When the initial buzz about Rick Perry started getting louder and louder this summer, I asked a friend of mine, who is a longtime veteran of Republican politics, what I should expect from the Texas governor who was trying to become our party's next nominee for president. The response was quick and to the point: “Rick Perry is George Bush on crack, just wait.” So far, I don't necessarily agree that Rick Perry is George Bush on crack, but he could definitely be described as George Bush 2.0. He is also a phenomenon that has quickly attracted intense interest and high poll numbers that continue to climb (he is currently, in most polls, the Republican frontrunner). All of it, I quite frankly do not understand. I feel like a character in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” but instead of pointing out that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, I am pointing out that this person is in every way unelectable on a national scale.
Who exactly are we kidding here? Do we really think possibly nominating George Bush 2.0 is going to fly with independents in a post-Obama era? Why as Republicans are we are more concerned with retaining our moral high ground in picking a candidate who hits every qualification of a “true conservative” litmus test than thinking about the national stage of a general election? Why do we still, after all this time, and in all the ways that the world is changing, continue to put a politician front and center who has very little crossover appeal?
Many conservative bloggers and pundits accuse me and people like me of being bastard Republicans, the unwanted moderate Republicans within the party. As if being a moderate Republican is some kind of freak mutation from the original conservative design. Well, here’s a little reality check. We will need moderate Republicans, we will need independents, and we will need blue-dog Democrats to win 2012 and unseat Obama. There is no media strategist anywhere who would debate that fact. So why nominate someone who will only alienate the very people that will help get a Republican president back into office? I have never understood this and I never will.
The Republican debate this week is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Governor Perry. On his mandate that 11- and 12-year-old girls in the state of Texas be vaccinated for the human papilloma virus, there are already questions regarding campaign donations from Merck lobbyists to the governor's campaign. Among the litany of things that could be listed to showcase Perry’s extreme views, his comments that Social Security is nothing more than a “Ponzi scheme that cannot be sustained” is reactive. Most people can agree that Social Security needs reforming, but to compare Social Security to something that Bernie Madoff used to rip off the retirement funds of thousands of people is sensationalistic and inaccurate.
It’s as if Rick Perry is running a west Texas campaign on a national level. Yes, a west Texas campaign will get you attention and the support of right-wing Tea Partiers but will hurt nearly every other voter demographic. Last spring, Perry held a Texas prayer and fasting rally to pray for rain and has been quoted saying that “anyone that doesn’t accept Jesus as their savior is going to hell.” How well do we think this is going to play in the battleground state of Florida with its large Jewish population (or with anyone who isn’t a Christian)? These are just a few small examples of his polarization, and as the election season continues, I'm sure we'll see even more examples.
Rick Perry is not my candidate, Rick Perry has never been my candidate. Even what little scandal that has filtered out is enough to make me question his judgment and ethics as a politician. Republicans are already battling a double standard when it comes to media coverage. The media will microscopically analyze and crucify whomever we nominate far more intensely than any Democrat. We can’t afford to nominate someone who doesn’t retain mass crossover appeal or can’t survive under a media inquisition tidal wave that hasn’t even crested yet.
I spent almost two years trying to get my father elected president. The notion that we as a party are going to nominate the most conservative candidate simply to prove some kind of ideological point about extreme conservatism, instead of looking at the broader picture concerning the general election, is suicide. At some point, we are going to have to ask ourselves if this is about nominating a candidate who one small faction of the party thinks is right or about nominating the person who is going to bring us to the White House. Why choose to prove points within the party instead of concentrating on beating Obama? More than anything in my life right now, I want to see a Republican unseat Obama. I am scared of what will happen to this country if Obama is reelected, and I am equally scared about what will happen to my party if we nominate the wrong person. This is a fear that is common among the moderate faction of the party, and I just don’t know what kind of options we are going to be left with if the choice this next election cycle is Obama v. Perry 2012. I want Obama to be a one-term president, and nominating Rick Perry would guarantee that will not happen.