Friday, July 15, 2011

Rick's time as a Democrat... like Reagan's?

It is interesting what people get interested in at the same time...

The New York Times... actually the Texas Tribune... seemed to get interested in this story about Rick being a Democrat back in the 1980s at the exact moment TIME magazine got interested in it...

First the Texas Tribune version (link)...
Gov. Rick Perry, a no-apologies conservative known for slashing government spending and opposing all tax increases, is about as Republican as you can get.
But that wasn’t always the case.
Perry spent his first six years in politics as a Democrat, in a somewhat forgotten history that is sure to be revived and scrutinized by Republican opponents if he decides to run for president.
A raging liberal he was not. Elected to represent a slice of rural West Texas in the state House of Representatives in 1984, Perry, a young rancher and cotton farmer, gained an early reputation as a fiscal conservative. He was one of a handful of freshman “pit bulls,” so named because they sat in the lower pit of the House Appropriations Committee, where they fought to keep spending low.
The liberal Texas Observer called Perry the “Benedict Arnold of the Democratic Party” for siding too often with Clements, the Republican governor, and not enough with his Democratic colleagues.

This is obviously not news to readers of Rick vs. Kay... we covered this issue ad nauseum during the primary when both Kay and 9/11 Truther Debra Medina tried to use it against Rick. The problem there is that that attack was just so divorced from reality. Not only was Ronald Reagan once a Democrat, but the idea that Rick was insufficiently conservative because he was once a Democrat would get you laughed off the stage in Texas. Most Republican activists today remember just twenty years ago, when there was almost no such thing as a Republican, and the ones we did have in office were not always conservative enough for the grassroots... which is why conservative Democrats hung around for as long as they did. In fact, 2010 might have been the final gasp of air for conservative Democrats in Texas. They all either were defeated or switched parties to the Republican side. The only Democrats left now are liberals.
TIME magazine also did a profile on Rick's time as a Democrat, calling it his inconvenient truth because of his support for then-centrist Al Gore over liberals in the race (link). Excerpt follows...
 The tale begins in 1984, four years before Perry took the helm of Gore's Texas campaign, when Gore, then 36 and a congressional wunderkind from Tennessee, followed in his father's footsteps by winning a U.S. Senate seat. That same year, Perry, who was 34 and from much humbler roots as the son of a Texas Rolling Plains cotton farmer, won a seat in the Texas house of representatives. Both young men were handsome sons of the South and proudly touted their philosophical bearings in the regionally dominant conservative wing of the Democratic Party.
In 1988, seizing on the opportunity afforded by a lineup of southern primaries on Super Tuesday, Gore announced his bid for the Democratic nomination for President. Ronald Reagan's second term was drawing to a close, and Republicans were set to nominate the next in line, then Vice President George H.W. Bush. The Democratic field was wide open, with a raft of candidates to the left of Gore, who was dubbed the "southern centrist" by the press. The young Senator, described by the New York Times as "solidly built, dark and indisputably handsome," lined up a list of conservative Democratic big-name supporters, including Senators Howard Heflin of Alabama, Terry Sanford of North Carolina, Bennett Johnson of Louisiana and Sam Nunn of Georgia and Governors Jim Hunt of North Carolina and Buddy Roemer of Louisiana. (In 1991 Roemer, like Perry, left the Democratic Party for the GOP; he is now also reportedly considering a Republican presidential run.)
Gore shared the views of his fellow southern centrists — he opposed the federal funding of abortion, supported a moment of silence in schools for prayer, approved funding of the Nicaraguan contras and was against the ban on interstate handgun sales. It was a platform a conservative West Texas Democrat like state representative Perry could stand on, and he signed up to chair the Senator's Texas campaign. 
Several more-liberal state Democratic Party leaders cast their lots with two of the other candidates, Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt and Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. But Gore worked the Texas legislative ranks for support, winning the backing of Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis and Lieut. Governor Bill Hobby. Lewis was especially important to appointing legislators to vital positions on fiscal committees. And so it was not surprising that 27 members of the Texas legislature, including Perry, a young two-term legislator, joined the duo in their support for Gore.
Both of these are pretty good and fair reads, although they may leave out some key details and add some details that are a bit overblown. You should probably read both of them if you want to carry on an intelligent conversation about old Texas politics and Rick's place in them... these are certainly better done than many of the hysterical things I have read in recent months written by people who have no idea what they are talking about but feel like they have found some scoop so they rush to tell the world "HEY DID YOU REALIZE RICK PERRY WAS A DEMOCRAT OH MY GOSH STOP THE PRESSES THE WORLD MAY END!"

