Given where I was working prior to joining the Pajamas Media/PJTV team, I need to get something out on the table so that readers may fairly evaluate my own review of the book at hand. As communications director of the Republican Party of Texas, until September of this year it was my job to help get Republicans like Gov. Rick Perry of Texas re-elected to office. Thanks to a variety of things, not least of which is Perry’s record in office, that task turned out to be easier than I or anyone else expected. He cruised to his third re-election on November 2 along with hundreds of fellow Republicans across the state and the country. So not only do I know Rick Perry personally to some extent, I’ve seen what his time in office has done to Texas, and both make me a supporter. Politicians are human and therefore none are perfect and all are bound to disappoint us at times, but Perry is a good man who has led Texas well over the years.
Rick Perry has been governor of Texas longer than anyone else, and has been in public life since he was a Democrat in the 1980s. It is usually at this point in a politician’s career that the book writing starts, so that by the time they leave office they have their tome more or less ready for the editors and agents and presses. But Perry is releasing his book, Fed Up!, on the heels of re-election to another four years in office and prior to the beginning of his third full term as Texas’ governor. It is also usually the case that a politician’s book amounts to either a memoir, replete with score-settling, record-stating, and decision-defending, or an epitaph to a political career. None of that describes Rick Perry’s book. And it’s usually the case that if an active politician handily wins re-election to one office and then embarks on a national tour to support a new book, those are signals that he has his eye on a higher office. I’m not sure whether in Perry’s case that’s true or not. He insists that being governor of Texas is the only job he wants. But as the conservative governor of the nation’s largest reliably conservative state, the times have made Perry the most natural foil and opponent of President Barack Obama and his “Progressive” agenda — and Perry takes that agenda apart piece by piece in Fed Up.
Fed Up! is by no means a partisan attack. Perry has no trouble taking on Republicans who strayed into destructive, government-empowering policies when it’s warranted. George W. Bush and Mitt Romney get taken to task, along with the Republican Congress that betrayed conservative principles from 2002 to 2006.
What readers will find here instead of the usual polemic, memoir, or autobiography is a book of ideas and history, along with a call to arms for other governors in both parties to step up and defend their states from Washington’s overreach. What Perry sets out to do in Fed Up! is explain the Founders’ vision of the relationship between the citizen, the states, and the federal government and how keeping each in balance is key to defending our liberty. Perry also explains in exhaustive detail how the current imbalance, particularly between the all-powerful federal government and the enfeebled states, is curtailing liberty and bankrupting the country. He zeroes in on the slow-motion failure of national statist policies like Social Security and the Great Society to explain how they have changed the relationship between the states and Washington, and not for the better. And he gives a timely and clear explanation for why the states still matter and how we can assert state sovereignty to rein in the leviathan federal government. As a governor whose state has been on the receiving end of several hostile federal actions since President Obama’s election, Perry is again uniquely qualified to take on these issues.
At the core of Fed Up! is an argument that the states still matter and are keys to personal liberty and national solvency, and to making real progress on the issues that confront us. Any book that deals with states’ rights is bound to stir up controversy given the historic uses and misuses of the idea, but Perry fails to fall into any of the usual traps even on this dicey issue. Perry describes the years leading up to the Civil War as a time when states’ rights were certainly being violated, but the states being violated in his telling were those in the North, via the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which was intended as a major compromise on slavery but forced Northerners to act against their conscience in treating slaves who had escaped from the South. Perry’s is an unusual and intriguing read on states’ rights. As a Southerner who is a fan of Lincoln and sympathetic to the Union’s cause, in my mind Perry’s take on states’ rights accomplishes two things: It redeems the principle of states’ rights from its least savory historic associations, and puts it to the service of patriots who truly love and defend freedom and want our national constitutional order restored in order to keep our country the strongest, most free, and the most prosperous in the world.
Fed Up! is certainly a timely book. The United States currently has the most ideological president in our history, and he has brought his “Progressive” vision and a slew of state-centered policies like his national health care plan to bear on Washington. As a result, our national debt has never been higher, and the debt and stagnation that have resulted from Obama’s policies will saddle our nation with debt for generations to come. Breakdown and bankruptcy are even possibilities if we continue on our current national trajectory. Citizens and states have also lost much of our liberty and power under the Obama Democrats’ two years in office. Among the four large states, New York, California, Texas, and Florida, two are controlled by “Progressive” politics and two have conservative governments in place, making them useful “laboratories of democracy.” The two “Progressive” states, California and New York, are suffering greatly from the recession and face bankruptcy, while the two conservative states, Texas and Florida, are solvent and have suffered comparably less from the national recession. Texas in particular has created about 80 percent of all the jobs created in the United States over the past decade. As the 10-year governor of Texas, Rick Perry is uniquely qualified to lay out his vision of what’s being done right and what’s being done wrong on both the state and national levels. Fed Up! is where he lays out that vision, with clarity and conviction.