Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Once upon a time, Rick Perry loved HillaryCare

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the Republican presidential frontrunner and seems to have broad support among the party's hyper-conservative base. The nomination may very well be his to lose.

But... is he good enough for the ideological puritans -- the (White) Bolsheviks, if you will -- who determine who's in and who's out, acting not just as gatekeepers but as internal purgers and purifiers?

Ah, that's the question.

There's no doubt that Perry is a crazy extremist. That's how he made it to frontrunner status so quickly. Not even Michele "hurricanes are a message from God" Bachmann can keep up with him.

But Perry's closet has its skeletons. For example, if we just go over some well-known facts, he used to be a Democrat -- a Texas Democrat, sure, so more or less a Republican, but still, he was a Democrat until 1989. He supported Al Gore in '88 and chaired Gore's campaign in Texas. He has voted for tax increases.

Now, all this he can write off as pre-conversion sinning, just the sort of lascivious, arousing thing that appeals to Christian fundamentalists, that is, to his base. It's a convenient narrative that may not only not hurt him but that that may actually help a great deal. He was on the other side. He lived in sin. He knew evil. Now he's on the right path. You know the bullshit.

But what about his support for "HillaryCare" in 1993, several years after his conversion? As he wrote to the then-First Lady, as Texas agriculture commissioner:

I think your efforts in trying to reform the nation's health care system are most commendable.

Is that a gun smoking? Huh.

Maybe this won't hurt him either, or at least not much. He is, after all, a rabid opponent of "ObamaCare" and has attacked Romney for instituting similar health-care reform in Massachusetts. Maybe his enthusiastic base, along with other sympathetic Republicans, will continue to hype his candidacy and propel him over the top. It would require making an exception -- other Republicans have been purged for much less, after all -- but he's on top of the party right now and might just be immune to any such challenge to his ideological bona fides.

But still... actively supporting Hillary's health-care reform efforts? If you're a Republican, it's bad enough even to be civil to the Clintons. But backing a key plank of their "socialist" agenda as well? You might as well be a card-carrying Stalinist.

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