Ricky Perry – the zealot who would be president

Posted by Alexander Hay

A leading contender in the race to challenge Barack Obama for the US presidency is a threat to freedom and reason and could bring a dangerous, regressive extremism to the White House.

Rick Perry saluting the flag (even though he once called for Texas to secede from the union). IMAGE COURTESY OF GAGE SKIDMORE @ FLICKRThere is much to dislike about Republican presidential wannabe Rick Perry. To begin with, he's gratuitously Texan. That's not a slur on everyone who's from Texas, of course. George W Bush is actually a yankee from Connecticut, but he is a good example of the breed given how he pulls off the oafish schtick with aplomb. Lyndon B Johnson is another excellent example, and he was a Democrat president.

There's something about the self-styled, mainly mythologised swagger of the self-appointed Texan that makes them thoroughly boorish and contemptible, lionising the anti-intellectualism of a state where some towns don't even have bookshops. Apart from the God-bothering and the lack of empathy, there is also an approach to politics that amounts to a stetson boot stamping on a human face forever.

For example, Perry's attitude to women. While he supports the right of women to abort in cases of rape, incest or medical emergency, those are the only exceptions, and in any case women in Texas are forced to see a Sonogram of the foetus 24 hours before the procedure is carried out.. After all, the babe is innocent unlike the breeding machine who's found herself thus indentured.

Or economics. Rick thinks that the great obscenity of the US tax system is not that the richest 1% pay proportionately less tax than their fellow Americans, or that the chasm between rich and poor grows ever wider. No, it's the fact that 50% of American workers pay no tax at all.

Given that the reason they don't is due to them earning so little that the imposition of taxation would be obscene, we can only interpret this as another manifestation of America's ongoing victimisation of the poor, the ones who expose the American Dream as just a fig leaf for an ever more stratified, ever less mobile society.

Then there is science, or in Perry's case, there isn't. He denies climate change, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. As the Governor of Texas, an oil producing state, home to wealthy petrochem backers, he has a vested interest in the status quo. Indeed, he continues to deny climate change even though Texas is afflicted by some of the worst droughts in its history.

Then there is evolution. Beyond the massive fossil record and considerable evidence just sitting about waiting to be found in every genome, evolution is in fact ongoing even as we speak. Mice that are all but immune to poison and superbugs that laugh off antibiotics are two more recent examples. But Perry denies this, and instead sides with fundamentalist Christians for whom only the most literal interpretation of scripture will do.

What's most worrying about Perry is that he is a dominionist. This is a movement gaining considerable traction within both the Tea Party and the mainstream GOP,claiming as it does that the only way the Messiah will return is in a nation run by and for Christians. In particular, fundamentalist white protestants like Rick Perry. Secular rights, let alone gay and women's rights, would be cast into the pyre.

These are the most obvious problems Perry poses, though they are also seen as selling points by his supporters. Those areas where he has apparently succeeded, however, are in fact equally questionable. As governor of Texas, he claims to have made his state prosper while others remain in the doldrums.

This has lead to growth in jobs, more businesses moving to Texas and an upward trend that contradicts the present narrative of US decline. Yet it is not as it seems. Firstly, Texas benefits only because it takes businesses from elsewhere in America. It is not creating wealth but simply taking more than its fair share. Such a ruse would not work in a national context unless Perry is seriously proposing that Americans be paid less and oppressed more than their counterparts in China.

Similarly, the tax cuts themselves have ruined Texas' education system and public services, blighting the lives of the young and vulnerable, including members of the Tea Party, who continue to vote against their own interests despite all evidence to the contrary.

But if there is one reason alone that Rick Perry should not be allowed anywhere near the White House, it is his recent denunciation of Federal Reserve Head, Ben Bernanke, which all but called for him to be denounced as a traitor and then lynched:

If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion.

The quote needs no further explanation.

Tellingly, the only rival to Perry, assuming Mitt Romney is sidelined by the GOP's influx of zealots, is Michelle Bachmann, a fellow dominionist with crazy policies and an even crazier expression.

Whether this means the GOP will write history's second longest suicide note in 2012 or bring a dangerous, regressive extremism to the White House is debatable. What will decide the election is not policy but simply employment figures, for all the bombast. Nonetheless, as Perry's ascent demonstrates, this age of extremes blots out all reason.

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Alexander Hay

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