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Perry: The Radical Alternative to Bachmann


Now that he has made his intention to run official, Rick Perry should be considered one of the two frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. His selling points to the Republican base are clear: he has more obvious appeal to the conservative base than former pro-choicer and universal health care supporter Mitt Romney, while he will be seen as more mainstream and “electable” than Tea Party favorite Michelle Bachmann. Given the very real chance that Rick Perry will be the 45th president of the United States, however, it should be noted that there’s no reason (apart from sexism) to consider him any less nutty than Bachmann. All signs indicate that a Perry administration would be even worse than that of his fellow Texas governor George W. Bush, and he would be by far the most radical presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater.

As readers of this blog know, the most powerful symbol for Perry’s style of governance is Cameron Todd Willingham.  Willingham was executed by the state of Texas on February 16, 2004 for allegedly killing his three children by burning down his family’s house. This execution was an appalling miscarriage of justice. The case against him was a complete shambles, with the evidence that the fire was deliberately set consisting of completely worthless junk science and the transparently implausible, uncorroborated, and later recanted testimony of a mentally ill jailhouse snitch. How could the execution of someone who shouldn’t even have been arrested been allowed to proceed? One reason was Governor Rick Perry, whose hand-picked Board of Pardons and Paroles upheld the death sentence while Perry failed to use his power to recommend commuting his sentence. And to dispel the possibility that Perry had made good faith (if tragic) mistake, Perry then fired several members of the state’s Forensic Science Commission to cover up the fact that Willingham’s conviction was based on junk science about as reliable as astrology.

Alas, Perry’s disgraceful behavior in abetting the execution of an almost certainly innocent man is no aberration. His governorship is a virtual parody of contemporary Republicanism, comforting the wealthy while throttling the relatively powerless. Despite an already low level of social services and a highly regressive tax code, with Perry’s support Texas has responded to the recession with savage spending cuts and no tax increases. Poor and lower-middle class Texans will be hit particularly hard by the draconian cuts to public schools and Medicaid. The educational cuts are particularly cruel and short-sighted, given that Texas “forty-fifth in SAT scores, third in teen pregnancies and dead last in the percentage of adults with high school diplomas.”

The case Perry will make to mainstream voters rests on Texas’s allegedly impressive economic growth under his governorship. But even leaving aside the huge number of Texas residents who have been left without access to decent schools or medical care, these claims are exaggerated. Massachusetts and New York have combined much stronger social services with faster economic growth and similar or lower unemployment than Perry’s Texas. And while Texas’ job creation rate under Perry looks superficially good, most of this growth has come from minimum wage and public sector jobs. A more careful look, in other words, should dispel the idea that Texas’s regressive taxes and frugal social services have unleashed a wave of entrepreneurship.

In addition, it must be noted that the Texas model would be particularly disastrous if implemented on a national level. Texas has managed to maintain decent economic growth throughout the recession because it is major oil-producing state during a time in which oil prices have soared. Alas, most states cannot rely on oil as a crutch. Republican bastions such as Alabama and Mississippi demonstrate what the policies Perry advocates produce in states not sitting on huge oil reserves – massive inequalities, high rates of poverty, and unacceptably bad social services without even decent economic growth.

Perry’s worldview has been bad for Texas and would be even worse if implemented on a nationwide basis. But his status as frontrunner tells us a great deal about the state of today’s Republican Party. Even by the standards of the increasingly extremist GOP, the Texas Republican Party is a model of wingnuttery, with a platform that (among many ludicrous elements) calls for Congress to prevent federal courts from applying the Bill of Rights, the abolition of the Department of Education, the abolition of the minimum wage, and to restrict citizenship to the children of U.S. Citizens in contradiction of the clear language of the 14th Amendment. In keeping with this kind of extremism, in a book released just last year Perry endorsed a wide variety of ultra-reactionary ideas, including the belief that most of the 20th century administrative state (including Medicare and Social Security) violate the federal constitution. He has also flirted with secessionism — admittedly, an option that may look more attractive should Perry stumble into the presidency. Unlike the Texas governor who was elected in 2000, Perry doesn’t even pretend to reasonableness or moderation.

