Do not underestimate Rick Santorum. He has a powerful wind at his back. His journey from homophobic Internet-joke to the top of the Republican field is being propelled, in part, by his tapping into a deep longing for a simpler, less technological time. [If you are not in on the Internet-joke, please click the link]. Whether by design or by accident, Santorum is capitalizing on our collective exhaustion from living in an ever-changing technologically-mediated future. The future has become our now and, well, lots of people are not so impressed. Truth be told, some are pretty tired of the whole thing. By being the anti-science, anti-progress candidate, by showing he too suffers from our collective “future shock,” Santorum has made “santorum” work for him.
The contrast with recent Democratic presidents could not be more striking. Clinton, like the Fleetwood Mac song that animated the first campaign, never wanted to stop thinking about tomorrow. And today Obama is all about tomorrow: “hope and change,” “winning the future,” an American economy “built to last.”
But Santorum’s campaign is in the past tense. The poetry of his campaign is to fight for an America that used to be. He’s a self-described “champion of traditional American values” with “The Courage to Fight for America.” And if that’s not enough, as stated on his campaign web-page, all you have to do is “donate $100 or more using the form below, and we will send you an official Rick Santorum For President sweater vest. Perfect for demonstrating solidarity with true conservatives.” No fashion-forward thinking here, let’s dress like it’s the 50s! And in doing so change the tense of American politics from the future to the past.
Of course, a campaign built on the appeal of “sweater vest culture” would not work at all were it not for one thing: The future is not turning out to be as amazing as we were told it was going to be, despite having all the next great things. Everything is faster, just not better.