This has been one of the hardest political seasons of my entire 40+ years of living. I remember being in my 20s before getting truly enthralled by the process. The first election I recall voting in was the 1992 election, that saw Ross Perot act as spoiler, receiving about 19% of the popular vote – just enough to end George H.W. Bush’s reelection campaign and hand the presidency over to Bill Clinton. This was back when there wasn’t really anything like reality TV, unless you count Phil Donahue and afternoon game shows.

While that was a testy election season, the current political morass, led by the orange-hued Donald J. Trump, has long since surpassed testy and entered into new territory. This isn’t just political infighting. It isn’t even a lively or heated contest, so much as it resembles the plot for some B-movie script, “Dances with Dullards.” Trump has successfully hijacked the Republican platform, stripped away everything that made the conservative movement the last, great hope for saving our republic, and revealed the ugliest, most reckless, ignorant, angry, and racist factions of our society. These troglodytes that make up the Trump base emerged from their sewage-infested holes and audaciously proclaimed themselves to be the new and true conservative base. They’re the actual Republicans, while anyone who dares question the motives or brings up the very liberal record of their leader is labeled, “RiNO,” “establishment,” or “cuckservative.” That last, lovely title is meant to indicate men who stand back and watch meekly, as minorities ravage their women. It’s their way of saying the traditional GOP is betraying the white race. They don’t want inclusion. That makes it all the more bizarre to see some minorities supporting Trump (though the number is small). It’s not surprising that men like David Duke, former KKK Grand Wizard, endorse Trump and say a vote against Trump is a vote against European heritage. I guess the thought that maybe it’s a vote against an authoritarian fascist doesn’t factor into Duke’s way of thinking.

While the Democrats sail along, batting beach balls back and forth between Sanders and Hillary, as they wait for Hillary’s inevitable coronation, the GOP has descended into chaos. What began with so much promise, with so many strong, conservative options to choose from, was swiftly and irrevocably derailed by one, obnoxious, thin-skinned, gilded toad. I won’t speculate on the thought process behind everyone who decided to climb into the Republican clown car. We had 17 candidates vying for the top spot. The field was so vast, debates had to be split into two time slots, as it would be impossible to have any sort of substantive debate with that many on at once. The swift rise of Trump, however, made any attempts at substantive debate an exercise in futility, from the start. He conducted every debate like a pro wrestling intro, and his acolytes adored him for it. All that was missing were the folding chairs being slammed across somebody’s back, to punctuate his otherwise incoherent statements. If you’re the kind of person who takes elections seriously enough to vet the candidates, watch the debates, weigh what’s being said, consider policy, then this has been maddening for you. If you’re a Trump fan, vetting consists of having watched every episode of “Celebrity Apprentice” and policy stances are fluid.

The media has been complicit in building this monster, caring more for their ratings than the well-being of our nation. Those outlets once considered to be conservative-friendly have proven to be huge disappointments in regards to their approach to Trump and his raging idiocy. He’s good for ratings, so who cares if the world burns down around us? After Trump’s recent win in Nevada, he made one of his near-daily calls into Fox & Friends, thanking them for being with him from the beginning. The hosts demurred, nodding and congratulating him, repeatedly. Sean Hannity has nightly, on-air worship sessions for Trump, to the point that an intervention may well be overdue.

There’s no way to stress this strongly enough: Trump is dangerous to the Republican party, to the conservative movement, and to our nation, as a whole. No good can come of allowing this man and his garbled vision of government to grow and fester, but who is going to stop him, and why didn’t anyone do anything about him from the beginning?

Well, someone tried.

Former Texas governor, Rick Perry, from the very beginning called out Trump as the cancer he was. Following his philosophy of doing the right thing and risking the consequences, Perry made some of the most mature, powerful speeches, calling out this pox on our party and giving grave warnings about what would happen, were he allowed to take root and grow. While there were the occasional murmurings from other candidates, no one took as forceful of a stance as Governor Perry. No one had his back, either. The same ones hitting Trump now were largely silent, as Perry took on the monster by himself.

Perry’s campaign faltered, due largely to the indictment out of Travis County, Texas that loomed ahead of him. It hobbled his usual ability to raise funds, as donors were reticent to pour into a candidate’s coffers who might soon find himself behind bars. Everyone knew the charges were bogus and nothing short of political revenge-play, but they had the desired effect and rather than cling to his own ambitions, Perry did what Perry does. He manned up. He gave one of the most gracious and powerful exit speeches you will ever hear, touting the hope and promise of the conservative movement, our nation’s exceptionalism, and a final warning to stand against the threat of Trumpism. He was the first one out of the race, even though no other in the running could come close to matching his experience in successful leadership, or his conservative credentials. Of course Trump took credit for Perry’s exit, but like everything else Trump says, it was largely bluster, with only a passing acquaintance with truth.

What Could Be?

The interesting, if not enraging events in Perry’s case saw his hearing happen in November of 2015, but the decision did not come until Wednesday of this week. We can speculate on why it took three months for a decision to come out of liberal Travis County, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume there were those who wanted to hold up any release until it was too late for the governor to reenter the race. For those of us who have long admired Governor Perry and saw his exit from the race as an absolute disgrace to the process, the decision that cleared Perry’s name, at long last, was bittersweet. He is a living icon of conservatism, and he deserved far better treatment from the legal system and his party.

Perry never completely faded from view after stepping aside. He has kept active, even stepping forward to endorse Ted Cruz in this race that has fallen under the heels of Trump and his raging stalwarts. Though Cruz wasn’t there to help Perry against Trump before he suspended, it’s not a surprise to see Perry still doing the right thing, and firmly focused on preserving the conservative movement.

With the vote still hopelessly split, the specter of a Trump candidacy has caused this sick feeling in the gut of everyone who values sane, rational governance, and our freedoms. What are our options? Erick Erickson, formerly the boss of Red State, and now doing his thing with The Resurgent, offered up this bright gem of hope: If Trump is the nominee, he would gladly support Perry as a 3rd party candidate. I’m with Erick. If Trump is the new face of the GOP, then it may be time to cut bait and bail for saner territory, which could very well be found in a Perry 3rd party run. He’s no Ross Perot. He’s a tested, steady, conservative hand, and many have missed his maturity in the middle of this process, since he stepped aside. He would easily take those 65 to 70% of Republican voters who are repulsed by Trump. The remaining Trump votes aren’t guaranteed, as he grows increasingly irrational and weak, not to mention the fact that a considerable portion of his support have been Democrats that will not be there in the general election.

The question remains, would Perry consider a 3rd party run? Interestingly enough, he was asked that on Thursday night, after the GOP debate in Texas.

He didn’t say no.

What he did say was that should the votes remain split, and no one get the requisite amount of delegates, leading to a brokered convention, then it was a whole, new ballgame for everyone. It was hard to miss the sly smile that said something, even as his words said little.

It’s truly disappointing that there are those who wouldn’t stand with Perry when he took a David vs. Goliath stance against Trump early on. It’s disappointing that his successful tenure as governor of Texas and common sense conservatism wasn’t enough to get more attention from the punditry than Trump’s reality TV candidacy. Many have slowly awoken, faced with the impending disaster of a Trump primary sweep, and are missing the calm, steady hand of Rick Perry in this race. Sometimes we really don’t know what we’ve got, until it’s gone. To those people, I would encourage you to hang on. This has been a campaign season full of oddities. We just may see a cowboy ride in to save the day, yet.