Bumping: Just giving it the college try. I added Perry's closing argument ad at the end.
There are two main sorts of primary voters: Those who know too little, and those who know too much. As for the former -- there's not much I can do about them. They don't read this site, or probably too much of any political source.
Maybe they read Time. Bless their hearts.
The online community consists mainly of the latter -- we know a lot about the candidates, and are each making complicated decisions about trade-offs between electability and agenda (and likelihood of advancing that agenda).
My belief is that we know so much that the secondary and tertiary level things we know are crowding out the primary things we know. That is, that we know a bunch of second- and third- order things and knowing so much is crowding out consideration of the top-level, major bullet-point, controlling facts.
I am in favor of Rick Perry because, while I am informed about the second- and third- orders of information, I remain focused on the first order stuff.
First, biographical and character details. Much of the More Informed cohort of the party seems to be giving these factors short shrift. I would suggest to such folks that a certain type of candidate tends to prevail in elections, and that type of candidate tends to have a positive narrative in biographical and characterological traits.
Rick Perry did not marry his high school sweetheart. He married his grade school sweetheart. He has never been divorced as as far as I know there haven't been any rocky patches in his relationship.
Those who discount the importance of that, especially to women voters, are making an error, I think.
I can only say so often that the swing voters in the center of the country are among the least-informed voters on the planet. Every survey demonstrates that, despite their claims to be all about "the substance" and "the issues," they know less about the substance and the issues than partisans on either side of the aisle.
Being apolitical, they're not very interested in politics. Stands to reason. This means, then, that they don't read much about politics.
Their decision-making is very superficial. Although I do not think that Newt Gingrich's affairs/divorces history is a disqualifier, I think it cannot be entirely discounted.
Some people think that because the media stressed Obama's intellect in the last election, they will do so again, and thus it is important to have an intellectual like Gingrich as our standard-bearer.
You don't the media very well if you accuse them of consistency. Let me suggest to you that if Gingrich is the nominee, the media will not be stressing intellect and brainpower (as, in their estimation, it's a draw).
No. They will be stressing Obama's faithfulness to his wife and their two beautiful children.
The media stresses whatever attribute the Democratic candidate trumps the Republican one in. In 1992 and 1996, the media ignored the virtue of military service in Republican nominees George Bush (the elder) and Bob Dole, and suggested it was relatively unimportant, championing the greater intellect and ideological flexibility of one William Jefferson Clinton, who, as you might remember, dodged the draft, using political connections to secure a higher draft number.
And yet in 2000, Al Gore was sold as a "veteran" of Vietnam, while George W. Bush was portrayed as a draft-evader, and the same in 2004, when John Forbes Kerry announced that he was "reporting for duty."
Dan Rather did a story about Bush's supposed failure to "report for duty" at the Texas Air National Guard.
I would suggest that we should not get too hung up on fighting the last war, because the media will simply change the rules of engagement. It is true that Gingrich can go toe-to-toe with Obama on policy wonkery; it is also true that that is the very reason the media will lose all interest in intellect as a basis for comparison or qualifier for high office.
Should Gingrich be our nominee, be prepared to do a lot of double-takes as faithfulness and devotion to family suddenly becomes the key trait in a president.
The media will call Rick Perry stupid, of course. And Perry has armed them with weapons to use on this front. However, his gaffes are now several months old, and he hasn't repeated them.
Further, the media has called our candidate "stupid" in every single race where it could be argued the Democratic candidate was a singe IQ point smarter than the Republican one. We're used to that, and we've won elections despite that.
After doing poorly in college, Rick Perry joined the Air Force. Not the guard, either. The actual active-duty Air Force. He is, then, a veteran, if not a combat veteran (as far as I know he never saw any engagement or action, as he was flying big transport planes).
Barack Obama did not serve in the military. That is perhaps the most understated sentence in the history of communications, but since people are interested in drawing contrasts, consider that one.
Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich did not serve in the military either. I do not wish to attack either man but both were of draftable age during Vietnam.
Both of these men are smart. And they're smarter than Perry. (They're also easily smarter than pampered princeling Barack Obama but the media will never credit them as such.)
And I cannot and will not say that brainpower is unimportant. I would however say that character matters too.
Several other bits and pieces of Rick Perry make him a central-casting type candidate -- I don't know if he grew up poor, per se, but he grew up modest, certainly. His background is that most Heartland of backgrounds -- hardscrabble farmer.
And he's America's longest-serving governor in America's second-largest state. Texas is no tiny little state. It has nearly the populace of California. He's served as governor there for 11 years (and for two years before that, as lieutenant governor).
