Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Salute to Rick Perry- Statesman and Patriot

In breathtaking drama before the second of two well-publicized South Carolina debates leading up to the state's primary elections this Saturday Jan 21st, Republican presidential candidate and former Air force serviceman Rick Perry has abruptly ended his White House bid and endorsed rival Newt Gingrich for the Presidency.

The move came unexpectedly in a race that has already had more than its fair share of twists and turns, and feeds into an already surging Gingrich candidacy fueled largely by his debate performances, (most recently last Monday's debate in which Gingrich once again showed his ability to master both the media and his Republican opponents in the art of persuasive public speech which in former times used to be called rhetoric).

As a somewhat late entering candidate, and beginning with an inability at an early debate to remember all three departments that he proposed eliminating from the federal bureaucracy, Rick Perry, unfortunate to his Presidential aspirations, seemed to take valuable time to get up to speed, even if his policy prescriptions seemed especially suited to appeal to conservatives across the Grand Ol Party.

And appeal they did. From his well-propped proposal for a national “flat tax” (in which he would wave a post card sized return Perry claimed is all a taxpayer would have to send in to the IRS under his proposal), to his promise to eliminate whole agencies of the federal government, Rick Perry's policy proposals were well-thought out and substantive.

Equally, if not more importantly, his unapologetic defense of State's rights under the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was, at least in this organization's view, a breath of fresh air that brought a badly needed element to the national debate that will be sorely missed, (even if this organization's president and founder often found himself debating the issue of Perry's electability in a general election so soon after the country's less-than-satisfying experience with another swaggering Texan, George W. Bush, with far more zealous and enthusiastic Texas supporters of the Perry campaign).

Of course, it goes without saying that, as expected, (and clearly intended), Perry's withdrawl could not have come at a better time for Gingrich, and was seen by many, including this organization, as a pragmatic nod by Perry of his inability to crack single digits in national polls after early campaign gaffes and the increasing impossibility of winning the nomination, (indeed, such a victory seemed all but inevitable with so many splitting the conservative vote in S.C., including former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum and iconoclastic libertarian-leaning Congressmen Ron Paul).

But that is not all we are able to discern in these occurrences.

Perry's sudden withdrawl appears to be intentionally designed to breath new life into Newt's chances to stop a Romney victory by galvanizing and consolidating conservative voters who have always been wary of Romney's seeming policy shifts and Mormon background into a force for victory in South Carolina and possibly beyond.

In doing so just days before the S.C. primary, it is clear that Perry did so with intentional disregard to his own political aspirations and career, (as his previous decision to abandon a similar plan to drop out after the Iowa caucuses two weeks ago, a decision his supporters, including this party, urged him to reconsider at a time in which such a decision seemed premature).

This time, and faced with even longer odds in light of Newt's rise in the polls, Perry's decision was not so fleeting, even if the timing was unexpected.

Further, as alluded to above, and especially in light of the timing, it appears indisputable that Rick Perry took this action with intentional disregard for his own political position solely to avoid dividing the conservative vote because he felt to do so was in the nation's best interest in choosing a presidential nominee.

Accordingly, and regardless of our one's opinion on whether you agree with his endorsement of Newt or believe Romney is in fact such a bad candidate that such dramatic action was either necessary or desirable, there can be no doubt that the action Perry took was done out of a pure motivation for what he believed was truly best for the country with reckless disregard for his own Presidential aspirations, and as such, constituted a rare demonstration of courage and decency sorely lacking in our Republic today, (and so different, for example, from what we saw in 2008 in which Huckabee ran endless interference for McCain against Romney for seemingly less pure motives and which resulted in the nomination of a seriously flawed candidate in McCain and the 2008 loss to Obama).

Thus, in light of the current events, it is worth a moment of pause in the current blood-sport of national politics in order to reflect upon a man whose obvious conviction and passion for his country and the greatness he wished it to be returned to led him to run for President in spite of the daunting and grueling gauntlet doing so has become in our highly-politicized times.

We applaud this former Air force serviceman for this self-sacrificial act, and especially note Perry for his prior service, courage, and statesmen-like behavior throughout the campaign. You fought the good fight, sir, and most importantly, knew when to stand down in the service of your country, and for that, Governor Perry, we salute you. We wish you Godspeed in all future endeavors to which you might seek. jp   

Monday, January 16, 2012

A call for Party Tolerance and Unity- Responding to the Perrybots (Ron Paulbots too!)

  In posting on twitter the last week or so one thing has become increasingly clear to me. In addition to this being one of the most important elections in our lifetime, there is no reasoning with partisans who think their primary candidate is the absolute only one who can win. (While I'm talking about Rick Perry mainly in this article, you can certainly apply it to radical Ron Paul supporters, Rick Santorum supporters, or any other hyper partisans who can see no good in other candidates to the point of almost claiming non-supporters of their candidate are the enemy instead of Barack Obama).

