Former United States Senator Rick Santorum represents everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. If dismantling big government is now a primary concern, Santorum has spent a career promoting big government. If stopping massive spending is now a top priority, Santorum has a lifelong record of championing massive spending. If our debt is now considered the greatest threat to our national security, Santorum has always considered everything but the debt a greater threat.

Indeed, if conservatism means limiting government, the many ways in which Santorum has been the consistent enemy of conservatism are virtually unlimited.

In his 2003 Wall Street Journal column, “Big Government Conservatism,” the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes explained George W. Bush’s distinct GOP brand: “Reagan was a small government conservative who declared in his inauguration address that government was the problem, not the solution. There, Bush begs to differ. The essence of Bush’s big government conservatism is a trade-off. To gain free-market reforms and expand individual choice, he’s willing to broaden programs and increase spending.”

Whether free markets and individual freedom saw any love during his tenure is arguable, but Bush’s massive “broadening” of government programs, budgets, and power is not, making Bill Clinton look conservative in comparison. During that time, Santorum was every bit as much the poster boy for big government as the president, and if Obama and the Democrats now triple the size of government, that growth is constructed on top of the statist groundwork laid by their Republican predecessors. Throughout Bush’s debt doubling agenda—No Child Left Behind, Medicare Plan D, you name it—Santorum was fully on board. And for that entire period, the Republican Party was completely off course.

Today, Santorum remains the personification of Bush Republicanism. Heading into the 2012 campaign, the former senator sounds more like the ghost of Republicans past, invoking Bush’s name more often and favorably than any other candidate, while seeming to hope his beating of the culture and foreign war drums might drown out his big government record. Last week, Santorum even tried to make amends with small government conservatives by publicly apologizing for his support for Medicare Plan D. Too bad Santorum is running in an election cycle in which conservatives are fed up with candidates who are constantly apologizing yet never changing.

Let us examine the Santorum scam: In positioning himself as the most socially conservative candidate, Santorum has been successful in spending as many taxpayer dollars as the Democrats by seeking right-wing refuge in his pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-gay-marriage positions. The problem is, “conservatives” of Santorum’s stripe rarely do much to actually advance these issues. Is America any closer to overturning Roe v. Wade? Do we generally have more federal gun laws today or less? Has homosexuality become more or less culturally acceptable? For most Republican politicians, social conservatism has always been more of a fashion statement than a mission statement. You even get the sense that politicians like Santorum know full well they can’t do much legislatively on these issues and thus enjoy the conservative cover it always provides them. A 10th Amendment revolution in this country might give social conservatives more political victories than they’ve had in decades—but it would also mean the loss of a valuable election tool for Republican politicians who not-so-coincidentally seem to always favor impossible-to-pass federal legislation.

The Bush-era term “compassionate conservatism” suggests that plain, old-fashioned vanilla conservatism is somehow lacking and gives even more insight into Santorum’s philosophy. In a 2005 piece entitled “Goodbye to Goldwater,” Reason’s Jonathan Rauch explained how Santorum’s rejection of traditional conservatism tied in with the Senator’s essentially statist philosophy: “As Goldwater repudiated Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, so Santorum repudiates Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.” “Some will reject what I have to say as a kind of ‘Big Government’ conservatism” admitted Santorum in his 2005 book It Takes a Family. Notes Rauch: “Santorum shows no interest in defining principled limits on political power. His first priority is to make government pro-family, not to make it small… With It Takes a Family, Rick Santorum has served notice. The bold new challenge to the Goldwater-Reagan tradition in American politics comes not from the left but from the right.”

As grassroots conservatives are now rediscovering and again embracing the limited government philosophy of Goldwater and Reagan via the Tea Party, Santorum’s Jurassic Park GOP comes across as more out of step than ever. As a pre-emptive 2012 political strike, Santorum now laughably describes himself as being “Tea Party before there was a Tea Party.” RedState.com’s Ben Domenech has zero tolerance for such revisionist history: “Does Rick Santorum have any clue what the Tea Party movement stands for? Is he being purposefully obtuse here? Doesn’t he realize that the big government solutions he advocated for in his book are exactly the reason so many Tea Partiers today don’t call themselves Republicans anymore?”

Domenech added: “it’s precisely the Republican Party of Rick Santorum that even makes the Tea Party movement necessary.”

Again, Rick Santorum represents everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. And in 2012 and beyond, he is a candidate who has consistently proved he possesses both the will and the intention to do as much harm to the cause of limited government as the current president he seeks to replace.