Rick Perry and the Power of Stupid

Up until three weeks ago, the race for pole position amongst the Republicans candidates was firmly in the hands of Mitt Romney. Then Governor Perry of Texas threw his Stetson in the ring, and suddenly Mitt Romney is trailing Perry by two to one in the latest polling.

How can that be? The guy looks, acts and talks like George W. Bush 2.0, minus the smarts.

Mitt Romney, the chameleon-like ex-Governor of Massachusetts, will say anything, do anything and be anything necessary to become the next president. He can be a liberal when necessary, or a conservative, but he’s always a transparent phony. The lunatic fringe of the GOP, which has become the rudder steering the HMS Republican, will have nothing to do with Romney. His record on healthcare in MA, his past stance on abortion rights (give him five minutes, it’ll change again), and his recent comments on climate change have eliminated him from the running as far as they’re concerned. That made Michele Bachmann the Tea Party favorite by default. Following her coronation as winner of the Iowa Straw Poll (Lol!!), she went on the road, stumbling here and there, but the Tea Party sopped it up. She was the ideal candidate for them — if only she didn’t make so many strident comments, if only the media would stop asking her those trick questions about American history, and if only she could win. But she was the best they had, so they stuck with her.

Then along came the Texas Juggernaut, and her aspirations faded into the sunset, at supersonic speed I might add. Almost overnight, Bachmann went from first to a distant third, and her top two campaign officers jumped ship. Rick Perry’s “charisma” was just too much for either Bachmann or Romney to compete with, at least amongst the Tea Party (come next year, it’ll be interesting to see if a Tea Party-favored candidate can prevail against the will of the party movers and shakers — the Karl Roves, etc.)

So, what is it about Perry that’s so irresistible to the far right? How was it possible for this man to sweep the field so soon, so effectively, even before participating in his first national debate? What does the Tea Party see in him that others don’t?

It’s simple: packaging. He’s the very picture of what an ultra-conservative wants in a president; rough & tough, rural, plain-talkin’, with a Texas swagger, six-guns a’blazin’, and most of all, the antithesis of liberalism… an open contempt for knowledge.

Perry has a record of denying and ridiculing science. From Darwin to climate change, he’s never been vague, nor accurate. On climate change: “I do believe that some scientists are hyping the dangers of global warming … so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects,” and he’s openly disputed the premise for human involvement in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. He also once commented; “The biggest source of carbon dioxide is Al Gore’s mouth.”

Just in the past three weeks since his official announcement, Perry’s made the following remarks:

He described Darwin’s theory of evolution to a young boy as “Just a theory with gaps, so we teach both creationism and evolution in Texas,” and; “God is how we got here.” Never mind that evolution is based on 150 years of scientific research, testing and confirmation by both the DNA and fossil records, while “creationism” is based purely on religion, and is unsupported by any known science. (As I write this, Fox News this afternoon has released a poll showing 45% of those polled believe in creationism over evolution: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/09/07/fox-news-poll-creationism/)

He also said; “Printing more money … at this particular time is almost treasonous in my opinion,” referring to Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke. Fancy that… Rick Perry, successor to the Cheney/Bush administration, using a word like “treasonous.” Oh, the irony.

And just last week he said; “Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme,” that is “unconstitutional.” He went further, and said younger workers in today’s job market “will not have Social Security or Medicaid.” If he’s elected president, I suspect we can take that to the bank.

Governor Perry also leads the nation in executions, by far, creating more “Texas Toast” than the next two states combined. And according to human rights groups, at least a handful of those convictions were highly questionable, so it’s possible that he oversaw the executions of men who were innocent of any wrongdoing. Since 2000, Rick Perry has sent 230 people to their deaths. And when it comes to clemency, his record isn’t much better; he’s granted 31 death row inmates clemency, 28 of which were due to a Supreme Court ruling banning the execution of minors. Yes, he’s really that bad.

So, what is it about this guy that so excites his base? What do they see in him, that causes the rest of the civilized world to recoil?

It’s the stupidity, stupid.

To the average thinking person, support for teaching our children actual science, compassion, clemency, fairness, maybe even a nuanced view of life itself is something we take for granted. But amongst many Tea Partiers, those qualities are frowned upon, because they’re reminders of what they despise above all else: President Barack Obama. So Perry, a consummate politician, has honed his message to appeal directly to them, knowing full-well, that without the support of the Tea Party, his presidential ambitions are dead in the water. We have actually arrived at a place in American society where being intelligent, educated and wise is a liability, rather than an advantage in the race for the presidency… because it doesn’t play well amongst those who wield power right now within the Republican Party.

It’s difficult to say where this dumbing-down of American conservatism will lead, but it concerns me to no end. Even if the GOP nominates Mitt Romney, or someone even more moderate, like John Huntsman… and even if Barack Obama vanquishes whichever challenger the GOP comes up with next summer, we’re still left with the reality that amongst the Republican true believers, stupidity sells. We presently have 80 freshly seated Tea Party morons firmly in control of the U.S. Congress, with yet others determined to take control of the senate next year.

It’s up to the those of us who still believe in the separation of church and state, the separation of fact and fiction, and the separation of chicken salad and chicken shit to not let that happen. Do NOT be fooled into thinking Rick Perry can’t win, because he absolutely can. One only has to look back to November of 2000 for evidence of how a similar formula has worked for them in the past.