Rick Perry, Southern Democrat?

One of my cousins is a professor of political science at a Texas university. I was with him a few weeks ago and asked what he thinks of Rick Perry, particularly of his history as a Democrat. My cousin, a liberal, assured me that southern Democrats of Perry’s time and place were solid conservatives. Still, I wonder.

Jennifer Rubin points out that Perry’s record is rather weirdly mixed for someone who is staking out a position as the electable conservative in the GOP field. Forget his role as Al Gore’s Texas chairman in 1988. How about his support for Hillarycare; a seeming endorsement of amnesty for illegal aliens; and support for the 2008 “economic recovery package”–is this really the track record of a 21st century conservative?

Jennifer offers this hypothesis:

Another explanation is that he is a classic Southern Democrat from the 1980s. His social views are conservative, but he thrives on pork. He’s not neither in favor of free markets, nor is he anti-business; in fact, he’s very cozy with big-money donors. There is a philosophy of sorts here, an instinctive populism. But it’s not one that would, as the Tea Partyers demand, go after special interests with abandon, get cronyism out of government or insist politicians adhere to strict ethical standards on conflicts of interest.

I suspect that theory has merit. An emailer writes, “I think Perry is a disaster.. could Michele pull this off?” Not very many Republicans are seeing Perry that way; not so far, anyway. He is undoubtedly a talented politician, but his record seems to be more one of personal advancement than philosophical consistency.

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