Saturday, August 6, 2011

Yes, Rick Perry's a AAA Texas Jesus-Nut, But...

…maybe this one could finesse shuttering DC, given his emphasis on the Tenth Amendment, which would make all the praying (such as that occurring at the prayer event called the Response that he’s co-organizing today) bearable – if I were at all confident his faith in the Tenth Amendment were sincere, that is. 

(God, being non-existent and thus mostly harmless, is largely beside the point, except in so far as religious belief always calls a person’s intellectual integrity into question.  No honest person makes claims without evidence, and only the very arrogant think their “hearts” can tell them what’s true absent compelling information from the observable external universe.)

Traditionally, Americans start paying attention to candidates about three weeks prior to an election, meaning we have about a year to go before most Americans even notice who’s running against Obama, but polls suggest the Tea Partiers are paying closer attention than most (to electoral politics, not just to economics, though thank goodness they’re doing the latter as well).  And the Tea Party folk seem to like Perry, whereas Republicans-in-general (at this near-meaningless stage) seem to like Romney. 

I’m still hoping that financial woes will suddenly make Ron Paul seem more-relevant than ever – or that Michele Bachmann will turn out to be as libertarian as her co-author, my libertarian fellow-traveler John Fund – but assuming for the sake of thought experiment that the GOP primaries become a Romney-vs.-Perry match, how much hope should I invest in Perry?

Romney seems to get points for electability – much as I hate to start thinking like a McCain voter (which I’ve never been) at this early a stage.  On the downside, he really is a moderate, and Tea Party-admiring folk like myself know just when to expect Romney to insert weasel-language that signals that he sort of likes the free market – oh! but not enough to oppose minimum wage laws.  And he knows we need more radical budget cuts – oh! but not enough to even put military cuts on the table for discussion.  Oil, yes, but also solar panel subsidies and blah blah blah – not to mention socialism (for health) in one state but immediate repeal (by presidential fiat, apparently) of Obamacare, and so on. 

Romney is a vintage 2005 waffler who almost thinks it’s his duty, as a very conventional politician, to cover all his bases.  But that probably means he could win and would behave not so unlike, say, a Bill Clinton if he did so.  America has suffered worse fates – though I’m just honestly uncertain we can survive another conventional politician right now.  Frankly, we already have one in the White House.

So the question becomes whether Perry – who likely
doesn’t bring the same level of built-in New England and Midwestern support that Romney does and is thus a bigger risk in the general election – is a radical-enough alternative to warrant rooting for.  I call him a risk in the general election in part because I keep thinking sooner or later, despite his notorious ongoing feud with the Bush dynasty, voters of all stripes are going to hear how he talks, notice the Jesus references, and think, collectively, “Wait a second, we’re not voting for Bush again, are we?”

So how different is Perry?  One libertarian I know has already declared him “smarmy.”  A libertarian organization is preparing to release a statement criticizing him.  By my skeptical standards, things like the prayer rally certainly don’t help.  Texas has fared very well under him, but he’s no libertarian ideologue (and I mean that in a disappointed way), showing an eagerness to subsidize projects rather than just practicing laissez-faire.

Then again, while Ron Paul is the most scrupulously pro-civil-liberties GOP candidate, Perry’s anti-police-state book last year, Fed Up!, is nothing to sneeze at.  A former Democrat – and the lieutenant governor who ascended when Bush went to DC – Perry in that book captures the Tea Party tone at its best, equally critical of right-wing police state intrusions and left-wing economic regulation, with condemnations of the Sixteenth Amendment and praise of the Tenth (instituting income tax and leaving the states autonomy, respectively).

The reason that last bit – the Tenth Amendment – matters to me so much right now is that I keep thinking states’ rights would be the smoothest way out of our current morass.  It’s the federal government that yesterday lost its AAA rating, and, despite the bizarre claims by increasingly rabid Obama supporters such as Andrew Sullivan that Obama’s doing an amazing job, we might do best to give up on achieving national consensus on economic policy – or much of anything else – and just let the fifty states go their separate ways while DC shrinks to bankrupt irrelevance (I realize the states aren’t in great fiscal shape either, but competition between them – and a lack of homogenizing mandates from DC – would sort that out in short order, I’m confident; even New York might start doing things that made sense if enough businesses fled to Delaware). 

But I worry that Perry is mushy and unprincipled enough that he’d find himself a lot less fond of states’ rights once he was no longer governing a notoriously feisty state and was instead in charge of the federal government.  His backpedaling on gay marriage is not encouraging – even though I don’t think it’s as important an issue as economics.  He recently said the matter should be up to the states, a view compatible with both DOMA and diversity (and not so unlike the moderate-conservative view on abortion) – but then within days said he’d like constitutional amendments against both gay marriage and abortion. 

I am reminded of the disappointment I felt during one of the GOP candidate debates when Bachmann, too, said gay marriage should be up to the states – and a few minutes later clarified that she meant, in essence, until an amendment takes that right away from the states.

I will say this much for Romney: not only may he be more electable, he will probably never say one word about religion in office, given all he stands to lose from having skittish, skeptical, or narrow-minded Americans examine his religion closely (reminder: MORMON).

As if all these thoughts aren’t unsettling enough, tomorrow I’ll blog of Guillermo del Toro’s latest horror, and Monday – inspired in part by some religious conservatives I’ve known – I will examine The Science of Evil.  

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