Short Answer: No way.
(I originally tried to post this comment in response to this article on Search Engine Land but it didn’t display, so here it is. Some of this might not make sense unless you’ve read their article first.)
An impact on the country? A little stretchy there. The only impact I see on the country is a positive one. It shows that voters even in a minority segment (LBGT) can have a voice and can’t be censored just because boohoo some politician doesn’t like what’s being said about him. (Good for him for finally coming around and accepting it in the end.) Censoring this particular act of political speech would be an abomination. Google is an American company and this is an American politician, for the sake of brevity I’ll reference the U.S. Constitution where the First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech. And of all the kinds of speech there can be, political is the most important and highly protected form of free speech – as it should be. And this is a clear form of political speech – including the redefinition of the name and especially the internal parts of the site – even it is uncouth and makes people uncomfortable.
It does beg the question – how is this Santorum situation any different than the President George W. Bush “miserable failure” Google Bomb? A Google Bomb exposes a distinct flaw in the Google algorithm that is subject to manipulation based on a sudden surge of optimized links. Obviously Google wants to patch holes that make the search algorithm susceptible to attack and harm the relevance of their search results. They’re going for the utilitarian “greater good” thing. This isn’t a “Google Bomb” though. This kind of creative political speech was legitimately driven to the top of the search results because people optimize and consume the content, and in turn share that content. If people want the content and are given the content they want, that is for the “greater good.” Even if this was “solely just some joke definition designed to embarrass Santorum” he’s still a politician in the public eye who is subject to that kind of speech. Deal with it.
How to remedy and/or mitigate it? Good ole’ reputation management SEO. Create good, valuable, broad-reaching real estate in the SERPs with content that is equally or more valuable than the site (good luck) to hopefully drive it down. I especially liked the “Say sorry” approach to getting links to your site. I would think that Wil Reynolds would support that as it kind of echoes his “white hat linkbuilding” approach he discussed at MozCon 2011.
I think the SafeSearch filters need a little work to help protect kids from this kind of content if parents so choose, but that’s a separate issue entirely. I loved Sergei Brin’s quote, “I shouldn’t impose my beliefs on the world.” I think we could all stand to think like that. Rick Santorum included.