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I have spent some time in 2011 working to advance conservative principles, and with respect to the Presidential election, advancing candidates who promote the ideas of conservatism.
In early spring, I was inspired by Herman Cain’s simple message of smaller, simpler government and bringing real-world solutions to Washington, D.C. I resolved to join his early grassroots movement here in Iowa to promote his candidacy for President.
By early summer, Herman Cain’s campaign was sputtering with a severe lack of message control. Sadly, it appeared that Herman Cain lacked either the political skill or the management qualities it required to adequately oversee a political campaign.
I found a new home for conservative activism with the candidacy of Michele Bachmann. My family attended Michele’s campaign kickoff in Waterloo, Iowa and thoroughly enjoyed her clear message on the conservative view of government, and a warm personal style. In August I agreed to volunteer for Michele Bachmann at the Iowa GOP Ames Straw Poll. I wrote a little about that experience here. It was exciting to spend that time on a beautiful day in Iowa, witness democracy in action among many conservative brethren, and have it end in “victory” late in the day.
Sadly, it was all downhill from there for Michele Bachmann’s campaign. Increasingly she looked less presidential and simply not ready to mount a serious national campaign. As Michele continued to roll out her conservative platform, I heard few specific ideas or proposals for changing the culture of government. My interest was always to raise conservative voices, and Michele’s voice was disappointing. I am glad to have Michele Bachmann serve in government, but I believe the office of President isn’t for her right now.
Between late September and early November, I didn’t have a particular home for my efforts. I did spend more time for Herman Cain for a few weeks, but left again when the old habits of message control resurfaced. As someone observed on Erick Erickson’s radio show, if a particular draw for Herman Cain is his skill in business management and the people he puts around him, how can I support him when the people around his campaign messaging appeared so inept? I was relieved when Herman Cain finally suspended his campaign, because frankly it felt like someone was finally putting it out of our misery.
I spent several weeks researching and reflecting upon who I would finally support for the stretch run to the Iowa caucuses. My criteria were simple:
As you might imagine, every major candidate addresses these principles to varying degrees. It has been lamented that there is “no perfect candidate” and while I suppose that is true, as I look back over elections at least through Ronald Reagan in 1980, I don’t think this is an honest standard with which to judge a candidate. In some ways, even Ronald Reagan could not have fully met this standard of “perfection” in 1980.
So like everyone else I was left to consider each candidate on their merits, and assign my own weighting system upon how they stack up against the value system that I hold dear.
For the 2012 election, I support Governor Rick Perry.
Some might be surprised to see my support of Rick Perry, as this spring I wrote a highly critical post about Rick Perry’s bona fides on conservative principles.
One of my chief issues in that post was his decision to issue an executive order mandating a particular vaccine for young children. In Rick Perry’s first days on the campaign trail, he flatly apologized for that mistake in judgment. The entire text of that apology and my remarks can be found as an update at the end of that post.
Weighing all the candidates again, I found that Governor Rick Perry has the best balance of record and performance upon all the issues I described above.
Rick Perry has been a longtime advocate of federalism, state’s rights through the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, and republican government. In Rick Perry’s campaign kickoff, he proclaimed that the virtue of his presidential campaign would be to “make the federal government as insignificant in your life as possible.” This is unabashed conservatism. It is a foundational principle of our nation’s founding and of the Republican Party that the government which governs least governs best. Further, we maintain the government closest to the individual will always be most responsive to the needs and wishes of the individual.
If you listen to any speech or text from Rick Perry, you cannot walk away without hearing something about how government power comes from the people up, not from the government down. Rights are not bestowed upon us by a central government, but rather each citizen in the United States is a sovereign individual who grants limited power to the government to ensure a civil society. Rick Perry’s ideals are right on point.
Furthermore, Rick Perry is a rare politician who understands and keeps the word servant relevant to his role as a public servant. That ideal can be seen right in his public apology for the executive order, and through to his idea that we should press for our legislative representatives to spend less time in Washington, D.C. and hopefully more time living within their districts under the laws that they create.
Rick Perry’s plan to end the Departments of Education, Energy, and Commerce and remand this spending and these responsibilities back to the several States is right on point in my book.
This is somewhat related to my first ideal, but more specific to economics and the principle of private property.
Rick Perry firmly and dependably professes a strong belief in the central government doing as little in the marketplace as possible to “pick winners and losers.” I respect that he comes to Iowa and openly supports ending subsidies for corn ethanol (as much as a canard as that tends to be), but he does so by proclaiming that all such subsidies from the federal government should stop. In the name of republican government, states should be free to subsidize a particular activity as they see fit, but the role of the federal government should begin and end with keeping the market open and free. Wonderful.
Another example: Rick Perry plans to end or dramatically reduce the EPA and remand more of these responsibilities to the states. Once again, I find this not to be red meat for conservatives but right on point in federalism. While everyone values clean air and water, today’s version of the EPA is ridiculously anti-development. We are no longer talking about the choice between development and clean air and water – we are talking about the law of diminishing returns. The greeenpeace types in the EPA do not understand that economic prosperity is also a friend to environmental stewardship. Poor people do not care for the environment. There must be a better balance struck between the value of commerce and the value of environmental concerns – and I believe the best judgments can be made by the governments closest to their constituents.
