I am a Texan through and through. It is where I was born, graduated from university, and met and married my wife. However, I have not lived there for over twenty years, so it could be said that I am out of touch with what is going on in my home state. I sometimes see names I recognize from local Texas politics, such as Martin Frost and Lloyd Doggett, and regret that somehow Texas has inflicted these men on the nation by sending them to Washington. Every state has its embarrassments, but it is good to keep them under wraps and hidden. It is a particular matter of shame that Doggett was somehow able to escape Austin and find his way to Washington, DC, where he roams untethered, frightening helpless women and children with his unabashed leftist advocacy.
Since Rick Perry came to fore after I left Texas, I know little about him. He sounds great on video and loves to throw red meat to conservatives. On the other hand, I could tell when I first heard him speak that he was an Aggie (it is that obvious), and as a University of Texas alumni I am on the other side of the great Texas divide. This certainly leaves a check in my spirit. Then when I hear that he is not just an Aggie, but a member of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A & M, my spirit becomes downright troubled. Texans will know exactly what I mean. (Insert Aggie jokes here.)
To be clear, Perry being an Aggie does not disqualify him from receiving my support if he ran for President. What would disqualify Perry would be character and the issues. Here, I have some serious questions about the man. At the moment, these are just questions–questions that I do not have answers to.
First, Rick Perry came into politics as a Democrat. This is quite common for Texas Republicans, and Perry supporters note that when Reagan first came into politics he was also a Democrat. The problem is, even though Perry and his supporters like to wrap themselves up in the Reagan flag, Perry was a Democrat throughout the Reagan presidency. He served as the chairman for the Al Gore presidential campaign in 1988, and did not become a Republican until 1989.
Historically, there are two main reasons why Texas Democrats leave their party and become Republicans: Principles and ambition. Perry’s late change suggests ambition as his reason for changing. In the late 1980s, Texas was quickly becoming a Republican state. It is true that the Democrats still controlled the government in Texas, and would do so until 1994. However, this was because of the way the districts were drawn and the elections were held. By 1990, Democrats were receiving on average 40% of the vote in Texas and were on a rapid downward trajectory. Thus, many Texas Democrats saw the handwriting in the wall in the late 1980s and switched parties. Perry was one of them.
Second, Perry has characterized both abortion and homosexual marriage as state’s rights issues. On abortion, he said,
You either have to believe in the 10th Amendment or you don’t … You can’t believe in the 10th Amendment for a few issues and then [for] something that doesn’t suit you say, “We’d rather not have states decide that.”
From a tactical standpoint, if it is not possible to pass an amendment to the Constitution outlawing abortion, an amendment allowing states to ban or allow abortion without judicial interference would be the next best thing. More than thirty states would ban or severely restrict abortion immediately if this were allowed. However, Perry is not talking tactics–he is talking principles. Surely, as president Rick Perry would be content to override the 10th Amendment and find a federal interest in any number of issues that do not involve life and death. Isn’t there a compelling federal interest in protecting life?
Regarding homosexual marriage, Perry said that it was fine, again on 10th Amendment grounds, for New York to have homosexual marriage so long as Texas was allowed to ban it. However, as nice as this idea may sound, the Full Faith and Credit Clause in Article IV of the Constitution demands that states recognize legal proceedings in other states. Thus, if a homosexual couple gets married in New York and then moves to Texas, under the Constitution Texas is obligated to recognize that marriage and give the couple the same rights offered to married couples in Texas law. (The Defense of Marriage Act seeks to prevent this from happening, but it appears to be on the face unconstitutional.) Further, considering the judicial landscape currently in America, the fact of gay marriage in some states is causing many liberal judges to say that homosexual couples are being denied their civil rights in other states because homosexual marriages are forbidden there.
When confronted with this reality, Perry walked back his support of the idea that homosexual marriage should come under the 10th Amendment and should be solely a state issue. He now supports a federal ban on gay marriage.
The truth of the matter is that the 10th Amendment is a dead letter. While it would be nice to resurrect the 10th Amendment and give it life once again, it seems that Perry is wanting to use the 10th Amendment as an excuse to avoid politically unpopular stances. How committed to the 10th Amendment would he really be if he were President? His position on some local issues in Texas suggests that he would be quite comfortable exerting federal control over issues that he cares about, even if it violates the 10th Amendment and violates the personal liberties of the American people.
Which brings us to my third point, Perry’s stance on local issues. Here, it is best to let someone who is more familiar with current local Texas politics take the helm. This is what Mark America has to say,
I’ve lived in Texas throughout the entirety of the Perry administration. He hasn’t been the most awful governor we might have had, but in truth, he’s been mediocre. It is true to say that Perry deserves a little credit for the better economic conditions in the state, insofar as he’s done no particular harm. On the other hand, it’s fair to say that part of the reason Perry’s done no particular harm, and perhaps the sole reason he hasn’t damaged the economy, is because the Texas people, through their legislature, won’t let him. The governor’s real shortcomings are not to be seen so much in the matter of economics, but in his unceasing drive to tamper with the freedoms and lives of Texans for the sake of his corporate cronies.
