I am neither a Republican nor a Rick Perry fan. Nonetheless I find Perry’s decision to drop out of the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination contest disheartening. Here’s why:
Like Perry or not, agree with him on the issues or not, he was arguably the single most experienced political executive in the race. He served three-and-a-half terms as governor of Texas, America’s second largest and second most populous state.
His executive experience arguably extended into foreign and trade policy more than that of most governors. Texas shares a long border with Mexico and boasts the busiest foreign-tonnage port in the US at Houston. And under Perry’s governorship, Texas did better than most states during the economic downturn on fronts like employment and family income.
Frankly, Perry was a dream candidate for Republicans who cared about executive ability, plausible policy proposals, and “getting things done.”
No, I wouldn’t have voted for him. I’m a political libertarian and a partisan Libertarian; he’s neither of those things.
But it boggles the mind that out of 17 “serious” candidates, Republicans chose to cut Perry from the pack first, panning him in polls and not funding his campaign. What’s going on here?
I wish I could report that Perry just isn’t libertarian enough for a Republican Party with a growing and powerful libertarian wing. But that’s not the problem. The GOP, after some flirtations with libertarianism during Ron Paul’s tenure in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail, has taken a hard turn back toward authoritarianism.
Perry’s problem seems to be that Republicans are looking for the flashiest demagogue they can find this election cycle.
Topping Perry for demagoguery on immigration was a tall order. After all, he’s the guy who deployed Texas’s National Guard to “secure the border” with Mexico. But he’s been, in a word, Trumped.
He’s the first, but won’t be the last, candidate to fall to the GOP’s sudden infatuation with flash over substance. Right now, the polls show Donald Trump way out front, with loose cannon Ben Carson in second place. Moving up fast: Carly Fiorina, whose only real qualification seems to be her gender (she was fired as CEO of Hewlett Packard, and her only real political experience consists of badly losing her race for US Senate from California).
The Democratic front-runners aren’t very attractive either. But they don’t really have to be. They’re set for a walkover unless the GOP gets its act together, which seems unlikely.
If you had high hopes for a real horse-race, you’re probably bummed out . But look at the bright side: Perhaps the Libertarian Party can take advantage of the major parties’ state of disarray and start a real discussion about America’s future.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.
- “And Then There Were 16: Perry Drops Out,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Ventura County, California Citizens Journal, 09/14/15
- “Perry’s withdrawal from the race disappointing,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Davenport, Iowa Quad-City Times, 09/16/15
- “Perry’s withdrawal from the race disappointing,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Muscatine, Iowa Journal, 09/16/15