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The Failure of Governor Rick Perry's Conservative Government in Texas


by: Phillip Martin

Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 02:16 PM CST


Ed. Note: The following 2,100 word piece is lengthy, but please read in full. Thank you.

Texas Governor Rick Perry issued a strongly worded letter this week for his campaign to be chosen as Republican nominee for the President of the United States in 2012 for Texas Governor in 2010. The letter is large on rhetoric -- and even larger in common sense hypocrisy. However, it is important for its insight into the Governor's current philosophy on the state of the Republican Party:

Drawing an Old Line in the Sand: Perry's Framing Looks Backward, Not Forward

Message from Texas Gov. Rick Perry:
We have only begun to fight

Dear Friend,

While I was certainly disappointed by the recent national election results, I am not disheartened. If anything, the last two elections have confirmed one important fact: Republicans should not only campaign as conservatives, but govern as conservatives too.

The Democrats have won a battle, not a war. And when the Democrat definition of “change” is finally clear - when Americans realize that Obama, Pelosi and Reid are left of liberal – our resurgence will begin.

We can either use this time to wander through the wilderness of discontent, complaining and carping about the state of our party and the left-leaning media, or we can start planning the rebirth of the Republican brand by espousing a conservatism that puts people to work, that believes in the ingenuity of private enterprise, that functions from a place of optimism and faith in the individual more than the institutions of government.

Perry begins by challenging that President Bush's form of governance -- the way Senator Hutchison and national Republicans led the Party from 2000 through 2008 -- is not "conservative" government. In theory, then, he would have to be promoting his own form of government as the better option -- one where Republicans "govern as conservatives too." Furthermore, he draws traditional partisan lines -- liberal vs. conservative -- to frame his message.

The significance? At a time when many in the Republican Party are questioning what new alliances, coalitions, and values they should stand for -- and how to bridge out to the growing center-left nation of America -- Perry is defiantly arguing for a return to the mythical land of conservatism and individualism. Is this how the GOP earns 97 more electoral votes in 2012?

Let's see what he uses as supporting arguments and evidence...

Now That You're Comfortable, Let Me Inspire You

So far, Perry has only laid out generic arguments regarding old battle lines. While it may appear backward-looking, it rings true to the heart of the principle of conservatism: that things are fine the way they are. More importantly, it harkens to a very old religious idea: God's plan is perfect, but humans are not.

Perry's opening salvo, therefore, harkens to old lines in the sand not because he necessary believes them, but because he wants to make his audience -- a conservative, Republican audience -- comfortable. Now that they are comfortable, he tries to show them how to wear an old pair of shoes in a new way:

This is not the time for timidity - but for bold ideas that crystallize the differences between two opposing philosophies.

Some think that the political pendulum will swing back now that the Democrats have total control over Washington. While I certainly see an opportunity for the re-emergence of a conservative movement focused on lunch pale [sic] issues, it won’t happen if we simply offer opposition - only if we offer an alternative.

We cannot merely object to socialized medicine, we must offer consumer-driven alternatives. We cannot simply say “no” to the failed status quo in education, but provide a vision that empowers parents and educators to offer a better product that prepares more students for the jobs of a high-tech economy. And we cannot allow the true party of big government and spending deficits - the Democrat Party - to cling to the mantle of fiscal responsibility simply because Washington Republicans blew it with twelve years of exploding earmarks and spending sprees.

We have to offer an alternative.

Perry's message in these paragraphs is simple: he repeatedly calls for new, bold alternatives -- but using "details" that are tried and true principles of conservative-led government. Again, the fact that they have always failed in the past is not because their belief system is flawed, but because flawed individuals were in charge. That's why:

  1. Consumer-driven alternatives (individual) are necessary over socialized medicine (government)

  2. Parents and educators (individuals) must lead the way on education reform, not the "status quo" (government).

  3. Washington Republicans (individuals) caused the country to believe Democrats (government) were fiscally responsible.

The irony, of course, is how remarkably "big government" Perry has acted as Governor during his term. One only need be familiar with what he promoted as Governor of Texas on the issues he's outlined: health care, education, and government spending:

  1. Health Care - Proposed that the state should make it mandatory for every sixth grade girl to receive the HPV vaccine in schools. (Source: "Perry's HPV vaccine order draws backlash from GOP" -- Austin American-Statesman, 2/6/07).

