It’s Rick Perry’s politics and not his religion that should worry us

Depending on if you like him or hate him, Texas Governor Rick Perry became either a cause célèbre or a bête noire this past weekend.  His brave and/or ignoble act was to give the keynote speech before an estimated 8,000 people at Response, a Christian prayer rally that took place in Houston.  The event, which attracted extensive national publicity despite drawing fewer participants than many high school football rallies, has been seen as a defining moment for Perry and his Christian, faith-based politics.

The argument over Perry’s religious fervor has taken precedence over a discussion of his political stands, which is the way the national news media rolls nowadays.  Why discuss economics and civil rights, when personalities are so much more fun?

But apart from the entertainment value of focusing on Perry’s devoutness, the news media quietly helps him with this approach to his possible candidacy.  If the argument is should someone this devout run for office?, Perry has a better chance of garnering votes than if his stand on issues were to be the focal point of his potential candidacy.  We have freedom of religion and separation of church and state, which means there is only one answer to the question, should a man this religious run? Yes, why not!  By posing the Perry candidacy in terms of his devotion to his lord, the media helps all of us to justify and approve the candidate.

As usual, though, the media posed the wrong question.

The right question would be: what are his stands on the issues?  Now perhaps his brand of religion affects those stands, but it’s not the religion that matters, it’s the opinions.

Here, then, is what Texas Governor Rick Perry’s thinks about key political and economic issues:

  • Consistently supports lower taxes and fights higher taxes, especially higher taxes on the wealthiest citizens.
  • Wants to solve the U.S. debt problem by cutting government spending and lowering taxes on the wealthy even more.
  • Does not believe in global warming and opposes all regulation of greenhouse gases and other emissions.
  • Supports school vouchers, which bleed the public schools by giving money to parents to send their children to private schools.
  • Supports the teaching of the disproved theory of intelligent design in science classes.
  • Voted against health care for community college faculty in Texas.
  • Opposes abortion and gay marriage and supports the death penalty.
  • Has spoken of the possibility of Texas seceding from the union.

With a platform as ill-informed and right-wing as Perry’s is, who cares what religion he practices?  It’s not his faith that stinks like a fish from head to tail, it’s his politics.

Reverting to the last election now: Finally the academic world has caught up with OpEdge.  Regular readers will remember that I said the 2010 election cycle would come down to who voted and who didn’t.  I said it frequently before and after the election, which gave Republicans seven new Senators and control of the House of Representatives and 29 state legislatures.  I kept pointing out that the news media was overestimating the strength of the Tea Party and that all Democrats had to do was figure out a way to get their non-voting constituencies—the young, poor and minorities—to the polls to win the election.  They didn’t and they lost.

Now Professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia has written a book, Pendulum Swing, which backs me up.  Professor Andrew Hacker of Queens College analyzes and agrees with Sabato’s findings in the latest New York Review of Books.  Nice work, guys, but try to remember for next time—winning an election has always been and will always be about who turns out.

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