The derision Santorum has received is well-deserved. He messed up the facts badly: 10 of the 11 UC campuses do teach US history (the only exception is UC San Francisco, which is exclusively a graduate-level health sciences campus and offers no humanities classes at all).
It also misses the point. It’s not news when a conservative says something that was flat-out wrong, or when liberals take smug satisfaction in demonstrating that they are (as usual) factually right. But there was something else Santorum said in that statement that was newsworthy and important — and in our zeal to debunk the facts, many progressives are completely missing it.
It’s Not About the Facts
The thing to remember is this: Even though right-wing narratives are often factually wrong, they are absolutely never content-free. Stories like this are always about something. And the weirder and more factually challenged they sound to liberal ears, the more important it probably is for us to know what that something is. Too often, our obsession with the gobsmacking wrongness of these statements deafens us to clues to the right’s current motives and intentions that are frequently lurking in these strange declarations.
I’m a native-born speaker of right-wing code. And what I heard in Santorum’s ramble was, frankly, hair-raising. To my ears, it was a very loud and clear tip-off that conservatives are gearing up an all-out frontal assault on funding for America’s public universities.