One of the issues in which Perry first ran afoul of conservatives was in signing an executive order requiring all sixth-grade girls to receive the three-shot series of vaccines known as Gardasil. The vaccine is intended to prevent contraction of Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. In an effort that was pushed by a group funded by Merck, the whole situation took on the stink of official corruption in the name of Big Pharma. The problem is that the drug was of questionable efficacy, but more importantly, given the fact that the disease is spread through intimate contact, many Texans wanted immediately to know why the governor of Texas was assuming all their daughters needed this shot, and how the Governor dared to try to push this on them. This began a minor revolt, and the relatively conservative Texas legislature acted to set aside his executive order by a vote of 119-21 in the House, and 30-1 in the Senate. In Texas politics, that’s as stunning a rebuke of a governor as you’re likely ever to see, but it points out the problem with Rick Perry: Business-friendly administrations are what we need for the sake of economy, but leaping into bed with business to the detriment of voters and tax-payers is to take the notion much too far. It could be said that Perry himself needs a form of inoculation, but rather than HPV, instead against his tendency to leap from one corporate bed to the next.
On to the next question of his poor judgment and his tendency to view the people of his state as means to his own ends, Perry was the driving political force behind the Trans Texas Corridor project. This ridiculous project proposed creating a system of toll roads that would have consumed a portion of the Texas land-mass that would have effectively killed agriculture in the state. Worse, the primary contractor, Cintra, a Spanish conglomerate, was to have a virtual monopoly on the construction and concessions on what promised to be a closed system. Still more infuriating to the people of Texas was that the deal would have mandated that there be no free alternative competing roads, meaning such vital arteries as I-35 and I-45 along with I-10, I-20, and I-30 would have been required to become toll roads as well. This, combined with the projected $0.26-$0.40 per mile they intended to charge made it an unconscionable bit of corporate predation that would have crippled the Texas economy. These things, together with the expanded use of eminent domain by the state on behalf of a corporate contract made this project much too bitter a pill for Texans to swallow. It actually spawned an independent gubernatorial campaign by former Texas comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn. It generated much ill will between Perry and his conservative voters, so that at present, while they think he’s better than a Democrat, the difference is only slight, and he should bear just as much attentive watching. Perry hasn’t given up his Trans Texas Corridor plans, but they’ve been scaled back and re-named. Once again, the Governor of Texas has shown his willingness to climb into bed with corporate masters, and more importantly, just as with the Gardasil issue, former staff members seem to be part of a constant recycling through a revolving door between his corporate cronies and his own office. This is precisely the sort of governance the country does not need, Washington already being thoroughly polluted with such schemes.
Governor Perry’s appeal to conservatives seems to hinge on his Christian values, but the problem is that his proclaimed Christian values are in distinct and thorough opposition to some of his actions as governor. At the same time he seeks to share the stage at TEA Party events, always ready to throw out more red meat for the crowd, but seems much less than sincere in his stance by the time he arrives back at his office. This sort of schizophrenic, unprincipled and insincere conservatism is already thoroughly represented in DC, and while Mr. Perry would certainly feel at home there, the politicos in DC being his kind of people, I’m strongly convinced that while he might do well in such a role, it’s not clear that the country would fare any better.
When you examine his record in its totality, what you find is not that Governor Perry has been such a capable steward of the Texas economy, but that surprisingly, the Texas Legislature has fulfilled that role, bouncing egregious Perry initiatives in a number of cases. The Trans Texas Corridor project would have crippled commerce in this state, and contrary to the billing, would have achieved little but to make Texas just another link in the NAFTA chain, bypassed by most of the commerce, its people tasked with the duty to pay for a system of toll roads from which they would see little benefit, but would bring substantial costs.
For these reasons, and a lengthy list of similar problems, I cannot recommend the governor of my state, Texas, to the people of America. It’s not so much that he’s presided over an economy of his creation, so much as the fact that the people of Texas have managed to succeed in spite of him. Given his embellished relation to the relatively good performance of the Texas economy in admittedly hard times, and acknowledging that the damage he might have done, had he been unopposed by a conservative legislature, it’s clear that while Rick Perry might be good for corporatist Washington, he’s not the right choice for America.
(H/t Conservative 4 Palin)
Since no political candidate is perfect, it may be that Rick Perry would be a better President than the above points would suggest. However, his record should cause people to question and examine him more thoroughly before jumping on the Perry bandwagon and thinking that somehow he will be the savior of the GOP in 2012.
- Perry: Gay Marriage in New York is ‘Fine With Me’ (commentarymagazine.com)
- Rick Perry: Abortion a States’ Rights Issue (blogs.abcnews.com)
- Rick Perry Throws 10th Amendment Under The Bus, Supports Federal Marriage Amendment (outsidethebeltway.com)
- Rick Perry does a ‘Romney Flip’ on gay marriage and now wants a federal ban (crooksandliars.com)