I guess Rick Perry realized he needed more than those new egghead glasses to stand out in the 2016 presidential race. I mean, there's what, 14, 16, 19 candidates? I've seriously lost track. After the fiasco that was the large Republican field of White House wannabes in 2012, and their inane debates, there's even more to dread this time around.
Or not. With so many candidates, there's actually incentives for some candidates in the lower tier to say something different than the usual Limbaugh-endorsed dittohead-isms, to made headlines and at least get enough attention to eek into the 10-person top debate tier. And so it was that Perry, the former governor of Texas, gave a speech today on the state of politics and race in America.
And lo and behold, it was good...the words, I mean. Remember, the pre-2012 Perry was so pro-Tea Party that he even said favorable things about Texas succeeding from the Union. When it came out that his family had owned a ranch with a, um, racially charged name, the tarnish -- perhaps unfairly -- stuck to Perry. Now he's singing a different tune:
The states' rights champion then did something unexpected. He launched into a rhetorical critique of his party, and himself, for neglecting minority voters by valuing the 10th Amendment above the equal protections of the 14th.
"Too often, we Republicans -- myself included -- have emphasized our message on the 10th Amendment but not our message on the 14th -– an amendment, it bears reminding, that was one of the first great contributions of the Republican Party to American life, second only to the abolition of slavery," Perry said.
"For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote because we found we didn't need it to win," he added. "But when we gave up trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln, as the party of equal opportunity for all. It's time for us once again to reclaim our heritage as the only party in our country founded on the principle of freedom for African-Americans."
The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a first step. The good news is that Perry took that step, the bad news is there's 999.98 miles to go. Few would disagree with Perry's call to "create jobs, incentivize work, keep nonviolent drug offenders out of prison, reform our schools and reduce the cost of living" for non-whites, but how do you get there? Perry's failings as governor weren't just enthusiasm for the 10th Amendment, but his terrible policies.
He rejected the Medicaid expansion component of Obamacare -- keeping health care out of reach for hundreds of thousands, including many blacks and Latinos. Likewise, his enactment of a voter ID law fell disproportionately on non-whites. And remember, Texas under Perry was the death penalty capital of the universe, also weighing more heavily on minorities. It's swell to suddenly -- now that you have no executive powers -- want shorter sentences for non-violent offenders, and as John Lennon might have said about the GOP and health care, we'd all love to see the plan. And so it's kind of sad -- and not the soft bigotry of low expectations -- that it's uplifting in 2015 just to hear a major Republican candidate merely say he supports the 14th Amendment.