Ross Douthat can’t be blamed for believing that his views are legitimate, but it is less reasonable for him to think it is the only view that is. He writes of Rick Perry:
Rick Perry has many of the qualities that Romney seems to lack: backbone, core convictions, a killer instinct and a primal understanding of the right-wing electorate. He also has the better story. Where Romney has to run away from his Massachusetts health care bill and downplay his years as a downsizing artist at Bain Capital, Perry can spend the campaign reminding voters that almost half of the new jobs in Obama’s presidency were created on his watch in Texas.
What Perry doesn’t have, though, is the kind of moderate facade that Americans look for in their presidents. He’s the conservative id made flesh, with none of the postpartisan/uniter-not-a-divider spirit that successful national politicians usually cultivate.
Imagine if the Democratic Party nominated a combination of Al Franken and Nancy Pelosi for the presidency, and you have a sense of the kind of gamble Republicans would be taking with Perry. And even if that gamble worked, little in his record suggests that he’s prepared to preside over a polarized country, or negotiate his way through a divided Washington.
Well maybe the Democratic Party already did nominate exactly the combination of Franken and Pelosi in 2008 and his name was Barack Obama. And maybe the electorate want more — of everything a combination o Al Franken and Nancy Pelosi are not.
The President’s recent collapse in the public opinion polls have prompted pieces on what changed to transform him from what Newsweek called “some sort of god” to a man tipped to beat Jimmy Carter for the title of worst President of the United States. But as Norman Podhoretz wrote in the Wall Street Journal, nothing changed. “What happened to Obama? Absolutely nothing. He is still the same anti-American leftist he was before becoming our president.”
The contents were exactly as described on the packaging, except that nobody believed anyone would have the effrontery to package what the label said. Now they’re reading the label and saying, “well, yeah”.
Obama was probably further from the Douthat’s imagined center far more than Perry will ever be, and with a bad job creation record he’s compiled to boot. He is extremist incompetence, unable to deliver for the Left and unwilling to deliver for anyone else. Yet despite the fact that Perry’s been in politics and returned to office longer than many people have been alive, the objection to him will probably be “legitimacy”. One could argue that being elected to the Presidency will legitimize Perry as much as it did Obama, because that’s the way elective democracies are supposed to work, but maybe not. The rules are different between Left and Right.
As Barton Hinkle rhetorically put it: what does much of the media call Tea Party members who gather peacefully to ask for lower taxes and pick up their litter aftewards? Why “terrorists”. But what does the same punditry call people who burn down the Sony warehouse in London, torch shops, wreck cars, trash homes, run down Muslims, loot children’s hospitals, beat up visiting foreign students and bludgeon old men to death? Why “protesters”. See? The standards are different, hence Douthat’s definitions are too. Properly understood, the London mayhem was ultimately the fault of people like Rick Perry.
“This is the uprising of the working class,” said a London anarchist taking a momentary break from smashing things last Monday. “We’re redistributing the wealth.” Said another, “[We’re showing] the rich we can do what we want.” …
The “deep cutbacks in social programs” made by the government of Prime Minister David Cameron “have hit the country’s poor especially hard,” reported a major U.S. newspaper, “including large numbers of the minority youths who have been at the forefront of the unrest.”
With a record like that, one he can’t help compiling simply by existing, no wonder Perry’s not the “postpartisan/uniter-not-a-divider” Douthat’s looking for. He’s the “ex-Air Force-Texan-what-else-is-there-to-add” sort of guy. And you can’t go any lower than that.
It isn’t that Perry goes around calling on people to get into other’s faces. It isn’t that he wants to take more of your money away from you. It isn’t that he’s no longer electable because he’s wrecked the job market for minorities. That’s what Barack Obama does. Even Douthat doesn’t accuse Perry of disemploying hispanics — of which there are many in Texas. It’s that his politics are wrong and therefore Perry will forever be unacceptable to persons from a certain point of view.
That is certainly a legitimate viewpoint. But it’s not the only one. Perry, like every other politician, will have his real defects; he will have issues that should be explored. But being somewhere to the right of unelectable isn’t one them. The cardinal error of the Left is to think, or perhaps better said to imagine, that they were always on the correct side of history. Yet history has its own point of view and the future its own trajectory. It will get there whether the Left likes it or not. If they don’t mind events happening so.
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