It was the strangest thing. Mortifying but illuminating. Like Paul on the road to Damascus, or Donald Trump suddenly realizing he’d been out-Americaned by Barack Obama. The truth struck me like lightning during the turbulent middle week of May. The week that was supposed to end in the Rapture. The week when Texas legislators decided, once and for all, that they were going to gut public schools, dismantle social services and damn the consequences. The week when Rush Limbaugh & Co. restarted the Perry for President bandwagon with a desperate vengeance.
My revelation? I want Rick Perry to run for president. Texas needs Rick Perry to run for president. It could be the only hope, I suddenly saw, for reclaiming this state from the plutocracy whose interests Perry has served with Machiavellian cunning. The only way that this shriveled husk of a human being would ever be put in his rightful place—the only way he’d be unmasked, once and for all, as a pernicious, corrupt and morally bankrupt politician.
Thus enlightened, I proceeded immediately to DraftPerry2012.com. As the site requested, I left email and voicemail messages for Gov. Perry, rooting him on. “If you care about America, if you care about Texas, you must run for president, you handsome devil,” I pleaded. “Unless you toss your hat in the ring, Governor Perry, our future will be one of endless pain, bottomless misery and, quite possibly, the end of democracy as we know it in Texas. Run, Rick, run!”
Lest you fret, dear reader, that I have taken complete leave of my senses, allow me to explain. Or, rather, permit me to ask you to close your eyes for a minute and meditate on this image: Rick Perry on a debate stage. National TV, scorching floodlights, scores of millions of viewers. Hair just so, Grecian Forumla’d to a lustrous black sheen. He is furrowing his brow, squinting in an effort to look Presidential, reminding himself: Try and not sound exactly like George W. The Yankees don’t like that. He is sporting his lucky pink tie. He is fidgety. He is rarin’ to go!
Across the stage, Barack Obama. Supremely confident. Gray-headed. Exuding cool rationality.
And now imagine the questions from the panel of reporters. George Will, George Stephanopolous, Anderson Cooper, Lady Gaga—doesn’t matter. It goes something like this:
“Governor Perry, you said before the campaign began that the single most important issue in 2012 was the Tenth Amendment. Do you honestly believe that the majority of Americans consider states’ rights a higher priority than improving health care or education or national security?”
“Governor Perry, you have hinged your campaign on your success in bringing jobs to the State of Texas. But during the period you boast about, your state added more minimum-wage jobs than the 49 other states combined. Texas now has more citizens living in poverty, more uninsured children and adults than any other state. Is that your vision for America?”
“As governor of Texas, Mr. Perry, you have doled out hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars, along with thousands of high-level government jobs and appointments, to your largest campaign contributors. As president, do you intend to continue this practice?”
Now, I fully understand that some nervous progressives might see more potential for disaster than schadenfreude if Perry runs for the White House. After all, didn’t Dubya win? Lord help us, yes. But Bush, as hard as it is to remember, ran on his moderately conservative and relatively respectable record as governor of Texas. In 2000, he offered a positive-sounding vision for better schools, the promise of a more “humble” foreign policy (!) and a “compassionate” version of Reaganism. Bogus, sure; dishonest, of course. But it wasn’t states’ rights. And Dubya, don’t forget, had the amazing good fortune to run against Al Gore and John Kerry.
If I haven’t yet convinced you to join Rush and me on the Draft Perry bandwagon, here’s one last thought to chew on. If Perry runs and loses, he would return to Texas with his aura of invincibility shattered. The 2013 Texas Legislature would not be under his mystical sway the way the 2011 Lege has been, to such disastrous effect. He would no longer be the magic man from Paint Creek who never lost an election; he would be the Mike Dukakis of Texas, exposed and rejected on the national stage. And if there’s one thing Texans don’t cotton to, it’s a loser. Perry for President, it appears, is the only force capable of souring Texans on their vacuous governor.