Perry’s radicalism may alienate some swing voters, but there can be no doubt that he can win under the the wrong economic circumstances. If a stalled recovery leads to Rick Perry taking over the White House with a Republican Congress that reflects similar values, it may be decades before the United States can recover.

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  • Malaclypse

    I do agree with him that the secession of Texas would solve many, many problems, and I would be happy to see him rise to the Texas Presidency.

    But we keep the nukes.

    • David Hunt

      I realize fantasizing about Texas seceding from the Union is great fun, but as a Texan that type of talk always disturbs me. Putting aside the precedents of the Civil War and my own love of the United States, I find the prospect of secession personally frightening. I’m not very suited to fighting off hoards of hungry cannibals and I don’t think I’d be the One Man who’d manage to walk out of the Thunderdome, so I’d like to stay as a citizen of the U.S., thank you very much.

      In short, stop encouraging the maniacs in Austin. Even a small chance they’d try something that mad is scary.

      • c u n d gulag

        I don’t know.
        I’s like to keep the option open so that we in the blue states can secede from them.

        And I’m no ‘Mad Maxer’ either.

      • Larkspur

        Yeah, David, I know. I’m out here on the left coast, but I can’t cut Texas loose. I know plenty of good people there, and besides, it wouldn’t help. Americans are all weird. There are regional variations, but we’ve been a weird, fringe-y collection of oddballs from the start. I sometimes think that what gets us through from time to time is our sense of “Hey, wait, that’s not fair”.

        But Texas, or Idaho, or Orange County, or Gary, Indiana – it’s us. We’re it. I have to go lie down now.

  • Steve LaBonne

    I despair of a country where this dangerous clown, and others like him (Bachmann), can be treated as serious presidential candidates. If that’s not a wakeup call I don’t know what would be. “It Can’t Happen Here”? Don’t bet on that.

    • We’ve already had George W. I don’t know that it can actually get any worse than that. Is Perry the witless pawn of an evil cabal? Or is he merely witless?

      • rm

        Dubya ran out of steam around year six, seemingly befuddled by the absence of miraculous good results from his policies.

        Perry seems like the kind of guy who will keep on charging, for whom the bad results will seem good. And we haven’t yet “recovered,” whatever that actually could mean, from the last Republican.

        • rm

          Oh, and the lesson I took from studying the history of Haiti is that things can always get worse.

          • A Bosnian once told me the same thing. His whole family had been killed.

          • David

            This should be the comment of the year.

  • Rarely Posts

    “it may be decades before the United States can recover.” Too true. It already appears that it will be decades before the United States can recover from Bush’s presidency and the legislation passed prior to the Democrat’s capture of the House. How unfortunate that the hole they dug was so deep, the Democrats can only scramble so far up the sides, and the Republicans will likely sweep back in on that basis in order to dig the hole even deeper.

    • Malaclypse

      “it may be decades before the United States can recover.”

      Why assume that the US will actually recover? All empires fall.

      • Steve LaBonne

        If we’re VERY lucky, it will simply fall apart and Perry can be President of Jesusland. (It would be heartless not to add that the rest of us must then greet refugees from Jesusland kindly and help them build a new life in the rump US.)

        • You’d better. I don’t even want to be in the South as it is. If we secede, I am NOT sticking around.

    • BigHank53

      Scott, you’re in Albany. Good chance you and New England can join up with Canada. Stuck with a monarchy, sure, but they do have a functioning legislative process.

      Perry with GOP control of both houses…I suspect it might be canned-good and ammunition time. Also an excellent time to get yourself sterilized if you’re female and have had all the kids you want.

  • Kurzleg

    It’s hard for me to believe that a guy whose speech and mannerisms seem like a parody of Dubya could win the general. Maybe it’s possible, but I’d like to believe that Dubya’s lack of popularity would rub off on Perry.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      The problem is that Obama’s lack of popularity is likely to be more decisive in 2012 than Dubya’s lack of popularity.

      The (relatively) good news is that, at least among swing voters, I’m pretty sure that Obama’s unpopularity is very soft. If the economy picks up, so will Obama’s popularity. But that’s a pretty big “if.”

