I have a sincere question. Why is Rick Santorum … here? I don’t mean “Why is Rick Santorum on CNN?” or “Why is Rick Santorum still on CNN after humiliating the network yet again?” I mean, more broadly, why are we still hearing one damn thing about Rick Santorum in 2021, a time of rocket launches and helicopters on Mars and global pandemics met with scientific breakthroughs and, I dunno, let’s say bananas that can do math. I only got halfway through that sentence before I started to not care anymore.

You are no doubt familiar with Rick Santorum’s latest word-burp, this one brushing off all Native American culture as “there isn’t much” while extolling the genius of da white folks who “birthed a nation from nothing,” which is one of very very many racist, bigoted, or just plain gross things that Rick Santorum has always said at regular intervals during the periods in which we have been forced to know of his existence. Native American organizations were of course then obliged to point out that Native American culture is absolutely everywhere in America, from the structure of the Constitution to our art to our beliefs to the names on a continent full of signs, and that if you are not aware of that culture perhaps it has more to do with centuries of systemic genocide than the inherent superiority of Rick Santorum’s cousin’s neighbor’s ancestor’s European genes, but no matter.

Asserting bigoted things at regular intervals is Rick Santorum’s thing. It has always been his Thing. It is the basis for every one of his theocratic musings, and for his every condemnation of Everyone Else. It was his entire political career, a career that ended in humiliating loss Over A Freaking Decade Ago. He attempted a comeback by running for Republican theocracy—er, presidency—in 2012, got flattened by Mitt Romney despite obvious appeal to the same protofascists that would later declare Typhoid Hitler their new Jesus, and has done Not Much since then except when bored network bookers find his crumb-covered business card between couch cushions and for some reason decide he needs to be inflicted on us again.

Making bigoted statements is his thing. It is his only thing. He is a “culture warrior,” which is the conservative term for saying vile and racist things while pretending you are Only Asking Questions. The man has no policy chops on any subject. He has no insights into world events. He has as much insight into the current workings of the Republican Party itself as does the new presidential cat, and is considerably more prone to biting people.

CNN knew this when they hired him, but did it anyway because their extant conservative pundit crop was aghast at the garbage fire that was the Donald Trump “campaign” and refused to defend him. Enter a new line of conservative CNN contributors who would.

That the CNN lineup would soon feature an array of flagrant liars, professional bullshitters, longtime grifters and other wackadoodles from the fringes of the party was inevitable. You had to be crooked to pitch your tent in the brazenly racist, dishonest, issue-ignorant, and always-at-the-edge-of-crooked Trump camp to begin with. Since nobody reputable had the stomach for it, CNN executives simply reached further and further down the food chain of the discredited and the malodorous until they found movement rejects willing to praise whatever new idiocy the Trump camp flung out next.

This cheap move by CNN’s top brass has at this point been discussed into the ground, since it was one of the pivotal decisions that elevated professional liars and crackpots to the top ranks of the Republican Party and left them there to break laws and stoke insurrection. What’s still not clear is why Rick Santorum, in specific, still appears on CNN airwaves even after the Trump era is over, everyone involved has been outed as crooked scheming lying fascist, and Santorum himself has proven himself to be (again) a cheap, substanceless nobody who is less professional pundit than he is smallpox outbreak personified.

At this point, even CNN hosts are growing impatient with each other for keeping this travesty going. Host Don Lemon had pointed words for fellow floating head Chris Cuomo on the subject after Cuomo invited Santorum on to, ostensibly, yet again defend the latest trash thing he was caught saying, but even he could not manage to get a straight answer. Why is Rick Santorum even still here? Why is Rick Santorum, the pundit equivalent of a slice of white bread, relevant? Why is Rick Santorum, period?

Here are some pundits CNN could book instead—ones that are both less likely to bleat out racist sentiments while defending theocratic fascism and that would have a better grasp on both policy and political strategy than Rick Santorum ever will:

• An actual slice of white bread.

• A stone orb of indiscernible origin.

• A McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish from 1993.

• A red Make America Great Again hat hot-glued to a pumpkin.

• A snip of Elvis Presley’s hair but, like, it’s angry or something.

• I think Ben Shapiro just bought a piece of wood. Like, literally, he bought one wood. What’s the wood doing? Does the wood have thoughts about “race theory?” What a fascinating interview that slab of wood would be, if Ben hasn’t already tossed it into the garbage bin for delivery to a farm upstate where it can bark and play and run around with all the other wood and nobody ever gets sick or infested with beetles.

• The endless void of space. Please interview the endless void of space rather than Rick Fking Santorum. Here is a topic: The endless void of space is also lying. It has an end. It made promises it could not keep. How will this affect the endless void of space’s reelection prospects?

We could keep going like this forever, but that would require caring. It would require giving a more sincere damn about Rick Santorum, journalistic integrity, CNN, and the blatherings of bigots who got routed from the public discourse by disgusted voters long before television bookers ever dreamed they would have to scramble to find people with so little integrity they’d be willing to put their names behind a malignant narcissist’s daily delusions. That is too much caring to ever be attached to anything Rick Santorum is ever involved with, and it’s not going to happen.

At heart, every network hack who asks Rick Santorum to weigh in on anything, in this actual year of 2021, ought to ask themselves whether this is literally all they can muster up for their audience. Whether booking Bland But Angry Meatlump is intended as the insult to viewers as it comes across as, or whether it is mere apathy. But we’re not going to stay up nights waiting for the answer. Irrelevance spreads at the same speed relevance does, and there have been no programs Rick Freaking Santorum has been on which were not already diminished the moment they proposed, to viewers, that this truly was the best political analysis the network could be bothered to muster.

It remains amazing that Rick Santorum still exists, in this reality—one would have thought he would have faded away like other famous for famousness gadflies of the past. But no, the man found a second wind in being one of the people in America most willing to defend grotesqueries nobody else could stomach. Sure, he’s a bigot. Sure, he’s blazingly ignorant about every single subject he holds forth on. But his most notable point is being a self-made monument to arrogant white male mediocrity. It’s as if all the cookie-cutter conservative child pundits of the past merged together into one bowl of lukewarm grievance.

Honestly, just leave us alone, CNN. It’s been a tough year, and a tough four years, and an actual insurrection occurred just a few months back based on the exact sort of reality-denying gaslighting you relied on nightly for low-cost titillation during times of crisis, and we are tired of you and your performative indifference on every existential threat facing the country. We don’t care anymore. Maybe call us back when you’ve figured yourselves out.

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