He’s back, and he’s better.
I cannot hide my admiration for former Texas Governor Rick Perry. Everyone who knows me, along with my acquaintances on social media the last five years would identify me not merely by my name, but as “the Rick Perry guy.” I have never claimed he’s perfect, nor do I attribute flawless idealism. But you must recognize his place in American politics, conservative history and his value to the conservative argument in the 21st century. He is today’s Calvin Coolidge. But I didn’t always see it that way. In fact, it was a rocky start.
It started years ago, around 2005 – I despised Gov. Rick Perry.
ZERO TO HERO
In 2002, I was recovering from both the 9/11 tragedy that rocked – and changed – America, and my political “whew!” moment… a whimsical dip in the fanciful waters of third party politics. (I was Youth Coordinator for the Buchanan campaign, Reform Party) In my mind, George W Bush was the right wing of that proverbial “bird of prey,” and left behind a new Lt. Governor to take his place in Texas progressivism, Rick Perry. Peas in a pod, I believed.
Immediately, in June of 2001, Texas passed, and Perry signed in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants. A year later, the new governor proposed the most bold transportation proposal in American history, the $175 billion Trans-Texas Corridor. I revolted, criticized him and did my best, pre-Facebook/Twitter to convince others that this alleged “RINO” was stealing land, granting amnesty and ruining America! To top it off, in 2007 this cocky former Dem had the audacity to mandate an unknown vaccine to give to girls! I wasn’t happy.
But, in 2004 I married an east Texan girl, and between her family and the insistence of my friend Tanner, who had just moved to south Texas, I was encouraged to explore further and really prove my reason for hating his policies. I was also looking to move to the Austin/San Marcos area with my family, and this became an issue very close to me. If I was going to debate this, I couldn’t be wrong. So I dug in, for about two years.
I literally researched my way into liking Perry, and eventually supporting him as strongly as anyone.
In September of 2011, I wrote a piece describing my reasons for backing Perry. At the time, we had eight candidates in the race. The same reasons then are mine now, only with four more years of exponentially more success added to it. One supporter penned perhaps the best, most comprehensive list of debunked lies about Perry. Please bookmark that one.
While Perry entered the 2011 primary season with a bang, the comparisons to Reagan and wild expectations proved to be too much for the ailing governor (back surgery just a month before), and his fish-out-of-water campaign team. Good people, but not the best ones for the job. However, since then he has prepared for another run with a breadth and determination no other candidate has shown. His new campaign team has run an unparalleled u-turn in public relations. And yet, his record speaks for itself, regardless of his preparation for the Big Show. Even now, as rumors fly around about his campaign “shutting down,” it couldn’t be further from the truth. The campaign is merely recalibrating in a field ridiculously overpopulated. Only one staff member resigned for personal financial reasons, the rest stayed on in all four states where the campaign has a ground game. Few remember, Ronald Reagan was broke at this point in 1979, and went on to win the nomination. The same happened with [mc_name name=’Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000303′ ]’s campaign in 2007. Perry is here for the long haul, as he should be.
The most significant reasons I became and remain an ardent supporter are:
– Governor Perry listened to Texas residents, reversed course on the TTC, acknowledged it’s implications and went further than any politician I’ve seen. In 2005, Perry signed a law that forbade any existing “free road” from being converted to a toll road (one of the centerpieces of the TTC). A few years later, he championed a 2009 amendment that added language to the Texas constitution making it impossible for the government to use eminent domain for any purpose that eventually led to private ownership. And as if that wasn’t enough, in 2011, he signed HB 1201, which removed all references of the TTC from state statutes and code. Reversal, and advocacy for the opposite, is a trait you rarely see in a leader.
– On the Gardasil mandate, the issue needs to be put to bed, because it merely shows his humility and growth as a candidate, not his flaws. Perry openly expressed his mistake despite the intent of providing wider access to a drug promising to save lives, and he apologized. How often do you see a government leader go that far? He didn’t mince words, redirect or BS around it. This is a virtue nearly unseen at any level of politics, let alone a powerful governor. Gardasil has been proven to save lives, BUT should never be forced. Perry agreed. In his case, it was merely put on the state list (with 11 other vaccines that all 50 states require, as well) so it was accessible to young girls without the financial ability to acquire it privately. Nonetheless, he knew this was the wrong method to pursue a noble end. Regarding the Merck connection, the company merely gave $6,000 to Perry’s campaign that year – .0003% of his entire campaign haul. Hardly a “crony” head-turner. It was merely a well-intended mistake that he responded to honorably.
– With the Texas DREAM act of 2001, which passed nearly unanimous through both houses, Perry was right: granting in-state tuition rates to responsible children of illegal immigrants was the best way to manage a problem caused by the negligence of the Federal government and enforced by the Supreme Court ruling that public education was a a 14th amendment right to all children. After reviewing the terms (two years in TX high schools, consistent grades, qualification for college, signed affidavit promising to pursue legalization), and the economic impact on both ends of the coin, I embraced this change as well. “This was an economic decision that Texas was forced to make because of the federal government’s failure to secure the border,” he said. “This decision allows these young people to become productive, contributing members of society.” In 2014, 25,000 students (some legal non-citizen, some undocumented) utilized the TX DREAM act. The estimated lifetime economic output value of this single year of students is $65 billion. Without a college education, these students would become part of a statistic of low-income earners, on the government dole. The economic difference between 25,000 students on government supplement vs. a 4 year degree is $2 billion a year.
– Perry used to be a (very) conservative Democrat in the Texas legislature. But so badly did he fit in that construct, he bolted within a few years, and in 1988 became a tried-and-true Republican. And at a younger age than Ronald Reagan did, for the same reasons. He has never looked back since. Perry is one of the few political leaders who has grown MORE conservative over his years in service rather than more moderate. The changes were genuine, not politically expedient.
