Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-TX) stumbles in 2012 are well known. Initially perceived to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, a series of embarrassing gaffes and misstatements forced him to exit the race much earlier than anyone anticipated. Currently, he’s polling in the low single-digits.
In Washington last week, however, as the Wall Street Journal reported, Perry wowed a crowd at a famous journalism center, in part by making a direct — and impassioned — pitch to African-Americans in a way other candidates simply have not:
The media continue to dismiss Republican Rick Perry’s presidential prospects even as they pretend that Democrat Bernie Sanders poses a serious threat to Hillary Clinton. Mr. Perry has a far better chance at becoming President than Mr. Sanders does, and last week the Texan gave the speech of the campaign so far.
At the National Press Club on Thursday, Mr. Perry delivered thoughtful, often moving, remarks about race and the Republican Party. (We reprint excerpts nearby.) The former Texas Governor doesn’t spare the GOP, Texans or Americans for historical offenses against African-Americans. He also scores his party for giving up on even trying to win support among African-Americans, a failure that he says has cost the GOP “our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln, as the party of equal opportunity for all.”
Click through to watch some highlights from his remarks, with some added commentary. It's definitely worth a listen.
In any case, and more pressingly, is Perry not correct? After all, the Republican Party was formed, at least in part, to stop the spread of slavery westward into the new territories. Indeed, Lincoln said it best when, writing a friend in the Democratic Party shortly before taking the presidential oath of office, “You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us." Thus the point of Perry’s speech, I think, was to proudly recover and retell American history as it happened, and to remind his rivals to stand once again for the principles for which Lincoln exemplified. For too long, he intoned, Republicans have dismissed a whole segment of Americans simply because they were perceived to be “unwinnable.” This is wrongheaded thinking — and no way to run a Republican campaign, he said.
Perry’s words ring true for their own sake, of course. However, if the Republican Party wants to win the general election in 2016, all candidates running should remember recent history, too:
America's blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, reflecting a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home.
Had people voted last November at the same rates they did in 2004, when black turnout was below its current historic levels, Republican Mitt Romney would have won narrowly, according to an analysis conducted for The Associated Press.
This means that the Republican Party can no longer afford to be apathetic or averse to campaigning for every single vote. I therefore hope Perry's competitors get the message — and follow his example.
Watch the full clip of Perry’s remarks below: