trends

The Second Coming of Rick

Alex Henderson
In 2006, the most closely watched Senate race could very well be Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's campaign for re-election. The two-term incumbent, who is the third-highest-ranking Republican in the Senate and often has been mentioned as a possible 2008 presidential candidate, will presumably be running against Democrat Bob Casey Jr., Pennsylvania's State Treasurer and the son of the late Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey.

A far-right social conservative known for his vehement opposition to adult entertainment, abortion, gay rights and stem cell research, the 47-year-old Santorum has become Congress' poster child for the Christian Right and is an enthusiastic supporter of organizations such as Focus on the Family and the Christian Coalition. And some allies of the adult industry, including members of the Free Speech Coalition, fear that if re-elected, Santorum will do everything possible to encourage aggressive obscenity prosecutions and restrict the distribution of erotic entertainment.

FSC Executive Director Michelle Freridge told XBiz: "Clearly, Sen. Santorum holds views about rights to privacy and free expression that are seriously at odds with the beliefs of the FSC. We respect his right to express them and to interpret the Constitution of the United States in such a narrow way, but we must respectfully and passionately disagree."

Tom Hymes, the FSC's communications director, asserted, "Rick Santorum has always been problematic for the adult industry. He takes the idea of cultural neo-conservativism to the absolute extreme. If Santorum is re-elected to the Senate, people like him will become even more emboldened in their myopic Religious Right agenda."

Although not as far to the right as Santorum, Casey is among the more socially conservative Democrats. He opposes stem cell research and is staunchly anti-abortion. Santorum's most socially liberal challenger is running as a Republican: Philadelphia real estate broker John Featherman, a fiscal conservative who supports gay marriage and abortion rights, is challenging Santorum in a GOP senatorial primary. Featherman believes that he would have a good chance against Casey in a general election, but few Republicans doubt that the well-funded Santorum will receive his party's nomination.

Washington-based Newsday columnist James Pinkerton believes that while Santorum will be the Christian Right's candidate of choice, Casey will have considerable appeal among swing voters.

"I'm sure that in the next year, Santorum is going to say, 'Look, it's you and me versus the pornographers, the secularists and the atheists,'" Pinkerton said. "If this was a campaign between Rick Santorum and the adult entertainment industry, I'm sure Rick Santorum would win. But Santorum's problem is that he's not running against the adult entertainment industry: He's running against Casey, and Casey is a moderate, even conservative, Democrat. And Casey will say, 'Look, while Santorum is flailing away at people in California and New York, I, Bob Casey, am focused on jobs and the economy. I'm focused on moral values but not extreme moral values — Pennsylvania moral values.' So far, Casey's strategy of looking like a normal moderate and painting Santorum as an extreme right winger is working pretty well."

A Quinnipiac College poll released Oct. 6 showed Casey with a 34 percent to 52 percent lead over Santorum, who is quite critical of the Supreme Court for being — in his view — much too favorable to adult entertainment, and has implied that erotica doesn't really enjoy First Amendment protections because it isn't really "speech." In his book "It Takes a Family," Santorum writes: "Privacy. Neutrality. Free Expression. None of these terms is in the Constitution." And it is that type of rhetoric that has the FSC concerned.

"Unlike the senator from Pennsylvania, we do not view the Constitution as frozen in time, open to interpretation only by those few individuals who claim to know the actual intent of the Founding Fathers," Freridge asserted. "Rather, we recognize the genius of those first great Americans in drafting a document that provides a rigid framework from which the culture could evolve, and through which subsequent generations of Americans would be able to express themselves as they exercise the inalienable right to pursue happiness."

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