June Cleaver talks to little Mitt, Ricky, Newt and RonIn this most excruciating of primary campaign seasons, it has become obvious that the Republican Party has lurched not just to the right but into the past.
On issues ranging from women's rights to gay rights, the GOP unashamedly evokes a "Leave It To Beaver" past that, as Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts puts it, was "before Martin Luther King had his dream, before Betty Friedan wrote her book, before Rock Hudson was gay, before everything changed."
The bitterness and fear -- bitterness over 2012 not being 1952 and fear over an increasingly black and brown America -- among Republicans, who are almost uniformly white, gray and less educated, is palpable out on the hustings, and the party's presidential wannabes, passing up opportunities to offer policy proposals and platforms in contrast to President Obama's, are vying to see who can be the biggest demagogue in pandering to them.
Rick Santorum will win that contest hands down even if he won't win the nomination.
This is because Santorum has chosen to take a trip in the Wayback Machine (remember Mr. Peabody and his "boy" Sherman from "Rocky and His Friends," the 1950s and 60s kids' cartoon show?) to a time when young ladies always kept their legs crossed and blacks knew their place instead of focusing on what matters most to voters -- the economy.
Beyond the Santorum's misogynistic outlook, which dovetails nicely with the party's ongoing War on Women and use of sex as a wedge issue, there also are these aspects of the party's backwards looking stance:
* Opposition to affordable higher education and a return to a time when few Americans attended college and many of those who did were from well-to-do backgrounds.
Santorum unfortunately speaks for many of his party peers in declaring that President Obama wants to expand college enrollment because colleges are "indoctrination mills" that destroy religious faith.
* A return of cheap energy, U.S. industrial and military hegemony, extraordinary economic growth and plentiful jobs.
Conveniently overlooked is that the 1950s were a time of massive public investment in infrastructure and education and the growth of government at all levels and rich people paid their fair share of taxes.
One consequence of this hellbent pursuit of times when party elders were party youngers is that young voters are pretty much completely turned off by today's GOP.
Only 5 percent -- only 5 percent -- of eligible voters younger than 30 cast ballots on Super Tuesday, roughly splitting evenly among Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, according to an analysis by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, while so far only about 600,000 voters younger than 30 have cast ballots in all the Republican primaries.