Rick Perry at CPAC 2014: Red-state governors lead the way

It’s hard to imagine Texas governor Rick Perry sitting out the 2016 election after watching his CPAC speech.  He was fighting terrible back pain in 2012, but that’s behind him now.  His kung fu is once again strong.  I mean that literally.  If he had been surrounded by ninjas at the beginning of his speech, they would all have been crumpled unconscious beside the podium by the time he was finished.  I didn’t see the hand gestures from him enough on the 2012 campaign trail, and it worried me, because you know the really good part of a Perry speech is coming when the aerobics begin.

Perry has a terrific campaign theme for 2016, simple and powerful: Voters can take a look at red states versus blue states, and decide which model of government gets better results.  It’s no contest, and Rick Perry is here to tell you the score.  Why, he might even mention the wee little red state he happens to preside over… a state that’s been pumping out a disproportionate share of the nation’s jobs during the Obama years.

The great division between red and blue states, in Perry’s telling, is that red states, “the freedom of the individual comes first.”  He cited the achievements of Republican governors such as Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Rick Scott of Florida – tossing in a great wisecrack about how it’s appropriate for Scott’s prospective opponent, Charlie Crist, to switch parties and become a Democrat, seeing as how he presided over the loss of 800,000 jobs the last time he nested in Tallahassee.

But even as opportunity flourishes in these prosperous red states, the big blues, such as New York and California, are bleeding population so fast that it’s hard to find moving trucks to facilitate escape.  A remarkably experiment has been under way for the past decade, and the results are clear: in states where the government plays a growing role in the lives of its citizens, prosperity diminishes, and exodus soon follows.  “From east coast to west coast, no two states have lost more personal income to other states than New York and California,” Perry noted.

On the other hand, conservative policies have been so successful that the people of Wisconsin rallied behind their governor, Scott Walker, through multiple attempts by powerful union bosses and left-wing activists to remove him.  “What is the common denominator in these states?” Perry asked.  “It is conservative governors, who cut taxes, who control spending, who invest in jobs… It is conservative governors who trust the people more than the machinery of government.  It’s conservative governors who know the freedom of the individual must come before the power of the State.”

This is an argument often made in the abstract by conservatives, portraying Big Government as a sign of distrust towards a dominated populace that can’t be trusted to manage their own affairs.  But Perry is making the argument concrete, not abstract, citing impressive real-world results to show voters the advantages of trusting people over government machinery.  That’s a sturdy platform for a presidential campaign.  It’s long past time for the Democrat Party to be shamed, good and hard, for the mess they’ve made of states where they have power.

And then, of course, you’ve got Texas.  “We cut taxes, we didn’t spend all the money, we created fair and predictable regulations, and we stopped personal injury trial lawyers from filing frivolous lawsuits,” said Perry.  “We have created almost 30 percent of the nation’s jobs, while keeping taxes among the nation’s lowest.  We have presided over not only an energy boom, but the nation’s largest population boom, and an economic boom of monumental proportions.  We have demonstrated that no state can tax and spend its way to prosperity, but with the right kind of system, you can grow your way there.”

In a contest between “big government protectionist nanny-state vision offered by liberal leaders,” versus the “limited government, unsubsidized freedom state offered by conservative leaders,” who in their right minds would look at the results and prefer the former?  Perry is ready to lay that challenge out to voters, along with some lively reminders that the federal government is doing an awful lot of stuff it shouldn’t be doing, while neglecting its actual duties.

“Nowhere does the Constitution say we need to federalize classrooms,” the Governor declared.  “Nowhere does it give federal officials primary responsibility over the air we breathe, the land we farm, or the water we drink.  And nowhere does it say Congress has the right to federalize health care!”

“It is time for Washington to focus on the few things the Constitution establishes that the federal government runs,” he challenged.  “Defend our country.  Provide a cogent foreign policy.  And what the heck, deliver the mail – preferably on time, and on Saturday!”

That one brought the house down.  Perhaps the problems of the U.S. postal system are a more potent symbol of Big Government dropping the balls it should be handling, while chasing countless Ruling Class agendas it has no business pursuing, than anyone but Rick Perry has heretofore realized.  Perhaps he’s also well ahead of the curve in realizing that voters have been quietly watching limited government win a great contest against socialism, in state after state, and wait only for a down-to-earth man with rolled-up sleeves to remind them of the results.