Perry is clearly a man who does not care how he is perceived by moderate Republicans or independents. He has put all of his extremist ideas in a book titled Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington, in which, among many other ridiculous notions, he calls for the repeal of the constitutional amendment that authorized federal income taxes and argues that Medicare is unconstitutional.
It was on Perry’s watch that Texas schoolbooks were revised to suggest that global organizations such as the United Nations are out to undermine American sovereignty and that the Founding Fathers intended for the U.S. to be a Christian nation. And he believes that creationism, a religious concept, should be taught as an alternative to evolution in school science classes.
Perry delivers these bombshells with a sneering certitude that reminds me of George Wallace at the height of his reactionary populist powers. The fact that a politico as shrewd as Perry has decided that the route to his party’s nomination goes through this wretched underbelly of American politics is undeniable proof of the extremism to which the GOP has succumbed.
It’s still possible, of course, that the Republicans will come to their senses and nominate a more credible champion like Mitt Romney, who, for all his drabness and inconsistency, has bona fide credentials as a businessman and former governor. The showdown between him and Perry that is emerging will be a struggle for the soul of the Republican Party, one in which all Americans have a stake.
What America needs over the next 14 months is a serious debate about getting the country back on track, not a clown show. Obama needs to defend his record and his plans for the future against a serious rival who actually stands a chance of unseating him, not enjoy a cakewalk against a cartoonish buffoon likely to drag the country over the edge of the flat earth he might still believe in.
Disagree as you may with whatever proposals Romney is putting forward these days, you can still imagine him as president. His nomination would be the Republicans’ best chance of forcing Obama to explain why he is the best choice to be our leader instead of just not as bad as the other guy.
Jack White has been covering national politics for more than three decades.