Even though Matt Lewis’ piece urging that Rick Santorum’s presidential candidacy be taken seriously is addressed mostly to conservative activists, it still annoys me almost as much as the thought of Santorum’s candidacy itself. Granted, there was time, when Santorum was still a rising star in Republican circles, that it wasn’t utterly ridiculous for him to contemplate a future run for the presidency. But now he’s just a guy who managed to lose a Pennsylvania senatorial race by almost 20 percentage points as a two-term incumbent and a high-ranking member of the Republican Senate leadership. His running again for the Senate would be funny enough. Now we’re supposed to take him seriously as a presidential candidate?
It would be bad enough if Santorum were an unusual case. But in just the last few election cycles we’ve had endure the preposterous candidacies of, among others, Gary Bauer, Al Sharpton and (this is where my gag reflex kicks in) Alan Keyes. I suppose there was a time, in early 2003, when you could have given Dennis Kucinich the benefit of the doubt inasmuch as he looked like he could be the strongest voice in the Democratic presidential primaries against the Iraq war. But after Howard Dean emerged as an anti-war frontrunner by the early summer, Kucinich had no business staying in the race. When he ran again in 2008, he was threatening Keyes’s title as the most annoying politician in our hemisphere.
How has it come to pass that reputable public figures aren’t ashamed to treat presidential elections as if they were reality television shows? Actually, that might be a bad analogy. Keyes and Kucinich (unlike Tom DeLay) are probably self-conscious about their physical and theatrical limitations to be ashamed to appear on Dancing With The Stars.