  I know whereof I speak. For merely challenging the conventional wisdom-- read intensely repeated partisan mantra chanting-- that Rick Perry is the only electable Republican candidate suitable to challenge Barack Obama in the Nov. general election, I was viciously and repeatedly attacked by the Perrybots with everything from silly name calling to vulgar full out profanity (of the f bomb variety).

  Oh, I know, partisan fervor for one's pet candidate is perhaps to be expected in this period of the primaries of a major political party in a Presidential election year. But what is most troubling however is the Perrybots, (and/or other hyper partisan primary activists, as noted above), seem particularly intransigent and unable to see the merits in any position or candidate but theirs. And one thing repeatedly emerges from my discussions, (more like political shouting matches!) with such persons. Any divergence from the “party line” of their rabid support for their candidate is deemed as unworthy of reply and/or invitation to utter yet more untested (and often untrue) conclusory claims of claimed infallibility of “their guy.”

  Don't get me wrong, I actually and personally find many of Perry's political positions in line with my own; his pledge to return politicians in Washington to a position as “citizen legislators,” his promise to reduce government regulation, and his fair tax plan are all ideas long championed by the ACLP and this author personally. But the error of such a purist position as espoused by the Perrybots will be immediately apparent to those with any experience whatsoever in national politics.

  Rather, those versed in electoral politics and national political strategy will recognize such claims and tactics for what they are: invalidly reasoned and dangerous to both our body politic as well as Republican chances for victory in November; Indeed, they belie a radical and na├»ve misunderstanding about how the American electoral process actually works, (to say nothing of the danger of “faction” of which the Founders warned in Federalist number 10).

Indeed, such a position reeks of the kind of purity and “litmus tests” that make the tea party appear moderate to its most ardent leftist critics, (a feat in itself!) and leads to the obvious (and ominous?) question which we must here address, namely:

  Do such attitudes and actions of the hyperpartisans undermine the eventual Republican nominee and/or portend a broader challenge to the defeat of Barack Obama by encouraging the rise of a third party bid for the presidency? Such a question is not merely academic.

  Indeed, the fact is that a credible and forceful third party candidate has in the past proven disastrous for the GOP and/or the country's ability to elect a Republican Administration at various critical times in America's history, (most recently and notably in the 1992 and 1996 elections which saw Bill Clinton elected without a majority of the popular vote due to the Ross Perot and Ralph Nader candidacies).

  So it is with all seriousness, and with such a possibility in mind, that I find it necessary to address some of the wholly conclusory claims repeated ad nauseum by Perry supporters which have been posited as sheer fact, (unless of course you would prefer the corrupt, corporate cronyism and job killing policies of the Obama Administration for another four years, in which case you can disregard what I am about to say).

 With these principles in mind then I address the following (and demonstrably false) claims of the hyperpartisan Perrybots:

1) Rick Perry is only candidate with proven history of “winning” and thus only electable candidate.
In discussing this issue with some of the Perrybots it often comes up that since Rick Perry has won several state wide elections in Texas and has a successful electoral history there he is therefore the only electable candidate for our country in the Nov. elections. But this ignores that there is a big difference between the overwhelmingly conservative electorate of Texas and the deeply divided constituencies in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania which the GOP desperately needs if it is to win a national election, (critical to offset Democratic advantages in places like California and New York).

  In fact, one Perrybot in particular who I had been supportive of in the past, (indeed, she had been instrumental in my joining the call for Perry to NOT drop out prematurely when it appeared after the Iowa Caucuses that he would do so), explicitly argued that many Perry supporters in Texas were conservative Democrats, (seemingly oblivious to the fact that this actually weakens the argument for Perry in the broader national electorate instead of strengthens it because Mr. Perry cannot count on such a conservative constituency in the nation as a whole in a general election). Thus this argument is clearly erroneous.

2) Rick Perry's economic record in Texas makes him the best (and only!) acceptable Gop candidate.
While the Perrybots repeatedly trumpet the economic record of Governor Perry in the State of Texas as proof he is the only acceptable Gop candidate, (an economic record by the way which is admittedly praiseworthy), it conflates the Texas legislature's constituency with the nation's, (which is much less homogeneously conservative). Thus, while we can certainly agree such things as tort reform, lower regulation and lower taxes are needed to jumpstart our economy and create jobs, it is sheer presumption to assume that only Rick Perry, of all the qualified Republican candidates, would promote such policies, or that it wouldn't take an exceptionally well versed national leader with the proven ability to reach across the partisan divide and achieve the kind of bi-partisan support that would be necessary to pass such legislation at the national level. (Indeed, on that score, Perry's efforts in Texas working with conservative Democrats that are now all but extinct in the current Congress is utterly irrelevant, because the Perry Administration's natural political affinity to work with state Democrats who for all practical purposes would be considered moderate Republicans in Washington does not therefore in fact evidence his alleged and much vaunted ability to compromise and engage in bi-partisan leadership Perry supporters often tout in favor of his bid for the national Presidency).