– Economically, Texas is far ahead of states like California, New York and other liberal bastions of progressive “success.” When cost of living is factored into economic data, Texas residents enjoy at least an $8,500 advantage over their blue-state counterparts. Imagine having the equivalent of 6 or 7 mortgage payments extra each year just because you change where you live. Rick Perry, combined with the legislature have led from the front with policies that encourage self-reliance, local support, decrease welfare rolls (74% since 2000) and encourage success.
– Under Perry’s administration, Texas went from the middle of the education pack nationwide to being #2 in the nation. That is no small feat. Most impressive of all, despite massive immigration of poor, uneducated new residents, Texas has become the top and second-most academically-advanced state in the nation for black and hispanic students. That’s not just impressive, that’s miraculous.
– There are 27 statewide elected officials in the state of Texas. Eight of them are executive positions. While some claim the Texas governor is “weak,” this is simply untrue and misleading. Through tactical ability and tenure, he became the most powerful Governor in Texas history. Even then, it required effective leadership among all elected officials, not dictatorial license. The only areas in which the Texas governor is restricted is in budgetary and appointive powers. While he cannot fire any of his appointees, over a 14 year tenure, the influence he had over every facet of the government is vast and ubiquitous. And while he cannot present a budget as 30 other states do, he has the power of line-item veto. He issued 148 line-item vetoes on the budgetary process. His 379 bill vetoes from 2001-2013 made him the most powerful final voice over a state budget in the country, since the legislature adjourns within a few days of a passed budget and could not overturn them.
– In the end, Rick Perry has led the way and gotten the entire government behind efforts to reform: in-state tuition (2001), malpractice/tort reform (2003), constitutional protections for private property (2009), medicare reform. In-state tuition was a good thing. Tort reform was necessary, but nearly impossible against the legal lobby. Medicare reform is always a dangerous undertaking. But, Perry worked on all of them, and succeeded.
– He knows how to win. Perry has never lost a general election. From his first race for the 64th district in Texas’ House of Reps in 1985 to his last election for governor in 2011, he won every single time. His last election, in 2010 garnered over 2.7 million votes and won by 13%.
– Perry is a man of honor behind the scenes, when no one is looking. Even his harshest critics have been corralled by the powerful story of his relationship with ex-Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell. Luttrell, the focus of the movie, “Lone Survivor,” sought out Gov. Perry years before his movie days and found a man who not only helped him get answers for his medical needs, but took care of him, spiritually and emotionally, to the point of inviting the man into his family’s home and giving him a place to call his own while he recovered. This story alone should cause everyone to pause with respect for the true character of the man and his family. This is not politics. This is principle.
– Governor Perry has been one of the most adamant defenders of unborn children in the country during his entire career. His vocal support for life has only grown stronger, evidence by his call for a special session in 2014 after initial attempts to reform abortion laws failed and pushed for new changes that would drastically reduce the number of children murdered by so-called doctors.
– Perry stood with Texas all the way to the US Supreme Court in 2013 when voter ID was thrown out by a lower court. As a result, Texas’ determination led the SCOTUS to throw out major portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that unconstitutionally regulated Texas voting. Major SCOTUS precedence was set as a result of Texas’ lead.
– While college education has become unrealistic for increasing numbers of people, Perry made it a major point in 2011 to challenge state universities to get creative and develop a $10,000 degree. Today, 12 Texas schools have $10,000 degrees available to their budding workforce. This concept has now begun spreading to other states. National organizations now look to this reform as model legislation in other states.
– Texas has led the way in conservative criminal justice reform. Few would doubt Texas justice in regard to crime, yet the state has reduced the number of incarcerated criminals, increased the scope of recovery and counseling programs, closed two prisons and begun the move toward decriminalizing minor, non-violent drug offenses. Experts nationwide are lauding the gains made in Texas.
– Governor Perry opposed the implementation of Common Core, despite a strong sense of acceptance at the state Board of Education and in the legislature. Believing that federal funds came with unconstitutional strings attached, he rejected Race To The Top funds that go to districts implementing CCSS.
– Perry is an honorable man, fears God, knows his Bible well, has led the state in prayer rallies for wisdom and provision, and served in the military because he felt called to.
– He is one of the poorest of the candidates, with an estimated net worth of just over $1.1 million. He is not rich, haughty, self-perpetuating, but a true public servant.
– Perry stands against unconstitutional federal intrusion. In 2010, Perry issued a letter to DoE Secretary Arne Duncan and took a stand on federal proposals that would have influenced decisions made in Texas education. Similarly, he rejected the imposition of the so-called Affordable Care Act in 2013.
– As a legislator, leader in state executive office, and eventually as governor, Perry always supported the fair treatment of minorities and the disadvantaged. But he has developed his message to its highest level, and recently delivered what I view as the most powerful, gripping, motivational speech on race relations and the proper role of government in a generation. His speech to the National Press Club on July 2, 2015 should go down in political history as the harbinger of the conservative/minority restoration. When the political Right found it’s voice in minority relations and actively persuaded others to follow their lead.
– Last, but certainly not least, Gov Perry has promoted his own creative ideas, and honed those pushed by the legislature to develop an economy that has created more jobs than any state in the country, every year, for a decade. And there is no sign of slowing down.
In case you missed the link, here is what I view as the most powerful speech by a conservative in decades regarding race relations and the role of government for American minorities. A half hour Q&A follows the speech.
It is worth every minute:
This touching video is by one of Governor Perry’s field coordinators in South Carolina, discussing his pride in serving Perry’s campaign, and excitement to become an American Citizen. It’s a beautiful story: