The Presidential primary pains me to watch. Not because the candidates are atrocious — I don’t think they are, and regular readers will know that I think highly of Mitt Romney — but because I don’t enjoy arguing with my fellow conservatives. Actually, I really don’t enjoy arguing at all. I could once argue for the sheer enjoyment of it, but then I saw relationships damaged through those arguments and became averse to stringent arguments. When I speak up on some controversial matter, it’s because I feel compelled to defend the truth as I see it, and because I think (when I do) that I can bring clarity to the matter.
What can I say? I’m a lover, not a fighter.
The problem when you write in favor of a particular candidate in the primary is that you win the opposition of (a) all the people who favor the other party and (b) all the people who favor another candidate in the primary. In my case, this amounts to about 85% of my friends. I don’t like arguing in general, but I really don’t like arguing against those who typically defend me and my points of view. Ah well.
Yesterday I wrote my first piece at Evangelicals for Mitt. It addressed a question that had been posed by David French: Why is Rick Perry considered more conservative than Mitt Romney? Both have gone through less-conservative stretches in their past. Romney was once pro-choice, and passed a health care bill some believe runs against the principles of conservatism; Perry was a Democrat not too long ago, campaigned for Al Gore, and advanced an immigration law very similar to Obama’s DREAM Act. When it comes to their current positions, both are conservatives on fiscal, social and foreign matters.
So here, in a nutshell, is the theory I advanced. The mainstream media perceives Perry as more conservative because they associate thoroughgoing conservatism with certain cultural trappings — a Texan accent, cowboy boots, coarser forms of communication, an A&M degree, a simple black-and-white style of communication, and so on. For the liberal intelligentsia, those who appear more sophisticated and intelligent (in the way they expect intelligence to look) will generally be more liberal, and those who seem more rural and course will generally be more conservative. Worse, Rick-Perry-like qualities not only scream “extreme conservative” in their ears, but they are also found irritating in the extreme.
Many conservatives too have fallen into the trap of believing that someone who looks like an elite New Englander simply cannot be as thoroughly conservative, especially on social matters, as someone who looks like a Texas rancher. And when they see the Texas rancher assailed by the liberal media, this tells conservatives that this is “one of them.” Romney, they think, looks too much like the limousine liberals to believe the same thing as the Texan rancher believes. So conservatives defend the Texas rancher, insisting that he isn’t stupid and the America he represents really is worth preserving — and in the process of defending him they become attached to him. The harder the MSM attacks him (or, more often in recent years, attacks her), the more often the Right defends him, and the more possessive they become of him.
Here are a couple paragraphs of what I wrote:
Just because the Left hates him does not mean we have to love him. Just because he causes the veins in their heads to explode, does not mean that he’s the guy.
Supporting Rick Perry is one way for middle America to lift a big, white, hairy middle finger in the faces of the cultural elites. If they say that the Rick Perrys of the world are racist, backward, ignorant troglodytes, then we’ll defend him come hell or high water and we’ll even subject the haters to a Rick Perry presidency. One gets the impression that Mitt Romney could attend a dinner with New York liberals and have the grace and decency and savvy to get along with them. Romney is redolent of the Northeast; can anything conservative come from Boston? But that’s not what a substantial portion of the American electorate wants right now. They want a two-fisted political brawler who offends and sneers at and stomps upon the liberal opposition. They want someone who will take out their anger vicariously upon the establishment. Sending Perry to Washington would be like sending a battleship straight into the culture war’s most contested waters. He takes all the punishment, and he returns fire with gusto, but that doesn’t mean he’d be a better President.
Please read the rest, but note that this is not a fleshed-out argument against Perry. This is just a perspective on the support for Perry and how it arises, in part, as a reflection of the Left’s attacks against him. That’s why I said, in an earlier (much-criticized) post more critical of Perry,