‘One of Us’: Rick Santorum and the Politics of (Very Big) Family
It’s the same sort of logic offered by another Louisiana rally-goer quoted by the New York Times, 18-year-old Haley Harris, part of the Oklahoma family band that created the unofficial Santorum campaign song, “Game On!”: “If he can run his household, he can run the country,” Harris (whose pastor dad is part of her band) told the crowd.
“One of the things that kind of caught our eye with Rick was the size of his family,” yet another supporter told the Washington Times in January.
“We’re Gonna Outnumber Them!”
It’s familiar rhetoric to me, after years of covering the Quiverfull movement—a largely Protestant, homeschooling community that believes contraception is anathema to faithful Christianity and that having many children is both the most authentic form of anti-abortion witness and women’s highest calling. Its adherents aim to prove the pro-life claim that every child is a blessing (or in case of rape, a gift, as Santorum has argued) by accepting as many children as God gives.
It’s the movement that looks to the Duggar family as de facto spokespeople (even if the Duggars have often hedged whether or not they consider themselves a part of it), and that so venerates the role of proud “patriarch” fathers leading their families—comparing them to CEOs and generals—that it’s easy to see where Harris’ appraisal of Santorum’s family-man qualifications come from. In this election, and the birth control debate that has become a significant part of its soundtrack, the convictions of the Quiverfull community seem to have made a mainstream debut.
Beginning in January, the Duggars began traveling with Santorum around Iowa and South Carolina to ask “families, Christians all over America to get behind Rick Santorum for the next president of the United States”; to “get the word out… that this is the family-values candidate,” as Jim Bob said, prior to a Greenville Chick-fil-A campaign stop.
Michelle and Jim Bob made an appearance at CPAC, while all 19 kids trekked to Oklahoma on a bus they decorated with Santorum’s name. The family has also stumped for Santorum in Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Illinois, and Missouri. When Santorum’s three-year-old daughter Bella, born with a genetic abnormality, fell ill in late January, the Duggars actually replaced the candidate on the campaign trail in Florida.
Religious differences (the Duggars are Baptists who have followed the fundamentalist teachings of Bill Gothard, while Santorum is a staunch Catholic) seem barely a second thought among supporters, who take for granted that fidelity to culture war issues supercedes faith. There, the Duggars and Santorum seem to speak with one voice.
At CPAC in February, Michelle Duggar participated in a panel satirizing The View, and was feted by fellow panelist Star Parker for having 19 children because, as Parker proclaimed, “We win if we just keep having children, ‘cause we’re going to outnumber them!”—a staple argument of the Quiverfull movement.