Rick Perry vs. Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Here’s an statistic worth pondering: 45 percent of net U.S. job creation in the last two years comes from Texas.

Yes, Texas: the state that is the poster child for right-wingery, the state with no state income tax whose population is growing at about 1000 per day (see a connection?) while bankrupt behemoths like California are bleeding jobs and people.

There are a handful of other places in the U.S. where job creation is rife.  One of them is Washington, D.C., where an exploding government bureaucracy has also led to the creation of many jobs.

Many public-sector, i.e., tax-payer-funded jobs, that is.  The jobs in Texas are overwhelmingly private-sector, i.e., wealth-creating jobs.

I mention this by way of introduction to my main point, which is to highlight something Texas Governor Rick Perry said in a recent speech in New Orleans. Addressing a friendly crowd, the governor urged listeners to “stop apologizing” for their efforts to overturn the “entitlement mindset.” “Stand up” and be counted, he advised: “Our opponents on the left are never going to like us, so let’s stop trying to curry favor with them.”

MSNBC called it a “finger-pointing, finger-wagging, at times bombastic” speech, but if he takes his own advice, Governor Perry will bear up nicely under the obloquy.

We do not yet know whether Rick Perry will be running for president.  I hope he does.  He would inject a few red corpuscles into the mix.  And his acknowledgment that it is pointless, indeed counterproductive, for conservatives to cater to liberals accords with Dr. Kimball’s first rule of political strategy:

Conservatives do not win elections by pretending to be liberals.

It is a curious fact, well worth pondering, that the converse is not true: conservatives do not win elections by pretending to be liberals, but liberals often win elections by pretending to be conservatives.

Why should this be?  A full answer would take us into deep waters.  For the moment, I wish only to say a word or two about why Governor Perry’s prescription strikes such an air-clearing note.  MSNBC didn't like it, but as I read his words (“stop apologizing,” “Our opponents on the left are never going to like us, so let’s stop trying to curry favor with them”) I could practically hear the sighs of relief wafting off the page.  (Maybe I was just hearing my own sigh of relief.) “At last!,” I thought, “a politician with the guts to utter this home truth.”

Being liked is what politics in a democracy is all about.  (Well, it is part of what politics in a democracy is all about.) The problem is, as every adolescent knows, the promiscuous desire to be liked is a character flaw. There are all sorts of ways that a pretty girl can make herself popular. Only some of them are consistent with self-respect.

Something similar can be said of a life in politics. “Public service” is a phrase that covers a multitude of activities, only some of which are seemly. What was so refreshing about Governor Perry’s remarks was the spirit of disabused independence they communicated.