Speaking at CPAC on Friday, one-time-and-probably-future Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum criticized Democrats for dividing America. "Classes in America?," he asked. "Do we really accept the idea that there are classes in America?" Then he explained how Republicans need to get the votes of working people, people "who don't value just money."

Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, built his career (and name) on being a warrior for far-right social values, rooted in his staunchly conservative Christianity. As the battle over homosexuality in particular has been resolved in his opponents' favor, he's increasingly presented himself as an advocate for the working class. This appears to be fertile turf for 2016-seeking Republicans, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee also presenting a man-of-the-people value proposition.

In his speech at CPAC, Santorum continued that push. "Let them divide. Let us unify," he said of the two parties. Santorum doesn't divide America into classes like the upper class and middle class and lower class. Just Americans looking to get ahead.

He quickly transitioned to point out how the party had gotten its messaging badly wrong in 2012. "We went out and talked about job creators," he said of the Romney race. "We talked about job creators, not job holders." He critiqued the focus on the "we built that" theme Republicans seized upon that year, a theme focused on contrasting an Obama comment about how government aids in business success with the idea that businesses create their own success."We trotted out small business person after small business person after small business person after large business person," he said, to tell the "very small percentage" of people in the audience that were also business owners that the party stood for them. (The CPAC crowd seemed to be mixed in its reception of this critique.)

What about, Santorum suggested, bringing "one server at a restaurant to go out on that stage and say how grateful she was" to her employer for giving her that job. Bring the employer out, have him say he thanks God for her work. "That's uniting America and not dividing America," Santorum proposed. How that would have gone over is lost to the ages.

Not everyone was like the people in the room, Santorum said, "high-energy Type A people who want to reach for the brass ring." The Republican party also needs "people who are going to work 9 to 5 and go home to coach Little League. Who want to work at the library and volunteer." They need people like that who are "the backbone of America. These folks who don't value just money. But they value family, and community. Children."

Beyond disparaging the money-hungry Type As in the room, how do those two categories fit with his opposition to the idea of class? Simple. "We should use the term working Americans," instead of "working class," which he dubbed a "term of the other side ... class envy, leftist language."

In Santorum's defense, the Republican argument on income inequality can be a tough dichotomy to uphold. The Democrats have a powerful message in calling attention to the fact that America's rich get richer as the poor and middle class see wages stay stagnant. It tempts Republicans to make the argument that Santorum presents, that Republicans don't see "class" any more than Republicans see "race." Arguments that suggest one class or race receive special consideration are non-starters in that worldview. There's just one equal system for everyone, one big race that we all run. In which we are asked to pretend that everyone is at the same starting line.