Rick Santorum attracts crowd with campus visit

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Former Senator Rick Santorum shakes hands with economics freshman John Blackburn after his talk about moral governance on Tuesday evening. The talk focused on what is deemed moral by both sides how how each side’s interpretation of morality may impede free speech.

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

With his orange checkered tie and black cowboy boots, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum dressed in the Texas spirit as he talked about morality across the political spectrum Tuesday evening.

Santorum, who ran for president twice, spoke on campus at Moral Governance, an event hosted by the Young Conservatives of Texas. Santorum, who was first elected to office in 1990 as a Pennsylvania U.S. House Representative, said changing national moral constructs have resulted in a great divide between liberals and conservatives on topics such as race, marriage and health care.

“People have inconsistent moral views,” Santorum said. “So there may be an opportunity at times to try to bring people together so you can build a consensus, but it’s harder.”

Santorum said he acknowledges that his moral compass influences his beliefs, but said those on the left tend to be unaware that their moral judgment impedes them from hearing the other side.

“If you look at the left, they are highly moralistic,” Santorum said. “In fact (they are) very emphatic about imposing their morality on the rest of the population.”

Santorum said the left holds strong moral stances on causes such as LGBTQ rights, abortion and social movements such as Black Lives Matter.

Santorum said the left tends to combat free speech on college campuses, categorizing some speech as hate. Twenty-two percent of college students believe there is a decline in free speech rights, compared to 40 percent of adults, according to a 2016 survey from the Knight Foundation, Gallup and the Newseum Institute.

“When you deny people the right to say what they believe and make a case for what they believe in America, you’ve lost America,” Santorum said.

Saurabh Sharma, YCT director of events, said he sees Santorum as an admirable politician and appreciates how Santorum is open about seeing government through a moralistic lens.

“Government is how people enact morality in order to structure society,” biochemistry junior Sharma said.

Natalie Pyle, management informations systems and finance junior, held a different viewpoint and said government should not be the deciding voice of morality.

“I do think a lot of the time we need to realize that government is about protecting the Constitution, which isn’t entirely a moral-based document,” Pyle said. “I think a lot of people have come to believe that (the Constitution) should be protecting ethics and things like that when in reality, that’s not the government’s responsibility.”