Rick Perry’s Disgusting Ad and #GOP schizophrenia

As you’re probably already aware, Rick Perry came out with a YouTube ad blasting gays serving in the military while, apparently, Christian children can’t celebrate Christmas—which makes me wonder if he’s an antiwar candidate and if I should invite him to Festivus this year.

Put simply, the ad is disgusting. Insulting people defending* Perry’s right to run for office in another country, insulting people putting their lives on the line so that he can say what he wants, and insinuating that Christians—who make up an absolute majority of all Americans [PDF]—can’t celebrate Christmas is absolutely insane and retarded (and yes, I chose those words specifically.)

Heck, even members of his staff thought the ad was nuts!

But not everyone was comfortable with the script. When the ad was being crafted several weeks ago, Perry’s top pollster, Tony Fabrizio, called it “nuts,” according to an email sent from Fabrizio to the ad’s main creator, longtime GOP operative Nelson Warfield. In a separate email to The Huffington Post, Warfield confirmed that the ad was made over Fabrizio’s objections.

Nelson should have listened to Tony. That was a bad, bad move.

At the same time, however, it’s illustrative of the Republican Party and the schizophrenia it’s been going through recently (and by “recently,” I really mean since the late 80s/early 90s.) Since the injection of the Religious Right, the GOP has had to contort itself into a pretzel to have any sort of consistency. We should never disrespect the troops!…unless they’re gay. We need to get government out of our lives!…but it should promote “family values” (whatever the hell that is) in our lives. We have to cut spending!…unless its on defense. The government is too intrusive!…but we need it to arrest US citizens without trials or due process in order to fight terrorism. We must have a free market economy!…unless you’re a big bank or corporation, in which case we’ll divert millions of tax dollars into your treasuries. And so on and so forth, ad nauseum.

As I wrote earlier today, not only are Democrats losing voters, but so are Republicans. Right now, Dems are losing more because people are attributing the malaise to their policies, which is half-right. However, people are jettisoning the Republican party because, right now, it’s a bunch of hypocrites. It’s why the Democrats won big in 2006 and 2008: Republican rhetoric about the free market was not backed up their pro-business corporatist actions.

Right now, there are basically two strands of conservative thought within the GOP, which mirror the two factions within the Tea Party to some degree: social/religious conservatives (sometimes known as “traditionalist conservaives”) and fiscal/economic conservatives (who are more or less lumped in with “libertarians”.) For some time now, we’ve been led to believe that only together can they advance limited government and free market principles, through the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and National Review.

I don’t think that’s the case, however—in fact, I would argue that it’s been detrimental. Giving government the power to decide who can marry whom, to force people to essentially follow a religion by forcing teachers to treat it as science in science classes, and try to promote one set of values over other sets is antithetical to principles of limited government! They just don’t fit! If you give someone economic freedom, allow them to keep the money they’ve earned and spent it as they see fit, to let them create businesses and enter into voluntary associations, that will naturally lead to social freedom—i.e., a greater variety in society, usually not within the norms most social conservatives want.

The Republican Party, then, is facing an internecine battle, one that for a long time was dominated by social conservatives, who received a boost from aggressive “neoconservative” chickenhawks. Fortunately, as Ron Paul’s campaign can attest to, the tide is turning, and now both sides are coming onto a more equal footing. Republican voters will have to choose if they want to support social conservatism, and by extension, a large government that runs our lives and manages the economy, or choose economic conservatism, and by extension permit greater individual freedom. Barring a meteor strike, Rick Perry will not win the nomination and the presidency, so he will not be dictating that direction, but his ad does show us the schizophrenia lurking underneath that Republicans must confront and deal with.


*That’s assuming that having US troops staying in another country that long ago ceased to be a threat to us is somehow “defense.”

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