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How about Santorum vs. Obama, winner take all?

February 22, 2012 |  7:00 am

The liberal-conservative divide
America, it's time for a little presidential poker. Republicans and Democrats need to go "all in" on Rick Santorum vs. President Obama.

Yep, it's "put up or shut up" time for all you political Texas hold 'em folks out there.

Now, the Obama bet you probably understand. After all, he's the incumbent, and he's running unopposed in the Democratic Party.

But why Santorum? After all, he's not only anathema to Democrats, it's not clear whether most Republicans favor him over Mitt Romney (not to mention Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul).

For the good of the country, though, the GOP needs to run Santorum.

Wait, wait, hold the comments, angry or otherwise. I didn't say "Santorum would be good for the country."  If you're asking me personally, well, it's a secret ballot, but no, I wouldn't put my ink spot next to "Rick Santorum."

But I'm also sick and tired of the partisan divide. It's time to call everyone's bluff.

Conservatives maintain that Obama and the Democrats are destroying the country; that we need to return to Christian values, to exceptionalism, to less government, less regulation, less spending and less taxation.

Sure, Romney touts all that too.  But he just wants the Republican nomination. With that secured, he'll pivot to the center, and pretty soon you'll never know he said half the stuff he did to get the GOP nod. With an Obama-Romney clash, should Romney lose, plenty of Republicans would complain that he wasn't a true-enough conservative.

Santorum, on the other hand, is nothing if not a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. He might pivot to the center too, but he's so far right that he can't even see the center at this point. With an Obama-Santorum battle, we'd be able to settle the liberal vs. conservative debate that's stifling government. 

And here's where the "all in" part happens.

If Santorum wins, liberals should acknowledge that the country is on the wrong path. America doesn't want gay marriage, or legal abortion, or government healthcare, or environmental protections. It wants to slash the size of government and reduce or eliminate entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. It wants religion back in public life; it wants the government out of schools. It wants to spend big on defense; it wants to back Israel no matter what. 

However, if Obama wins, all those conservative Republicans would have to acknowledge that they were wrong. That they're not America's voice. That America is OK with gay marriage and a woman's right to choose; it wants affordable healthcare for all, and a safety net that includes Medicare and Social Security.  It agrees with the separation of church and state and believes that while generating good-paying jobs is important, so is protecting the environment. It doesn't want a 1% and a 99% but a 100% that favors social and economic justice for all.

So after election day, that's it. Someone rakes in all the chips. 

If it's Santorum, then Republicans in Congress, the tea partyers and the Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck/Sean Hannity crowd can crow all the way to the inauguration and beyond.

But if it's Obama, those same folks need to face reality. They need to stop the scorched-earth warfare and let him lead.

And we can go back to the old days, when elections mattered.

Did someone say "deal"?

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Presidential giants of our generation, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton

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Illustration by Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times

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