Paul Burka, for all his nonsense lately, wrote a pretty good blog called "Dear Yankee" with several dos and don'ts for non Texans trying to write about Texas and - or Rick... and his number two bullet point is about the former Democrat thing (link). Excerpt follows...
2. It’s not a big deal that Perry was once a Democrat. To suggest otherwise will make you look foolish. When Perry was elected to the statehouse, in 1985, conservative Democrats ran the Legislature. In 1989, realizing that a conservative had little future in the party, Perry switched to the GOP. He has been a rock-solid Republican ever since and has driven the state party further to the right.
Texas truly is a pretty unique place, so sometimes our history doesn't translate in the context of say New York history or Massachusetts history... but Burka is right on this one... and not just about the media... other presidential candidates will look foolish if they try to point and say "Rick was once a Dem, we can't trust him!" My hunch is that most of them will be smart enough not to serve up that soft ball for Rick and instead may subtly use it behind the scenes, but even then... it is not a liability... and it only makes the mystique of Rick's unabashed conservatism more attractive and intriguing. So far, I see it mostly coming from the Ron Paul peeps, very loudly and repeatedly, but not very effectively.

I will say that Rick switched to the Republican side at an earlier point in his life than President Ronald Reagan switched to the Republican side as I have been reminded by Rick supporters... if asked in a debate or in a big national interview, Rick probably can't call himself the next Reagan, but he could sure hint at it... because that's who we're all looking for... the next Reagan.

Finally I would leave you with this blog from the American Thinker on Rick's journey from Democrat to Republican back in the 1980s (link). Excerpt follows...
In the articles, blog posts and their attending comments being posted here at American Thinker and at other websites about the possibility of Texas governor, Rick Perry entering the presidential race, there seems to be some question as to Perry's authenticity as a conservative and Republican because he was once a Democrat and was Al Gore's Texas campaign manager in 1988.
As someone who lived almost thirty years in Texas, perhaps I can clarify the issue. The Democratic Party that controlled Texas for 150 years was more conservative than half the current Republican Party nationwide. Just a few decades back, everyone in Texas was a Democrat. I was raised a Democrat and married into a long-time, Yellow-dog Democratic family in West Texas. We were all conservatives except for a couple of rebellious hippie types residing in Austin, which at that time was becoming the liberal capital of the South.
As the Texas Democratic party was slowly taken over by that liberal movement emanating from Austin and increasingly, Houston, millions of conservative Texas Democrats changed parties to remain true to their conservative beliefs. Rather than being cause to question Perry's authenticity, his switch is a testament to the solidity of his conservative principles. As I and so many other Southerners are fond of saying, "We didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Party left us," which is exactly what happened to Rick Perry.
By the way, the Democrat who beat out Al Gore for the candidacy in that primary was a Massachusetts liberal, Michael Dukakis. Another primary candidate was Jesse Jackson. Gore, from Tennessee, and Dick Gephardt from Missouri were considered the conservatives in that primary race.

Too many Americans forget that Al Gore hasn't always been the flaming liberal he is now. Gore was the scion of an old Southern family, son of a U.S. Senator who once advocated using nuclear weapons to end the Korean War. While more liberal than most Southern Democrats, Gore's father was conservative enough to refuse to support the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Like his party, he gradually became more liberal, too much so for his conservative Tennessee constituents, who booted him out of office in 1970 and handed political power to the Republican Party for the first time since Reconstruction.
So Al Gore was a product of a liberalizing Democratic party in that 1988 primary, but he was still more conservative than all the other candidates except Gephardt. By campaigning for Al Gore in 1988, Rick Perry was not betraying his conservative principles, he was, like so many of us, simply a product of the changing political times, another Southern Democrat slowly awakening to the fact that he was being abandoned by his increasingly liberal party. It is noteworthy that it was the very next year after he campaigned for Gore that Perry changed party affiliation.
I can see how being around Al could do that to you...
I do hope to see Rick on stage answering this question, because I really feel like he could both knock it out of the park with independents and moderates, and reassure the hard core base of the GOP, in one fell swoop. If anything, Rick's background gives him a special connection to those rural or formerly rural peeps in places like Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, and Indiana, won by Obama... Rick can relate to them. He can relate to former Democrats or "Reagan Democrats" who also aren't really Democrats anymore but may not be so sure about those fat cat Republicans either...

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Hey now, campaign characters. Be nice. I know a lot of you on both sides, so I don't want any overly foul language, personal attacks on anyone other than the candidates themselves, or other party fouls. I will moderate the heck out of you if you start breaking the bounds of civility.