As for the scoreboard, Rick Perry’s support for low taxes, reasonable regulations, a predictable civil litigation system and an educated workforce has produced a business climate consistently ranked among the best in the nation. This is the definition of “good government” and we desperately need more of that in Washington, D.C.
One might say, “talk is cheap”. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to stand in front of a camera or a group of people and say words that make you sound conservative. Even Barack Obama can do that.
Rather we need someone who walks the conservative walk as much as they like to talk the conservative talk during an election campaign.
Rick Perry has never been confused about whether or not a central government can choose your medical care insurance better than you can. I am certain you would never find Rick Perry on a couch with Nancy Pelosi, or confused about government’s role in “global warming” like Newt Gingrich. I’m also certain you’d never find tape of Rick Perry proclaiming he is “very proud of his earmarks” and endorsing moderates and Washington elites over purebred conservatives, like Rick Santorum.
Rick Perry has led the charge in Texas to maintain limited, relatively small government. The people of Texas and its business climate have flourished as a result.
Rick Perry has also been a staunch advocate of pro-life ideals. One accomplishment along those lines is to cut state funding in Texas for Planned Parenthood. No person in this race is more pro-life than Rick Perry.
Rick Perry is the only Texas governor to cut state spending since World War II. Today, the citizens of his state enjoy the second lowest government debt burden per capita in America.
Rick Perry’s plan to push for an amendment to the Constitution to limit federal spending to 18% of GDP (which correlates to a decades-long average of government revenue) along with several proposals to simplify the tax codes is dramatically pro-business, pro-growth, and conservative to the core.
To be frank, none of the above positions matter if the candidate ultimately cannot win the nomination, or even the election. This can be one of the most contentious qualifications for supporting a candidate. For some it might seem as reasonable pragmatism, yet for others it might seem like settling for less than your ideal candidate because of ‘what other people think’.
As a result each person applies this rule differently in their level of pragmatism. I have a friend who I believe is a supporter of Mitt Romney primarily due to this principle. I suspect a healthy portion of “Romney supporters” are in that camp primarily because they believe he is ‘most electable’ out of the bunch, for various reasons.
However I apply this reasoning to give the final award to Rick Perry, because unlike ALL the other candidates Rick Perry has a stellar record of winning elections and governing as a conservative.
Going back to Mitt Romney for comparison, it’s funny that he bears the brand of “most electable” when his record running for public office is FIVE wins in twenty-two tries. Conversely, Rick Perry has not lost any of the races he’s entered for public office. He has served Texas in the state legislature, Agricultural commissioner, Lieutenant Governor (separately elected from Governor in Texas), and finally winning the race for Governor three times. While some might discount Perry’s record in “Republican-friendly Texas”, you must also take note that even the primary races for Governor were hotly contested. In the most recent primary, Governor Perry defeated longtime Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (who had the clear backing of Washington-connected Republicans) to reclaim the Republican nomination. Over and over through the public service career of Rick Perry, political pundits have discounted his electoral chances – but Rick Perry keeps winning elections.
Some might discount Rick Perry on the point of electability because he’s had his share of gaffes during the early debates. Some even fear that he would lose the general election because they fear Perry’s ability to handle Barack Obama in a debate. First – what could Barack Obama say in comparison to Rick Perry’s record of governing Texas to creating ONE MILLION net jobs? If it were not for Rick Perry’s Texas, Barack Obama’s record on jobs would be even worse than it is today! Since Barack Obama has become President, the total size of the American workforce has declined by millions of people as they have given up looking for work in Barack Obama’s economy. The people and businesses who are willing to move – they move to Texas to find prosperity. Economic freedom and liberty breed prosperity – and no candidate can sell that message better than Rick Perry, especially when he is on a stage with Barack Obama. Finally, Rick Perry has shown terrific wherewithal in the the last several GOP debates – and I think “America’s jobs governor” standing on the stage alone with Barack Obama will make the choice clear and obvious. This is a record that will sell itself, and Rick Perry has shown on the campaign trail and in office that he is absolutely qualified to sell this record convincingly to the American people.
Finally, as a longtime governor, Rick Perry has access to campaign resources and a healthy campaign structure that demonstrates he has a serious ability to mount a national campaign for President. Rick Perry can win this thing and he already has the tools that it takes to get there.
Governing a country is not about being slick in a debate. This is not American Idol – Presidential edition. I want a candidate who will govern as a conservative, and not merely be the “chief negotiator” with the statists (Republican and Democrat) in Washington, D.C. Many candidates claiming the conservative mantle, including Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, have their political knees buckle when the time comes to stick to conservative principles in tough situations. I don’t want the next president to have a record of leaving conservatives at the altar to “get the sure deal” like Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum have done. We need someone who will sell conservative principles and attract them to that position, as Ronald Reagan once did.
Rick Perry has a clear record of electoral and political achievement unlike any other candidate. As a result, his political record is one of achieving conservative results. While all the candidates in this race talk glowingly of their ideas to reshape Washington with their supposed conservative ideals, Rick Perry has been doing this very thing as Governor for the last 11 years in Texas. While other candidates like to talk the conservative talk, Governor Rick Perry has walked the conservative walk in Texas. Rick Perry knows what conservative government looks like, because he has been governing as a conservative. No other candidate can claim this record like Rick Perry can.
For these reasons, I will caucus for Rick Perry on January 3rd. Please join me!
Cross-posted at BA Cyclone’s blog.