder fate than oblivion and obscurity. Regardless of whether it serves to benefit the author practically, this book is important not least because it provided a textbook for Trump’s successful campaign in 2016. The people that Trump won over to his campaign that provided the difference, a difference that was not captured in many polls, were precisely the rural and blue collar conservatives that Santorum is writing and appealing to here. I am not sure to what extent that was plan and to what extent it was coincidence, but regardless, it is something that draws my own attention personally and something that ought to be a matter of reflection for other people who are interested in politics. Any time someone makes a reasonable appeal and develops rapport with a reader to the extent that this book does, especially when that book ends up showing the decisive element of a political campaign, that book certainly deserves my own attention.
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