In the world of high school politics, the alpha asshole reigns supreme. Teenage girls tend to flock to any guy who treats them like dirt and this migration is respectfully translated into culture-speak. As always, we have the legacy of The Breakfast Club: towards the end of the movie, redhead chic queen Molly Ringwald falls a bit for the disturbed tough guy Judd Nelson, who calls her every A-word, B-word and C-word in the book. Something about this brash masculinity charms the vulnerable feminique; it is one of those mysteries of the universe that people like Stephen Hawkings and John Cusack spend their lives trying to answer.
The same perturbed principle of ying and yang applies to Rick Santorum and Republican women. In recent weeks, the ex-Senator from Pennsylvania has surged amongst the ladies of the GOP, cementing a solid 57% of their support with the biggest jump happening last week as flashes of his social conservatism soaked up media spotlight. All of which, coincidentally, had to do with degrading that very same female strata, who are loveless and confused in a post-Palin GOP, in some way or another.
In Santorum’s America, the macho government represents a weird hybrid of 1950s values with a strong oomph of God that puts women in their “I Love Lucy” place. On matters of the workplace, the candidate wrote in his 2005 book that “radical feminists” are to blame for “convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness.” On the topic of sex before marriage, Rick stated in an interview that contraceptives are a gateway drug: “it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed be.” And who could forget G.I. Jane, whose dedication to protecting our country, according to Santorum, would “not be in the best interests of men, women or the mission.”
Republican chicks love these Home Economics class views and Rick’s attempts to defend them against critics from the left and his own party are swooning the ladies left and right. But this is no surprise if we look back to the hallways of high school.
Santorum has all of the characteristics of the mean (yet dashing) bad boy: ego, power and coolness that derives from an insensitivity towards authority. Ego? All of the above. Power? The increasing likelihood that he will go against President Obama (who, in this scenario, could be the president of Key Club) in the general election.
And his coolness? His refusal to back down from his sexist views would be like if he talked back to the principal for giving him detention for smoking cigarettes in the second floor stairway. In this classic case of stereotypical adolescence, the right-wing gals play the group of star-eyed girls who exclaim somewhere nearby about how “dreamy” Rick is for standing up for himself.
Once we have this foundation of the teenage hierarchy established, it is evident why the other Republican candidates are not getting this much love from the ladies. Newt Gingrich is the distrustful guy that cheats on you with your best friend. Ron Paul is the too-mature-for-anyone party pooper, who complains about everything and never has fun at social gatherings. And shady, flip-flopping Mitt? Although he still has a majority of Republican women on his side, this support remains fragile and for good reason: as a friend of mine advised, “no one wants to date the guy in high school who can’t decide what team he plays for.”
But high school does not last forever. College is the place where personalities like that of Santorum come to die. Women move on and mature, leaving behind the verbally abusive guy for a decently moral boyfriend who will buy them flowers and remember their birthdays. And that’s what will happen to Rick if he wins the nomination. In Maureen Dowd’s words, the platform that Santorum is spear-heading is “living post-humously, fighting battles on sex, race, immigration and education long ago won by the other side.” His campaign is living out a high school dream for the time being but, as we all know, nice guys tend to finish last.