At least we can be certain very few people watched the “undercard” debate. Unfortunately, a comment made in that debate and picked up by every outlet covering the event so epitomizes everything wrong with the far right that others may be tarred by it — or worse, encouraged to echo it.

Rick Santorum declared of his plan to forcibly deport millions of illegal immigrants: “I’m going to give them the gift of being able to help the country they were born in. We’re gonna export America. They can start a renaissance in their country so they won’t be coming here anymore!” This is distasteful in the extreme. And it has nothing to do with conservative values.

For starters, ripping people out of their homes and communities, separating families (children born in the United States presumably would stay) and returning them to a life of hardship is no gift. To say otherwise is to  infantilize them and treat them as less than worthy of respect. They have dreams and goals they want to pursue as does every other human being, grant them that at least. This does not mean you have to accept legalization and allow all illegal immigrants to stay, but to say that taking them where they do not want to go is a “gift” is cruel and wrongheaded.

AD
AD

It’s also about the most un-conservative thing one can say. The essence of conservatism is that we have unalienable rights, that individuals get to pursue their own definition of happiness.

Santorum, in one ill-conceived rant, will convince many non-Republicans that the GOP is precisely what it’s critics say — mean-spirited and exclusionary. Coming on the heels of noxious comments calling to “deport” the American-born South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, one can easily come away with the impression that those who pose as the truest conservatives are not interested in conservative ideas or ideas at all. They are expressing contempt and disrespect for everyone who is not “with them” — whether a fellow citizen or an immigrant.

The GOP, the party of Lincoln, cannot become the party of Santorum, Donald Trump and Ann Coulter. If so, as Peter Wehner explains in an elegant essay, the GOP becomes a party not animated by concern for country and principle, but an “angry, bigoted, populist one.”

AD
AD

Santorum is not going to be president or even the GOP nominee. But one of the others voicing his sentiments may grab the party’s nomination. Now that would be Pyrrhic victory. The nominee could call himself the nominee of  the “Republican Party,” but it would no longer be the Republican Party as it has been known. Many voters and politicians would decamp from that Republican Party, which would bear only its name and none of its ideals. They would look for a principled conservative to support, if not in 2016, then in the future.

It has become tedious and useless to demand every “good” Republican denounce every hateful, unserious one’s utterance. Suffice it to say Republican candidates who want to keep the party intact, have a shot at the White House and improve America should eschew this bile. And by the way, this is one more reason to end the undercard debates. The GOP has enough problems with the viable candidates without giving exposure to the nonviable ones.

AD
AD