      • Captain Splendid

        This is why Team O wants Romney as the opponent. The economy can still suck, but when faced with two very similar boring centrists, they’re more likely to just re-elect Obama.

  • DrDick

    It is a sad statement on the state not just of the Republican Party, nut of the nation that two of the frontrunners for the presidential nomination of a major political party are insane radical theocratic extremists.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      Not that it really matters as a practical matter, but is Perry an insane, radical theocratic extremist or a cynical opportunist hoping to capitalize on insane, radical theocratic extremism?

      • Malaclypse

        Perry is an insane, radical theocratic extremist, while Romney is a cynical opportunist hoping to capitalize on insane, radical theocratic extremism.

        • mds

          Er, do you mean that Romney is hoping to capitalize on it by appealing to slightly less insane radical extremists? E.g., people who don’t cheer for threats to murder the treasonous Fed chairman? Because Romney’s not going to be able to go full theocrat when his superhero alias is The Underwearer.

          • Malaclypse

            Yea, I knew leaving “theocratic” under Romney was an issue. But I do think Mittens will lie down with theocrats. He just won’t pull it off.

            • BigHank53

              He’ll lie down with theocrats. But he’ll keep all his clothes on. Nobody likes a tease.

        • DrDick

          I would agree with this.

    • It is a sad statement on the state not just of the Republican Party, nut of the nation

      Heh. Thanks for the Typo of the Day.

      • DrDick

        I noticed that after I posted, but it seemed appropriate.

  • BradP

    It seems to me that Texas’s one saving grace economically was its resistence to the crisis caused by the housing bubble. Wonder how he’s gonna pitch the strict regulatory requirements on mortgages that lead to that?

    It doesn’t really matter, though. Perry will win the nomination. Romney will come off looking like Kerry, Bachmann isn’t a man so she can’t blather incoherently without republicans noticing, and they will be presented by the media as the only candidates that any sane person would vote for.

    • Malaclypse

      I’m hoping that openly calling Ben Bernanke a traitor impacts his fundraising. But I fear the greed of the Republican donor base is the only thing that can keep Perry from the nomination.

      • BradP

        Well I read an NYT piece this morning on just how much Perry likes to pay back his donors, so I expect him to have plenty of mainstream support.

        It seems to me that the donors that may be extremely put off by such quotes are mostly democrats already. Kinda guessing here, but Romney likely can swing voters in the general from Obama, but probably wouldn’t have much luck with Perry.

    • Wonder how he’s gonna pitch the strict regulatory requirements on mortgages that lead to that?

      By claiming that the responsible values of Texans, not Big Government, is what really kept Texans from taking out as many stupid loans.

      “Unlike Washington, people in Texas know how to live within their means.”

  • c u n d gulag

    If he wins, or Bachmann, and Republicans control both houses, I don’t think the US will ever recover.

    We’ll be the Dominionist Christian Corporate States of America.

    They won’t change the name, of course, but the country will be changed forever.
    -No seperation between church and state.
    -Voter suppression.
    -Elimination of a social safety net programs.
    -And a nation of serfs willing to work at any age, for any wage, for any hours, under any conditions, without breaks, vacations, or benefits.
    -Environmental damage not seen since the Stalin and Mao were trying to bring their countries into the 20th Century.
    Of course, we’ll be trying to take ours in the opposite direction – back to the 19th Century.

    And it won’t take them long to change this country.
    I don’t think the Roberts SCOTUS will do a single a thing, as long as corporations will keep making money in an unregulated environment. If the Jesus people infringe on that “RIGHT,” they may be surprised to find who’s really in charge.

    It’s kind of sad when we have to look at Romney as the Republican candidate who, if elected, will probabaly do the least harm.

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  • mpowell

    It’s still not clear to me why Perry is now the front runner. He looks good on paper? What? Being a male Republican governor is all you need? I don’t think so. On the merits, Perry’s record varies from mixed bag to atrocious. Not to mention his book.

