Rick Santorum, Proud Imperialist

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TIMOTHY NOAH JANUARY 15, 2012

Rick Santorum, Proud Imperialist

[Guest Post by Isaac Chotiner

While watching the Ravens game, I switched over to C-Span during a commercial and found Rick Santorum speaking to South Carolina voters. He mentioned that Barack Obama wants to degrade America's military, and added that Europe proved countries could not maintain a welfare state and a strong military. And then he turned to the British Empire. I don't yet have a transcript of Santorum's remarks, but he quite definitively stated that, long ago, "the sun never set" on the British Empire. (My piece on the history of this phrase can be found here.) Then, with real passion, he added, "Look at the British Empire now!" Again, I may have a specific word wrong but that was the gist of it. 

This was interesting for three reasons. The first is that Santorum seemed to be saying that America, too, is an imperial power, which is just the type of comment that usually causes Santorum types to rant. (Apparently anti-imperialists are not allowed to say this, but imperialists are). The second is that Santorum was arguing that Britain lost its empire because it decided to embark on building a welfare state. This theory is so silly and nonsensical that it is not really even worth disputing. The third, and most important, is that Santorum was undoubtedly trying to evoke sadness and anger in the audience with his reminder that the British Empire no longer exists. I'm not sure what's more depressing: that Santorum is nostalgic for imperialism, or that he thinks such nostalgia is a vote-getter.

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posted in: timothy noah, barack obama, isaac chotiner, rick santorum, south carolina

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