  2. Public Education - Perry helped push the school finance reform that requires school districts  -- including those parents and educators Perry touts -- to only increase their funding through local elections, and only then by a small amount. In the mean time, as the costs for public schools continue to rise, the funding from the state remains static at 2005 and 2006 levels. Perry's school finance system is anything but responsive to parents and educators. (Source: "More Texas school districts ask voters to raise taxes" -- Houston Chronicle, 8/28/08).

  3. Fiscal Responsibility -- Governor Perry is most proud of his zero-based budgeting style. However, as Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (TFR) point out, both he and Senator Hutchison live in "political houses with a fair amount of glass." TFR points to his support of the business tax, which has been a uniquely terrible disaster for Texas' businesses. (Source: "Business tax shortfall may erase surplus" -- Houston Chronicle, 11/26/08).

Perry's bold, new ideas are old, tired failures for those familiar with him in Texas.

(To continue reading my response to Governor Perry's  letter, click "There's More")...

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Democrats -- Not "Washington Republicans" -- Are the Enemy

Though Perry makes off-hand remarks about the failure of Washington Republicans, he returns (again) to the zone of comfort for conservative Republicans: blame the Democrats for everything:

While we hope that the national Democrats’ left of liberal agenda will swing the next election back our direction, the other side is planning and plotting to further consolidate their gains. Just days after the 2008 election, the Los Angles Times ran a story that TEXAS is next in their sites [sic] - yes, the most Republican large state in the country.

The Obama organization is not to be under-estimated. They are already organizing for 2010 in Texas. They believe if they can turn Texas blue it will be an electoral obituary for the Reagan Revolution.

I am determined, even if Texas becomes the last reservoir of red state governance, to chart a course to fiscal conservatism that serves as a steep contrast to the profligate spending of the Democrat-controlled federal government.

The absurdity of his comment -- "chart a course to fiscal conservatism" -- was highlighted by the honest examination of his record as Governor in recent years. And while I would love to take time to "site" the "most Republican large" grammar mistakes in his fundraising letter, I want to, instead, focus on what Perry should realize is a death knell to his form of governance:

That poll highlighted what should be crippling for any efforts Perry, Hutchison, or any statewide candidate: Texas voters, in a GOP-commissioned poll, clearly stated that they are tired of the old and want the new. Rod Dreher, editorial columnist for the Dallas Morning News, pulled the highlights out the best in his December 4 piece, "Poll's Shocking SOS for Texas GOP":

  • Half the voters polled believe the state is on the wrong track; only 37 percent believe Texas is headed in the right direction.

  • On nearly every measure, the Republican brand is "significantly less appealing" than the Democratic one.

  • Voters believe the GOP is out of touch, lacks common sense and is more interested in looking out for special interests than the common good. When voters were asked which party "champions the needs of homeowners, small businesses and average taxpayers" – classic GOP constituencies – Democrats score an astonishing 13 points higher.

  • Republicans lead in negative characterizations ("arrogant," "racist," "corrupt," "angry") by double-digit margins. Dems, by contrast, lead by double digits on positive descriptions like "smart," "fair," "innovative" and "party of the future." Perhaps most devastating to the GOP's future, only 14 percent of those polled agreed it was "open and welcoming" – a whopping 33 points lower than the Democrats' rating.

That, of course, doesn't prevent Perry from sticking his head in the conservative sand.

