At Role/Reboot today, I visit a popular question: why do so many conservative women embrace Rick Santorum? Excerpt:
In the Times piece, many of the women most passionate about Santorum cited his marriage and his seven children as their primary reasons for supporting the candidate. Santorum, as they seem to see it, has lived a life of running toward family responsibilities rather than away from them. To that mindset, Rick and Karen’s decision to fight to save their daughter Bella, born with Trisomy-18, isn’t just evidence that the couple are pro-life. It’s proof that Santorum is a man who doesn’t shy away from the kind of burdens that seem to overwhelm other men.
Like Don Draper of Mad Men, Rick Santorum’s image suggests a bygone era. Except that Rick is real, and what he reminds us of has less to do with debonair swagger and more to do with a kind of simple moral tenacity (some would say fanaticism) that’s worlds away from Romney’s waffling, Gingrich’s cerebral musings, or Obama’s tireless cool. For his fans of both sexes, there’s a sense that they support Rick partly because they wish so desperately that more men were like him. The women in the Times article seem almost wistful, perhaps stirred by the longing for husbands as passionate about their own families as Santorum is about his.
At the same time, Santorum’s emotional vulnerability is thoroughly modern. He’ll never be as glib as Gingrich, as rich as Romney, or as elegant as Obama—and he knows it. That doesn’t matter, he seems to be saying; I can out-feel them all. He doesn’t just center his family in his speeches, he seems to center his feelings about them.