Forget Jobs, 2012 Is About a Culture War and War With Iran

Rick Santorum has shifted the GOP 2012 debate away from the economy to social issues, a debate Republicans will lose.

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First there was class warfare. Then we started fighting the culture war. Now a real war is brewing with Iran. American voters just want some peace and quiet.

But there will be no respite for the voters. Worse for Americans is that most of the discussion has nothing to do with the issue they really care about, the economy, because there are forces pushing that issue off the table. These forces are former Sen. Rick Santorum, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the mullahs in Iran. Not necessarily in that order.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Rick Santorum.]

Sometime in the next few months the Supreme Court will escalate the culture war when the justices rule on the constitutionally of the Arizona immigration law. There's a decent chance that the court will throw out parts of the law on the basis of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. This clause clearly grants Congress, not states like Arizona, the power to regulate immigration. Regardless of how the court rules, there will be a lot of unhappy campers in the electorate, and immigration will become the front line in the culture war.

Rick Santorum is the boy who kicked the hornet's nest. He has put social issues back on the front lines. Abortion and gay marriage were already on the policy agenda but they were in the background. But Santorum put both issues on the front burner and brought them to boil. Almost every American adult woman has used birth control and they will not be pleased that Santorum has painted them as sinners. The moderate female voters in the suburbs who decide presidential elections don't want Rick Santorum or any other man to tell them what they can and can't do with their bodies.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Catholic contraception controversy.]

While we're on the subject of religious fanatics, we should discuss the impact of mullahs in Iran on the presidential election. Ironically, if they become any more aggressive, the religious fanatics in Iran may drown out the voices of the religious fanatics in the United States. The U.S. Navy is already playing a game of cat and mouse with Iranian warships in the Gulf of Hormuz. This shadow war will see the light of day if the Israelis attack Iran. There won't be much debate over birth control in the United States if there's war in the Middle East.

Pundits predicted last year that discussion of the economy would dominate the debate in 2012. It's incredible how unpredictable American politics is. But it's great for someone like me who is a political consultant, a blogger, and a radio talk show host. I'm just waiting for the next shoe to drop.

  • See pictures of Iran participating in war games.
  • Read the U.S. News debate: Is Rick Santorum More Electable than Mitt Romney?
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