The media and liberals (but I repeat myself) will attack Perry, predictably, as stupid, but there is a strong rebuttal to such a claim: If he can't perform the duties of Chief Executive, then how is he's been successfully performing the duties of Chief Executive?
America, and especially the Republican party, has long favored elevating governors to the presidency. Governors are, after all, the presidents of single states. They have nearly the exact same duties and functions (including even maintaining and controlling the state national guards). They have similar executive powers and set the agendas for their respective legislatures. In the case of border states such as Texas, they even require some foreign policy making duties.
No job in the world really prepares someone for the Presidency. But one job, more than any other, comes fairly close to doings so.
So Rick Perry cannot handle high executive office?
Then how is it he's been doing just that for 11 years?
(And if you want to object that Texas has a weak-governor system, with a lot of power vested in the lieutenant governor position -- well, they claimed that about George W. Bush, too. And claimed that Rick Perry actually was doing all the hard stuff in his then-position of Lieutenant Governor. So wherever the power lies in Texas, Perry has handled it, in both jobs.)
The stakes in this election are enormous. The next president may well appoint five justices the Supreme Court, essentially choosing our basic jurisprudence for the next 30 years. This will be the presidency in which we make fundamental decisions about debt, and spending, and entitlements. Decisions on those may decide our fiscal policy for the next 20 or 30 years, too.
But while those are the stakes of this election, the election will actually turn on... Jobs.
Unemployment is at 8.6%, with real unemployment around 16%. For the sake of comparison, unemployment during the Great Depression hit 25% at its high. We are not there yet, but we've consistently been at around 9% for years (with real unemployment higher).
Primary voters tend to be strongly ideological. We have very strongly held beliefs about abstract notions of government and "The Good."
But general election voters -- especially those swing voters -- do not have strong opinions about such matters. Otherwise they would be partisans for one camp or another. They tend to be pragmatic, rather than abstract, thinkers. They do not have any prevailing theory of governance, which is what gives them the flexibility to vote for George W. Bush in 2004 and then an all-but-declared socialist four years later.
They care almost entirely about results, because they have no underlying theory that might explain away failures (as Obama's endless theories explain away his failures, at least to his partisans).
I remember that, by the third debate, people were complaining that they were sick of hearing about Texas producing 45% of all jobs created in America the last two years, and sick of hearing that Texas has created one million jobs while America has lost two million plus in the last ten years.
I understand that High Information voters, who knew this before Rick Perry announced it, might be "sick" of hearing about it.
But the fact of the matter is: That should have been said more, not less. So here it is again:
That bit about "jobs-adding states" is important and also> adds to Perry's case, because the bulk of these states are under conservative rule. It's not just that Perry Is Magic-- other states that put the same policies into effect likewise have similar results.
When you get down to it, that is the winning message of this near-depression election cycle.
Other candidates may have theories about their preferred economic system hypothetically producing postulated good outcomes. The ideologue Ron Paul, for example, will regale you with tales about what Austrian Economics might do, were they ever actually put into practice.
Rick Perry can say, "My policy is to have a low tax burden on wealth-creators and a fair and predictable regulatory scheme which does not seek to pick winners and losers, and here is how that has worked out in Texas."
Not theoretical. Not hypothetical. This is what actually happened.
Partisans, being ideological, tend to be over-swayed by expressions of ideological belief. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul are champion ideology-slingers.
But what decision or action has either made that has actually had a tangible, measurable, concrete effect on the economy?
Oh they've both "fought" losing battles, casting symbolic votes in their capacity as Congressmen Who Don't Really Do Anything Except Give Speeches.
But what has either actually done?
If you think the unaffiliated, mostly apolitical voters in the center are going to be swayed by full-throated announcements of steadfast ideological commitment, you're guilty of universalizing from your own experience.
If they thought that way, they would not be independents. They would, like you, be declared partisans and ideologically-motivated voters.
Speeches are nice but facts are what change minds. Reagan became a very popular president by his fifth and sixth year. It wasn't because of his ideology and speechifying -- he had the same ideology and said mostly the same thing in speeches when he was at 40% approval in his third and fourth year.
It's because of the fact that the economy was producing jobs by his fifth and six year.
If Reagan had only had good speeches, without good facts to back those speeches up, he would not be an especially fondly remembered president today. In fact, he'd've probably been a one-termer, had the good fact of a rapidly-growing economy not existed when it did (about a year, year and a half before the election).
While some people are focusing on the three total hours of debates in the general election season, I'm focusing on the hundreds of hours of campaign ads stressing the fact of Texas job creation, until people want to hang themselves.
Yes, they'll be sick of it. But they will remember it.
