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Like many in our community, I”ve been following the Republican presidential primary process with an ever-increasing amount of pure, unadulterated glee. As many have argued, the longer this circus goes on, and the zanier it gets, the better things look for Obama, whoever the Republican nominee turns out to be. But as the tides have turned and one frontrunner after another has been wiped off the board, the survivors are setting the stage for an election that will profoundly change American politics, no matter who wins.

At a similarly pivotal moment in our quest for equality, it”s important that LGBTQ folks realize the implications of the situation facing us. While many of us know enough about Rick Santorum to form a reasonable opinion (his public comparisons of homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality have earned him a special place in the hearts of the LGBTQ community), most of us probably didn”t expect that he would ever pose a significant threat to Mitt Romney. But now that he has (tonight”s key primary in Michigan, Romney”s home state, is projected to be incredibly close), it seems an appropriate time to address a hypothetical that just weeks ago seemed laughable: what if Santorum, against all the odds, managed to defeat Romney to secure the nomination and face off against Obama in November?

The more optimistic among us would argue that Santorum”s almost caricaturish conservative views on social issues like LGBTQ rights would make it impossible for him to win, driving independents back into the Obama fold. Of course, these same views are likely to strike fear in the queer community. After all, why would we want to run the risk of having a very publicly homophobic Commander-in-Chief? While it is unlikely that Santorum would win given recent poll numbers, these are valid concerns. Giving Santorum the media exposure that comes with a general election would amplify his views on a global scale, inviting others to claim them as their own.

On the other hand, I would side with many that argue that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Santorum is simply the latest and most high-profile example of the fundamentalist faction that is shaking the Republican party to its core; the conflict between Romney, a sterling example of the Republican “Establishment,” and the upstart Santorum represents this significant fight within the party itself. With the growth of the Tea Party and the radical right as a serious challenge to the party status quo, the party finds itself at a crossroads, and whatever happens, whoever wins, the party is likely to change significantly.

The question is the direction this change will take. If Romney wins the nomination and faces Obama in the general election, poll numbers suggest he is increasingly likely to lose; while this would obviously be a victory for the LGBTQ community, it would likely push the Republican party as a whole further toward Santorum”s extremists. On the other hand, a Santorum-Obama contest would put the spotlight on the vicious bigotry exemplified by Santorum and others like him, bringing an awareness to the wide divisions between Americans that are growing ever wider thanks to the rhetoric of the radical right. If current poll numbers are any reflection of how the nation will vote, Santorum would lose by a considerable margin to Obama, thus sending a strong message to the party, the nation and the world that “social values” conservatism has no valid place in our society. Most importantly, a Santorum candidacy would force us to face the reality of the ignorance and evils at work in America today, and to reexamine who we want to be as a nation. No matter how good he may be at getting his “Christian base” fired up, poll numbers suggest that most Americans would not see Rick Santorum as a man who represents their values. And, to me, that”s a victory in itself.

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