Rick Santorum on families, leadership, and talking to Americans

By Neal McNamara | April 30, 2014
Rick Santorum

Meet the Harrisons. They’re your typical, hard-working, blue-collar American family. They live in a small town in Ohio; dad and mom work at a local factory, own a home, and provide a good life for their kids.

But one day – due to unseen financial moves made in a wood-paneled corporate boardroom – the owners shut the factory down, leaving mom and dad Harrison without work. Their world is upside down. The kids are afraid.

Worst of all, there’s no one to lead the Harrisons back to normalcy.

The Harrison family is the main character in a new book out by two-term U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, “Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works.” The Harrisons are a composite of scores of people Santorum met on the campaign trail in 2012, as he ran an underdog campaign to be the Republican nominee for president.

Host Michael Medved spoke to Santorum on Tuesday about the new book, his potential to run in 2016 for president, and his never-ending push for stronger family values.

The story of the Harrisons “lays out the saga of what happens when economic destruction occurs and there’s no leadership that can steer us on a pathway to success. It’s a chronicling of a failure of leadership,” Santorum told Medved.

LISTEN: MEDVED’S FULL RICK SANTORUM INTERVIEW

But the book is not without hope. Another major theme of the book is how strong families can lead to a stronger America – and not just mom and dad, but the extended family that includes aunts, cousins, and everyone else.

Medved highlighted a favorite passage that reads, “It’s important to remember that the American dream has never just been about the individual. I part company with the libertarians here. They hold that the basic unit of society is the individual. That’s wrong. The basic unit of society is the family. No one comes into this world as a self-sufficient individual … the strength of the family is the strength of we.”

“That’s the message that won you 11 primaries last time isn’t it?” Medved asked, referring to Santorum’s unexpected victories in 2012.

Santorum says Republicans need to talk more about stronger families in the broader sense, because that small unit is a vital building block of our society.

“Republicans don’t want to be called moralizers, so we don’t stand for what we know is the best program to help the most people,” Santorum said.

Santorum did not mention his aspirations for 2016, though there are indications that he will run for president. Santorum has held on to his strong social media base from 2012, and has activists working in virtually every state, including Washington.

He told Medved that, when it comes to Republicans succeeding in elections, that “No. 1 message matters; No. 2, communicating with people where they are matters.”

“We are now in a society that learns more from feeling than we do from reason,” Santorum said. “We learn more from storytelling and movies than we do from text books. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it is the thing. We have to learn to adapt our communications to talk to the people in a way they understand what we say – it’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.”

We can’t give away what happens to the Harrisons in Santorum’s book – but the message is clear: without the proper political leadership, economic tragedies will continue to afflict hard-working American families.

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