3) Rick Perry is the only acceptable candidate because if the presumed front runner Mitt Romney could not beat former nominee McCain, how can he beat Obama who McCain couldn't beat in 2008?

 This one is so obviously illogical that it is almost ridiculous to have to refute it, but since the Perrybots repeat it with a straight face I address it briefly.

 Most obviously, Mitt Romney is clearly not the only other candidate besides Rick Perry in this race. Indeed, while Romney may be best financed and organized, the recent rise of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich's nipping at Romney's heels in S. Carolina proves that, if nothing else, the Republican race is still fluid, (although Romney is certainly rising as other candidates drop out, as we expected).

 Moreover, anyone who follows politics knows that the dynamics of 2008 are entirely different than those in 2012.

  First of all, in light of Obama's running as a uniting centrist in 2008, (which he has not governed as), it is doubtful if any Republican candidate could have won against Obama in light of the push of the youth vote and others caught up in the historic election of the nation's first African American President.

  Secondly, as any political watchers know, the only reason Romney didn't win the nomination in 2008 was Huckabee's successfully working with and running interference for McCain to frustrate Romney's bid, (particularly in the then-critical W. Virginia primary).
Third, to assume that Romney's chances in 2012 are somehow weakened due to McCain's not winning in 2008, and thus warrants supporting Rick Perrry now, (but see first point about other credible candidates above), is contrary to political history. To the contrary, history shows that a candidate often is only successful after multiple attempts due to increased name recognition and the “legacy” voters who often might vote for a candidate second time around who were previously peeled away by other candidates seen as more desirable, (such as Huckabee in 2008).

4) A more energized base for Perry will propel him to November victory. 

  Again, the Perrybots show an astounding lack of political understanding. Contrary to the implication of this argument, it is not the party base which determines elections. In other words, and in philosophical terms, an active base is necessary but not sufficient for electoral victory in a general election. Rather, the deciding factor in a general election is the independents and moderates in the middle, who all polls show don't favor another Texan for President, (while it may be unfair, Perry'sTexas swagger, accent, and questionable debate skills remind independents too much of Bush W who they were not enthused about on a variety of issues too many to detail here). This is so because the partisans, (those with strong feelings or party affiliation, either Democrat or Republican), will generally support their party's nominee in the end regardless. That leaves only the independents and those “in the middle,” as they say, to be the only ones subject to persuasion and who the vast majority of ads will be geared to in the Fall, (not rocket science here. Btw, now you know why this switch from trying to woo the base in primaries can lead to awkward lurches to the middle in the general election in absence of a unifying campaign theme).

  Moreover, as much as the Perrybots don't like to admit it, prior state economic results, while important, are not the only factors necessary to win an election in the age of television. Rather, things like a presidential air, debating skill, and even things such as “looks,” (and, if you can believe it, the height of candidates!), all play a role in a modern national campaign-- along with more core things as state organizations to get out the vote and ability to fundraise the kind of money necessary to compete with the expected billion dollar war chest being raised by Obama and the Democrats!-- are all factors that will be critical to a successful general election.
Indeed, contrary to the claims of the uninformed, the longer a divisive nominating contest goes on, the more damaged the Gop in general becomes in the perception of the voters, and the harder it will be for the eventual nominee to win in November.

5) Perry is the “outsider” candidate who can reach across aisle and “get things done” in Washington.
While there is no doubt that Rick Perry is a credible, conservative candidate that may have much to recommend him to the Presidency, it is stretching the truth to call a man who has spent 26 years in politics an “outsider.” In fact, one of the “chinks in Perry's armour,” according to former tea party candidate Michelle Bachman, (R-MN), is his career politician ways and according penchant for crony capitalism. Indeed, Ms. Bachman openly questioned Perry's ties to drug companies like Merck, who she suggested was behind Perry's anti-family Guardisal vaccination plan which automatically required parents to vaccinate their children against sexually transmitted disease). Indeed, one could rather make a strong argument that those who have not spent the majority of their lives in politics as Perry has would make a better contrast with Obama in November. Accordingly, this argument made by the Perrybots lacks merit.

In closing, perhaps the Perry crowd will pull it out in the end, (as increasingly unlikely as that is, it is still early in the process and technically possible). However, in order to do so, at least in a credible way that can win over the moderates in the middle who will determine the outcome in November and guard against the real possibility of a deadly third party bid, the hyperpartisan Perrybots are going to have to come up with better arguments than they have shown themselves capable of thus far. jp