    The Perry argument seems to rely awfully heavily on the idea that the media is in the bag for the most extreme male Republican candidate out there who doesn’t spend his time screaming about a gold standard. Frankly, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    Sure, Perry’s chance of becoming president is today somewhat higher than it was before his announcement, but I think this actually makes a Romney nomination more likely, not less.

    • Steve LaBonne

      I think it relies more on the idea that the Republican primary electorate is really, really stupid and crazy.

  • Amanda in the South Bay

    Given the very real chance that Rick Perry will be the 45th president of the United States

    This seems absurd, this far out, to already be calling the election. The only thing I can see this accomplishing is depressing turnout among Democrats in order to punish Obama for…well, something, I guess.

    • BigHank53

      Check out the people who are running. Count them up. One of them–nobody else–will be the nominee. He or she will run against Obama (or Biden, God forbid). Either that person or the Democrat will be President.

      Are Perry chances small, large, microscopic? I don’t know. But they are real.

      • Amanda in the South Bay

        There’s a world of difference between what you just said and what Scott said.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Perry is one of the two people most likely to win the GOP nomination, and any Republican nominee will have a decent chance of winning in this economy. I don’t see how what I said is controversial. Many LGM readers will be amused that you see it as part of a secret agenda to undermine Obama, however.

          • Malaclypse

            Perry is one of the two people most likely to win the GOP nomination,

            Have you written off Bachmann, or Mittens?

            • Scott Lemieux

              I wouldn’t write off Bachmann, exactly, but would certainly rank her third.

        • Hogan

          So when Scott says “a very real chance” he means “an absolute certainty,” whereas when BigHank53 says “a very real chance” he means “a very real chance.”

          I think I need a copy of this phrasebook.

    • There’s a lot Obama deserves to be punished for, but whatever his many, many failings (austerity, getting in bed with insurance companies, refusal to address the jobs crisis), none of them are going to be solved by electing a Republican.

      • Jay B.

        And none of them will be solved by re-electing Obama either. But sure, 10% is better than negative Squadillion.

        • DrDick

          Agreed, sadly.

  • rj

    I don’t want to be a total downer, but Perry is experienced, successful, determined, politically ruthless, and backed by a lot of money and the evil talents of Karl Rove et al. And Obama, he’s somewhere in the mid-west on a bus tour talking about the all important balanced approach. It’s a fight between Mr. Reasonable Center and the original Crazy Shit-kicking Cowboy. The Dems have written off any substantial effort to attack economic problems (Obama’s reduced to whining that those mean guys won’t let his payroll tax cut through). Perry’s going to look dramatic and “authentic” compared to O. And you know how the Village media will eat that up — see Gregory’s latest case of false equivalence. By next year, the “he’s too crazy to get elected” meme will be where the “W is too stupid to be president” went. I don’t like the look of things.

    • Richard

      Rove hates Perry and is already on the attack against him today. He is clearly not a backer of Perry. Whether that matters or not, I have no clue yet

      • cer

        Yup, Perry was not and is not a part of the Rove machine, hence why Perry has been putting together a financial machine that is not dependent upon Crossroads. He is, no doubt, a talented politician but like Romney he has plenty of enemies inside the party.

      • rj

        Yes, I saw that. What I was referring to is the no-holds-barred school of politics that they both came of. Rove doesn’t want another O’Donnell, esp. not for president. Would he support Perry against O with all Crossroads dough he has. I’m guessing he would. The interesting point is that Rove something about hoping that this wasn’t the first of series of gaffes by Perry. There is a good Texas Monthly article circulating the blogs (sorry, I don’t have a link handy) about how good a candidate Perry has been in Texas. Big point: he stayed on message and didn’t shoot his mouth off and pretty much stayed out of debates if he could. Let’s hope that discipline gets lost on the national stage and he turns into a total loon. I wouldn’t count on it though.

    • Ed

      And Obama, he’s somewhere in the mid-west on a bus tour talking about the all important balanced approach.

      “I make no apologies for being reasonable.” That’s telling them.

      • I have rule of thumb: if you spend a large amount of your day on political blogs, and you think that the message you want to hear from a politician is the message most voters want to hear, you are almost certainly wrong.