One last point I'd make is that I, and you too, know what Perry's plan is for his first term in office, in a way that you don't know what Romney's is, or Gingrich's is.
What is Romney's plan/theme? Well, he's got a 59 point plan to fix the economy. As they said in The Way of The Gun, a plan is just a list of things that aren't going to happen.
I know his theme is that he's a turnaround guy, and that he'll use his managerial expertise to fix the government.
This theme, of itself, really doesn't tell me what is most important to Romney.
I will say this without fear of contradiction: A president can only really push 3-4 major initiatives in his first term, and 1-2 in his second. By the last half of his second term, he's a lame duck, and is chiefly clocking time and fighting off efforts to undo whatever he's done in the first six years.
Realistically, a president will push for 3-4 big things in his first term, and sometimes not even that.
What are Romney's 3-4 big things? What are the 3-4 big things you know animate him and drive him?
I'm guessing you don't know. I would guess further that Romney doesn't know.
I level the same criticism at Gingrich, who is gaining popularity by pitching a series of policy widgets and Bold New Thinking gadgets which he will never, even if he had three terms, actually pursue.
Illustrative of this is when he was asked if he would consider forgiving college debt. He used the question to note a school in Appalachia which requires students to work 20 hours per week and hence keeps them from acquiring too much debt.
That is an interesting anecdote. It is also irrelevant, unless Newt Gingrich has a plan to compel colleges to implement a similar program. As he's never brought it up again, I assume he does not; so why bring this up at all?
It's an interesting little story. But it's what I expect if we're all sitting around spitballing college bullshit session ideas. I don't expect Newt Gingrich to ever propose something tangible based on this anecdote, and I think most people would be alarmed if he did suggest that federal policy would begin dictating such things to colleges.
Similarly, when asked about health care costs, he eventually (after some stalling) suggested that it was wiser to invest in a vaccine for Polio rather than spending money on iron lungs (for people who suffer from the disease).
I can hardly argue with that. I can also hardly extract any policy guidance from it.
What would Newt actually do in office? I don't know. I know his theme is "Bold, Fundamentally-Transformative Ideas," but I"m not sure what on earth these ideas are.
Does he have 3-4 ideas his mind is set on? Or does he have 100, 96 of which will never be pursued, and we are to guess which his actual Core Four will be?
The latter, I think.
I think Gingrich and Romney are both pushing managerial skill here, essentially arguing "We can do more with less, if we think about government in a smarter way." I agree with that to some extent, but I don't think this is the year for just promising to "work smarter." I think this is the year to seriously question if government should be doing so much (and doing so poorly at what it does).
I think this is the year to stop saying "We can afford that if we use our resources in a smarter way" and start saying "No, we're not going to do that."
I do know Perry's Core Four. Although he's gotten a bit spasmodic lately in pitching new ideas as he tries to secure constituencies for his ailing campaign, his Core Four is what he announced right out of the gate:
1. Keep taxes as low as possible, because citizens spend money wisely and create new wealth when permitted to use their money as they wish.
2. Keep the regulatory climate "fair and predictable" and overturn new attempts by the government to micromanage private enterprise.
3. Start producing energy here in America, rather than purchasing it from countries which are often hostile.
4. Make Washington, D.C. as "inconsequential to your lives as possible," by devolving as much power as possible back to states and localities, consistent with the original goal of the 10th Amendment.
Some of Perry's 10th Amendment ideas I consider glib, half-baked, and near-extremist-- like the suggestion that perhaps individual states could manage social security for their citizens.
That idea will go nowhere and in fact is no longer discussed.
But that impulse -- the idea that the first questions should always be "Wait, does the federal government need to do this? Is it even constitutional that they do this?" -- is the right impulse. Even when he's wrong on this issue, he's wrong for the right reasons.
Gingrich and Romney may be smarter than Perry, and perhaps Romney would even be a more skilled technocratic administrator of government. (Gingrich seems far too disorganized and flighty to engage with this part of the job too much, apart from proposing bold, fundamental changes and then moving on to something else.)
But I don't want someone who is so confident that he is a more capable administrator of federal power. I want someone who is skeptical of federal power no matter who wields it, no matter how skilled and able an administrator he might be, even if that administrator is he himself, and so always prefers to shunt power away from the government to to the states, and their citizens.
Those are the four things Perry seems committed too. Those are the four ideas he has.
Perhaps he's not smart enough to have more ideas than that.
Which is fine with me. I don't want a President with many more ideas than that.
That's how we got here, after all.
Endorsement co-signed by cobloggers John E., Andy, rdbrewer, Ben, Gabriel Malor, lauraw, Slublog and Dave In Texas.