The Failure of Governor Perry's "Texas Experiment"

Within the world of Rick Perry's letter, he has done the following:

  1. Created a safe place for conservatives
  2. Attempted to use rhetoric to inspire "an alternative"
  3. Placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of Democrats

In reality, of course, the following is what Perry is ignoring in his letter:

  1. A government that proclaims "government is bad" will always be bad
  2. Alternatives that are failures are not viable alternatives
  3. It doesn't matter if Republicans blame Democrats if Texans blame Republicans
Despite these clear facts I've outlined throughout, however, Governor Perry continues to plow through -- all evidence, logic, and common sense be damned, so long as he can get a few quick bucks:

I write to you today to ask for your help in keeping the conservative movement alive.

The Reagan Revolution started about as far away from Washington as you can imagine – in a governor’s office in Sacramento, California. That’s because conservative change always emanates from outside Washington.

I lead a state that, at least culturally, is about as far away from Washington as any state in the nation. We have no personal income tax. We have a budget surplus because we made difficult spending cuts. We balance our budget and we live every day under the duress of an unsecured international border. And in a recent twelve month period, we created half of all the new jobs in America.

The Texas Experiment in consistent conservatism continues to work while others stray further from the Reagan principles of leadership during this time of great economic turmoil.

I ask you today to help me keep Texas as the largest red state in the nation – the anchor foothold for the cause of conservatism. Will you contribute $10, $25, or $50 today to my campaign for re-election by visiting by website?

The "Texas Experiment" has failed -- if you don't believe the policies or the polls, recognize the facts of election results:

  • A net swing of approximately 780,000 voters chose Democrats over Republicans atop the ticket, comparing 2008 to 2004

  • What was once an 88-62 majority for Republicans in the Texas House is now a slim 76-74 majority

  • At least one, and perhaps two, additional seats for Democrats in the State Senate

  • Dallas County is completely blue; Harris County is almost entirely blue

The policies, polls, and election results all say the same thing: there is no growth for the Republican Party in Texas. That, of course, won't keep Governor Rick Perry (or Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison) from pretending otherwise.

Goodbye, Governor Perry

We’re not just battling the Democrats’ liberal vision for America, but some within our midst who want to chart a course that is Democrat Lite – Republican in name, Democrat in priorities. [emphasis added]

Will you help me restore political conservatism in America to its core values? Will you join me in ceding no ground to the liberals who would rather placate their core constituencies, and dictate to working families?

Our party is the party of optimism… the party of freedom… the party of innovation and opportunity. Join me in moving America back to the high ground of true conservatism so we can lead our nation down the pathway to prosperity.

Sincerely,

Rick Perry
Governor of Texas

Governor Perry's closing remarks have been read as a shot at Senator Hutchison, an argument for his re-election as Governor in 2010, and continuing rhetoric of a high-profile Republican who will seek the Oval Office in 2012.

Instead -- if all the evidence bears out -- they may be the first remarks in his last race for political office.



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Do not republish without express written permission.


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The 39% (0.00 / 0)
Reality is 39% of Texas Republicans agree with him. And probably 50% or even more agree with him with regard to the Bushes.  Probably more like 80% agree with him with regard to the Bushes.  Give them an alternative, however, and all but 39% might go for the alternative. So far, there has been no alternative.  

Hog wash... (0.00 / 0)
For goodness sake...a governor that stays on message? Now that's a novelty. Look guys, for one thing Perry's message hasn't changed since he's been in office and it doesn't need to. Texans are still doing quite well regardless of the rest of the countries plight. We can ride the wave of success all the way to the bank until that changes. It really doesn't matter how you feel about Perry because he's part of the Texas leadership that's kept this ship afloat. Also, you guys are reaching if you think "Obama" polls are representative of the current status of politics in Texas. If anything, the fact that Cornyn is still in office over Noriega (despite the Obama surge) should tell you that. So where does that leave us...the most obvious fact is that Texas is definitely a RED state and to think otherwise would be foolish at best. On the other hand Perry vs. Kay, well she's created a mess for herself on several fronts and has not been very effective in office either. But I have heard that she is a rabid supporter for Hilary :-)

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