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Dialing For Santorum

My last-ditch heroic effort to save the GOP's holiest hatchet man

March 23, 2011 3:49 PM ET
Dialing For Santorum
Jeff Fusco/Getty

Election day, early afternoon, Pittsburgh. I'm in a noisy campaign office, a list of Republican names in front of me and a cell phone in my hand. All around me, well-groomed white people are rushing back and forth, yammering at one another. I'm one of the only people here with his own table; a late arrival, I was given a lonely spot near the door, in the shadow of the refrigerator.

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I dial a number.

"Yes?" an older woman's voice answers.

"Hi," I say. "My name is Andy Whittier, and I'm a volunteer for the Republican Party! I'm calling to remind you that Senator Rick Santorum really needs your vote."

The GOP's Dirty War

When I arrived in Pittsburgh the night before to cover the Senate race, my name was still Matt. But then, a little after midnight, I got a gloating call from Kristen Vanderpool, Santorum's press bitch, informing me that, gee, we're sorry, but we just don't have room to let you into the senator's Victory Party tomorrow night. We'd love to have you, of course, but we made up our guest list a long time ago, and unfortunately we just can't exceed the fire code. It's a safety issue, you understand....

This article appeared in the November 30, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

I lay awake in my hotel for almost an hour, admiring the insult. Then the next morning I got myself on the Victory Party list by using a fake name and volunteering for the Santorum campaign. The price was a day's work hitting the phones.

Taibblog: Commentary on politics and the economy by Matt Taibbi

"What did you say your name was, young man?" the woman on the other end of the phone asks.

"Kevin," I say. "I mean, Andy."

She pauses. "Well, um, Andy," she says, "I'm just not sure I'm going to vote this year."

"Not vote?" I shriek. "Shame on you!"

"I know, I know," the woman says. "But they just kinda seem the same to me."

"The same?" I cry. "The same? Ma'am, are you aware that at twelve weeks, a human fetus can do rudimentary math problems?"

"Oh, my goodness," she says. "Is that true?"

"Yes, it is," I say.

"Who says?" she asks.

"Sweden," I say.

"Sweden?"

"Yes," I say. "The Swedes — they did a study. But the liberal media, you know, they won't report it."

She pauses.

"What kind of study?" she asks finally.

"Ma'am, Senator Santorum really needs your support," I snap. "It's going to be a very close race. Every vote is going to count. Are you really going to sit this one out? People are dying, little babies...."

The old woman relents. "Well, I'll probably go later, I guess."

I sigh in relief, writing "plans to vote" on the sheet and started dialing again.

The Truth About the Tea Party

Back in Washington, Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel had the champagne chilled and a ballroom ready to rock. But the midterm elections this year were not a celebration of something new — they were the rotting, stinking end of something, a Death Watch. And there was no better place to catch the last act than Pennsylvania, where Santorum was set to take one final drink and drive the Republican revolution off the pier. A fiercely devout Catholic with an altar-boy face, Santorum has been an icon of America's political divisiveness for the past dozen years — a pioneer of the religious, crusading politics that helped wipe out the ideological middle and divide the country into two seething, paranoid camps fueled by implacable hatreds.

By religious, I don't mean the injection of biblical themes into his campaigns, though that was also a feature of his style. No, the hallmark of Santorum politics was to say something utterly outrageous and insulting about his opponents, incur a national outcry and then refuse to take even a half a step back, digging in with his convictions in the manner of a man of faith. He blamed pedophilia in the Boston Archdiocese on Massachusetts liberalism. He compared Democrats engaged in a filibuster to Nazis. He likened homosexuality to "man on dog" sex. He described the charity group Care as being "pro-prostitution" and "anti-American." And in his reelection campaign this fall, he accused his opponent, state treasurer Bob Casey, of making state-pension investments that support "terrorism and genocide." Thus, to the Santorum point of view, opponents were at various times whores, dog-fuckers, terrorists, Nazis, mass killers, boy-touchers and traitors. Even McCarthy never got that creative.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He’s the author of five books and a winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary. Please direct all media requests to taibbimedia@yahoo.com.

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