Tuesday's 'Debate' Means Nothing — Perry's Pluses Are Still Undeniable
Can we even call what went down at Dartmouth last night a debate? Not in my book. But even so, the word is out that Governor Rick Perry is dead in the water after last night’s “debate” and the reason is that he is a rotten “debater” and can’t translate the Texas economic miracle into greater American lingo-ese.
Perry couldn’t win American Idol, that’s for sure.
But I still think writing off the governor of the most successful state in the union is a mistake Americans might not be able to afford at this point.
I’m old school when it comes to judging a candidate for president. Oh, I find myself getting all emotional and weak at the knees occasionally when I hear a booming speech or a tidbit of soaring, heartfelt oratory. I am, after all, female. But when it comes down to punching that ballot, I’m a real pragmatist looking for a proven track record in a sizable government of a state I admire.
And the more I read these days, Perry’s pluses are still undeniable – in spite of his falling poll numbers. Even if I take two points off Perry’s score for that Texas swagger and another five points for the debates and another ten for the sum of things he’s done against the perfectly conservative creed, that man still comes off looking like a president.
I’m forced to add in a bonus score for Perry due to the fact that by now Americans in the other 49 states are downright desperate for some Texas-brand prosperity.
And no matter how one chooses to slice, dice, or puree Perry’s record, one does not become the longest-serving governor of the second largest and most populous state in the union by happenstance. Perry isn’t the only Texan responsible for the Texas economic “miracle,” but to deny him a large chunk of the credit for such exemplary success in such extraordinarily bad times seems quite stupid.
The evidence of Perry’s economic prowess is clearly on display every time another analyst compares the liberal-utopian state, California, to the conservative-crown-jewel, Texas. California, once the ubiquitously acknowledged “Golden State,” has become the most tarnished bit of junk metal in the entire country. Meanwhile, Texas creates more economic gold for all her citizens every time the conservative legislature and their polished-cowboy governor put their heads together.
At this precipitous moment in history, California’s Marxist-utopia sinks daily into the sandpit of fiddle-playing frivolity, while Texans try to figure out how to expand their ever-growing largess and protect their success from the strong-arm of the insatiable federal government.
Mark Hemingway, writing for the Washington Times earlier this year, did a five-part series comparing and contrasting the two largest state economies in the U.S.: California and Texas. Hemingway contends – and anyone with an ounce of Econ 101 common sense would agree – that California and Texas cogently demonstrate the devastating economic results of over-regulation and public-purse profligacy vs. the prosperity of the low-tax, more minimally regulating, frugal small government.
Noting that in most of the salient particulars -- diverse economies, large urban areas, a border with Mexico, and similar demographic make-up, with Hispanics a third of the population – California and Texas are almost identical, Hemingway then goes to meticulous analysis of the vast differences in terms of quality of life, economic opportunity, and prosperity between the two.
California is facing budget shortfalls in excess of $20 billion each year for the next five years, and acquires $25 million in new debt each day. “We’ve been living in fantasy land. It is much worse than I thought. I’m shocked,” then California Gov.-elect Jerry Brown, D, told the Los Angeles Times.
By contrast, when Perry, R-Texas, campaigned successfully for a third term this year, he ran ads touting the fact that his state has billions in surplus. In fact, Texas was one of only six states that did not run a budget deficit in 2009.
Businessman and former presidential contender Steve Forbes seems to think the way I do about Perry. Forbes appeared on the Daily Ticker September 20 and was asked to handicap the race. “I think at the end of the day, Perry will win the nomination. And I think he’ll win the election,” Forbes said. At that time, Perry was leading the field and enthusiasm for his candidacy was running high, but many columns had already been written attacking Perry’s Christian faith, his short-lived HPV vaccine mandate, and his maneuvers to get businesses to bring their jobs to Texas. Perry had yet to bomb a debate performance with his extreme stage anxiety. Nor had he badly expounded upon the Texan way of dealing with the feds’ refusal to enforce immigration law at border-state expense.
Nevertheless, Forbes is no economic rookie without a clue as to a candidate’s performance record and Perry’s record was the focus of Forbes’ support:
Interviewer: Perry obviously appeals to the far-right. There’s a lot of religion and everything else involved with that. Will he get enough independent voters to get elected?
Forbes: I think so. Partly because of his record as governor which was a very pragmatic but pro-growth record, real TORT reform that sent all the trial lawyers into Okalhoma with the reforms he put in, avoided tax increases and things like that…Perry’s criticism of the Federal Reserve is right on. He’s for tax simplification and certainly no blowout on spending. So, in terms of the issues that matter most to people, he’s going to be a winner.
There’s no word that I can find today of Forbes formally endorsing Perry, but in spite of poor “debate” performances and vicious attacks on his phrasing by other candidates, nothing in the governor's record has changed one iota since the day Forbes issues these remarks.
Texas is more than an economic laboratory for the nation; it’s also a racial diversity laboratory. The state of Texas 2010 census data show that non-Hispanic whites make up only 45.3% of the Texas population and that Hispanics of any race make up 37.6%, with blacks at 11.8%. The largest reported ancestry group in Texas is Mexican, with 25.3% of citizens claiming Mexico as their family-tree root.
It simply cannot be denied that the United States is in a state of racial demographics change that will have a far-reaching electoral impact. The Republican Party has lagged in its appeal to Hispanic voters, but Rick Perry has no such problem. Writing in this month’s Newsmax magazine, author John Fund reported that Perry “has a track record of successfully appealing to Hispanics.” In fact, according to Fund, exit polls in the 2010 Texas governor’s race showed that Perry won 38% of the Hispanic vote. Don’t Republicans want a candidate with cross-cultural appeal?
Perry did not accomplish this feat by being soft on illegal immigration, as has been charged by other Republican candidates and conservative pundits.
Yes, pragmatic Texans, under Perry's leadership, have allowed the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public universities in order to help educate, rather than punish, those children whose parents broke the law to get here. But, as Fund notes, Perry “opposed creating any easier path to citizenship for such children.” That “easier path to citizenship” would make it a “dream act,” but it’s no such thing. And it’s intellectually dishonest and opportunistic for rival candidates to tar Perry with that easy-on-illegals brush.
Perry has also taken a valiant stand to ban sanctuary cities, where local officials refuse to enforce federal immigration laws. I, for one, applaud Perry and the state of Texas for their pragmatic approach to the nemesis of border control in a fashion that does not completely alienate more than a third of its citizenry.
All in all, perhaps Perry’s candidacy cannot recover from what everybody who is anybody has deemed his horrible “debate” performances. But if that’s the case, then America may be a lost cause. If civics has so completely succumbed to sound-bite gotcha fests that the only thing that matters in elections is how one does in American Idol politicking, then there’s no point in establishing a real record of governance or in business or anything else for that matter.
It seems to me that this over-reliance on podium-speak and media-blitz and branding claptrap is what got us our President Obama.
A man’s record ought to speak louder than words. The only question now with Rick Perry’s candidacy is, will his record speak up for him? Or not?