You heard it first here.
Not that it’s a slam dunk that Perry will get nominated; or elected; but if he does it’s a sure thing that the leftosphere will go to war with a vehemence making Bush-bashing seem like patty-cake.
In other words, here we go again.
Romney might not be their cup of tea, but wouldn’t push the left’s buttons like Rick Perry, waving a red flag in a bull’s face. Romney might be the choice for sober-minded Republicans. But Republicans don’t seem very sober-minded these days; they too are acting like that provoked bull. Throwing GOP primary voters steaming hunks of red meat, Perry might very well bulldoze Romney.
Bachmann also throws red meat, but you know how women throw. (Bad sexist joke.) But seriously, Perry is just a bigger personality (with a plumper resume to boot), against whom I don’t think Bachmann can really hold her own either. Republicans might enjoy a dalliance with her; but Rick Perry is the stuff of serious romance.
Sarah Palin? There is such a thing as a tease too long. Her moment, if it was one, has probably passed.
We’re told the White House is licking its lips at the prospect of Perry as the GOP nominee. They should think again. From their lah-di-dah liberal perspective, Perry is an impossible buffoon who they can’t imagine winning. But remember how George W. Bush was misunderestimated. While Romney might seem more plausible as presidential timber, he does have personal quirks that could be played up to make him seem not-a-regular-guy (a la John Kerry 2004). We’re also told that, deeming it impossible to win on his economic record, the Obama camp has been gearing up for a campaign of character assassination against Romney. No doubt they’d do likewise with Perry. But I suspect it would be much less successful, because, love him or loathe him, Perry is authentically what he is, and many voters are apt to perceive him as the strong leader type that Obama so glaringly is not. Perry’s music is likely more important than his lyrics.
Moreover, if the Republicans wind up with Romney, it will for them be like swallowing Castor Oil; if Perry, a heart-throbbing stampede. The right will mount their warhorses energized; the left, dispirited. As Tolstoy showed in War and Peace, battles tend to be won by whichever army is the more motivated.
So, given the black economic picture, Obama’s well-deserved image as a cerebral nice guy but a weak noodle, and the disenchantment of so many who voted for him in 2008, the prospect of a Perry presidency is no chimaera.
And it sends me to the slough of despond.
Actually, on the issues – those that really matter (fortunately, whether evolution is a “mere theory” is not something over which a president has any control) – my views are probably closer to Perry’s than Obama’s. But after the Clinton wars, and the Bush wars, we elected Obama in hopes of a respite, enabling our bloodied body politic to mend its wounds. Alas, it was not to be (and I give much blame to Obama). Today our body politic is as battered as ever, and a Perry presidency would surely mean, if anything, even further escalation of the partisan warfare.
Our governmental dysfunction is very much a consequence of this intractable partisan divide. For most of U.S. history, for long stretches a single party was strongly dominant, with the opposition largely irrelevant and quiescent. Bitter partisanship was not engaged in because, basically, it would not have paid. That has changed in recent decades, with the two sides closely divided, each party having its sizeable core of true believers (the divide exacerbated by the culling of moderates from both parties, partly due to ever more adept gerrymandering) and fighting in each election to (temporarily) sway the confused voters in the middle. In that political landscape, scrabbling for every iota of partisan advantage can pay. Especially with the stakes so high nowadays, with government so much more powerful, controlling so many more dollars and jobs, than in past epochs.
While most Americans decry this state of affairs, they obviously, in effect, if unwittingly, support it with their votes. Talk about a third party is usually just empty air. But, while there are mountainous obstacles, I actually think the situation is now ripe for the right kind of third party presidential candidacy. Ross Perot might actually have done it in ’92 if his erratic behavior hadn’t blown it; even so, he still got 19% of the vote. I believe a Perot type candidacy – but possessing the gravitas that Perot flubbed (i.e. not Trump) – could potentially be very serious in 2012. Bill Gates? (Romney, freed from having to pander to GOP crazies, might actually have been better off taking this route. Too late now.)
However, given the difficulties faced by a president with a support base in only one of the two main parties, how well would a president fare with support from neither?
The only candidate who actually sounds reasonable is Jon Huntsman. Judging by the polls, there must be, oh, four or five other people out there who agree with me. (And two of them are his wife and kid.)
My chief source of optimism is that America is still a country where what individuals do, on their own, matters more than what government does.
[For the literary minded: how many metaphors and similes can you spot in this piece?]