        The description of Obama as “post-partisan” was one of the biggest gifts he got in the 2008 election.

        • Ed

          I like “almost certainly.”

          It’s still very early, but right now he looks and sounds ineffectual, and the Deathmobile isn’t helping. It is possible that as election season wears on that the Last Reasonable Man posturing will work, which is what the White House seems to be banking on. However, you can’t always depend on conservatives to foam at the mouth and disqualify themselves.

          (I’m reminded of the Alito hearings, where the Democrats seemed to sit there hoping that Alito would bare his vampire fangs and reveal himself as a nutso reactionary, and when he wouldn’t do their job for them they were stymied.)

    • John

      Perry hasn’t won the nomination yet.

  • If I were David Plouffe, I would be gleeful at the thought of a right-wing southern governor who’s spoken favorably about secession running against the first black president. It’s great hook on which charges of extremism can hang.

    Think about the extra dimension that something like “Do we want to go back to the failed policies of the past?” takes on when used against Rick Perry, that wouldn’t be there if used against a corporatist northeastern moderate or a midwestern Jesus freak. Rick Perry isn’t exactly looking to lead us into that bright future.

    • DivGuy

      I think it’s highly likely, at this point, that Rick Perry will be a relatively weak general election candidate. The social security thing alone seals it, the disturbing Bushlikeness is just another point on top of that.

      The problem is, there are a lot of elections that a weak candidate can win. If we get one of those, I’d much rather see Mittens at the top of the ticket than Perry. So, Plouffe may be rubbing his hands together in glee, but I ain’t.

  • Boudleaux

    Yeah. If “he’s a Connecticut Texas gambler gambling it all on Saddam” could and would be sold by the media as a positive trait . . .

    And if the media diligently failed to point out that, not only was he gambling with other people’s lives and money and nothing of his own, but that he LOST his rootin’-tootin’ gamble . . .

    Nothing will surprise me.

  • c u n d gulag

    Here’s a purported Republican from Texas who’s not at all happy with Perry.

    Some stuff about strippers, adultery, a hint at coke use, and other salacious stuff.


    I’m not sure how true any of this is, but it was sure fun to read!!!

    • efgoldman

      It would, of course, be absolutely and totally irresponsible not to speculate…

      • c u n d gulag

        How can we not?

  • efgoldman

    The book.
    Plouffe and Daley and the gang have already taken it apart.
    And yes, i understand the MSM and the GOBP will screech and whine about the unfairness of actually using Perry’s real, published words (not mention, a video trove) against him, but hey, fuckem if they can’t take a joke.

  • R. Porrofatto

    it may be decades before the United States can recover.

    I felt exactly the same when Reagan was elected, and it hasn’t happened yet, and, in an era when Reagan is beginning to look like a moderate, the current prospects are even worse. (Let’s not forget that the recent Republican candidate for governor of the 3rd largest state in the union was Carl fucking Paladino.) Now that GOP policies percolate from the sewers of right-wing radio and Fox, and Limbaugh and the Koch brothers are the GOP’s kingmakers, I don’t expect things to ever improve in my lifetime. Of course, if “low-information” (more like low-real-information”) voters turn out to be not as ignorant as they appear, Republicans may not win another Presidency in a decade for all the same reasons. Ha ha. I kid.

  • Jamie Mayerfeld

    Splendid piece.

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  • Some Guy

    I’ll refuse to vote for Perry simply based on that he looks almost identical to Tom Zarek.
    There’s crazy in them thar eyes.

    • ajay

      Good grief. That’s uncanny.

      I’d only just got over Joe Biden looking like an older version of Mayor Richard Wilkins.

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    • Malaclypse

      Yes, but you lot capitalize advertising, so there is just no telling the depths you will plumb.

  • Perry is as well a lot like Bush to win a basic election.
    Don’t forget Reagan vs Mondale.
    Reagan had an unemployment issue at the same time, not really as negative but nonetheless a problem.
    Mondale was Carter2.0.
    What happened?

    Just because Americans are unhappy with Obama doesn’t mean they would want Bush again.
    The only candidate Perry is far better than is Romney.
    The rest are lesser acknowledged but Far much better.

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