As Texans, we constantly feel the need to explain — and for many of us, apologize for — Rick Perry. The former governor certainly has his way of surprising us, whether that means getting saddled with a felony indictment or “oops”ing himself out of a presidential race.
But the 2016 the landscape for the Republican nomination is much different from Perry’s last primary race. With a crowded GOP field, Perry isn’t the craziest character out there by a long shot, and he seems to be “oops”ing a lot less. Despite a shrug-worthy poll position, he boasts a comparatively strong resume and, as of late, has gone against the GOP grain by revealing positions that could please moderates and, dare we say it, even liberals. Perry might have made himself 2012’s clown, but here are some moments that show he means business in 2016:
When he talked about his progressive Wall Street agenda
“After the bailouts of 2008, Americans came to believe that Wall Street is out for itself. That the game is rigged. That the wealthy and the well-connected have insurmountable advantages over average Americans who simply work hard and play by the rules,” he said.
Peter Schroeder of The Hill puts his stance into perspective: “Perry’s stance would put him further to the left on that particular point than Clinton, and squarely in the camp of Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders.”
When he introduced the glasses
After 2012, Perry needed a rebranding to show the rest of the U.S. he wasn’t some bozo who stumbled into the governor’s office. Presumably, his new thick-rimmed spectacles gained him a few IQ points, or at least a more “hipster-professorial” aesthetic.
When he responded to Donald Trump’s “rapist” comment
This one won’t shock Texans as much as the rest of the country, but Perry’s policy on the border with Mexico is generally praised as pragmatic — something he likely developed during his fourteen years governing a state with over 1,200 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. That’s experience none of his fellow contenders has.
It’s definitely a distinguishing— and perhaps defining — point on his resume, but the former governor really found his time to shine when Donald Trump called Mexican immigrants “rapists.” After Trump doubled down on his comment and made direct digs at Perry, the former governor came out with a video response:
“Donald, you might want to take a trip down to Texas sometime to meet some of the Hispanic Americans who have helped make our nation great.”
When he said he’d “probably” attend a gay wedding
We’re not calling Perry a bastion of social progressivism by any measure, but he did raise the liberal media’s brow when he said on a radio show that he would, indeed, attend a gay wedding if invited (more than we can say for Ted Cruz or Rick Santorum, who were both asked the same question). He by no means brought it up himself, and later accused it of being a “gotcha” question.
Significant? Nah. Progressive? Meh. Surprising? A bit, when you think about Perry’s 2011 viral campaign video “Strong” denouncing a gay person’s right to serve openly in the military.
When he signed the DREAM Act, and continued to support it (kinda)
This one’s complicated. Perry signed the DREAM Act, which offers undocumented immigrants in-state tuition, into law in 2001. Since then, the lege has tried to repeal it several times. When he was questioned about it in his last primary bid, Perry offered an economic, but moralistic argument:
“If you say that we should not educate children who come into our state for no other reason than that they’ve been brought there through no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart,” he said.
This comment, of course, brought scrutiny from the more conservative base of the party. This past session, when the DREAM Act, once again, became a contentious issue, Perry told the Texas Tribune that the decision to repeal it or not was up to lawmakers, emphasizing that he believed the federal government needed to work on securing the border. We get it, it’s hard to be an adamant supporter of progressive immigration policy when you’re a 2016 Republican hopeful, but he didn’t repudiate his support for the bill. We’ll still count this one.
When he redid Colt Ford’s “Answer to No One” as his 2016 campaign song
We’ll end on a high note. Just watch for yourself:
(images via AP/Mary Altaffer)