Life in the Marketplace of Ideas
"An Awakening of Conservative Christians": Rick Santorum on Faith and Politics
And finally, from the faith point of view, it was key for me to keep my mission in focus. You have to remember that you're in that position in order to serve others. It's about serving God, serving your country, and serving the people you were elected to represent.
Some have characterized your political style as confrontational. What is the right way for Christian politicians to engage in disagreement?
I was confrontational when I felt it was important to be confrontational. My record, also, though it's not necessarily accentuated, was also rather cordial and effective at getting things done in a cooperative way. My legislative accomplishments are fairly long and exclusively bipartisan, and I often worked together with people with whom I had many disagreements and very contentious relationships.
For instance, if you look at the fact that I went toe-to-toe and had some rather harsh debates with Barbara Boxer, and yet we worked together to sponsor three different pieces of legislation—two of them fairly significant pieces on foreign policy that we agreed on—that will tell you that you can be confrontational and also work together when that's necessary in order to get things done. She didn't necessarily take the lead on those pieces of legislation. I did, but she did support them.
Or for another example: Dick Durbin and I don't get along at all, but we worked together on AIDS and animal welfare bills. It wasn't always comfortable. We had some very tough differences. But we wanted to get these things done, so we put our other differences aside. It's important to argue passionately for the things you care about, but you have to keep the issues from being personal.
You were defeated in your race for reelection in 2006. You probably didn't envision a six-year exile from elected office. What has it taught you?
I actually did envision what happened in 2006. Some people come to Washington with strong feelings about what made this country great and successful, and a strong desire to see those things reflected in the laws of our country. I call those people conviction politicians. I was not trying to be a successful politician who gets reelected by following the direction in which the wind is blowing. I was trying to move public discourse.
In a state like Pennsylvania, which is centrist at best, perhaps center-left, a person with my convictions is going to have trouble when the wind blows the wrong way. That's a given. I was prepared for that.
In the providence of God, however, do you feel that the loss and the six-year interim have changed you for the better?
Losing isn't the worst thing that could happen to you. You learn to appreciate the opportunities you have. You never know how long your life will be, or how long you'll have the opportunity to make a difference. So you try to take advantage of those opportunities, do your best with them, and have no regrets.
For the most part, I can say that that's been the case. I have no regrets from the standpoint of the public policy I advocated for. I certainly have regrets for some of the things that happened, and some of the things I've said and done. But overall my sense is that losing and being out and looking at the world differently can be a very good thing for your life and for your family. For me, it was a very good thing to be able to be outside of Washington during this critical time and see it from the standpoint of how the average American sees it, as opposed to someone inside who is playing the game.
Dr. Timothy Dalrymple is the Associate Director of Content at Patheos, and writes weekly on faith, politics, and culture for Patheos' Evangelical Portal. Follow him at his blog, Philosophical Fragments, on Facebook or on Twitter.