The New Rick Perry Takes a Step to the Center

Sometimes, you don't realize what you had until it's gone.

Amid what's been a downright depressing stretch for newly minted Texas Governor Greg Abbott — on gay marriage, guns, military exercises, etc — our former governor, the immaculately bespectacled Rick Perry, has gone out and started sounding like a centrist, at least in Repuplican terms, as he trudges into his long-shot presidential bid.

In May, Perry repudiated the myriad Jade Helm 15 conspiracy theories that suggested the wide-scale military training exercise was a ruse to declare martial law. Unlike Abbott and Perry's fellow presidential candidate Ted Cruz, Perry decried the bald distrust of the military.

“I think it’s OK to question your government — I do it on a pretty regular basis," Perry told reporters. "The military's something else. Civilian leadership — you can always question that, but not the men and women in uniform."

Then came Perry's July examination of the Republican Party's disconnect with black voters. Perry traced the distrust to Barry Goldwater's presidential run in 1964 — the Arizona senator opposed the Civil Rights Act — and admitted that the GOP, himself included, has been to quick to forsake civil rights in deference to states' rights. From Perry's July 2 speech at the Washington Press Club:

As you know, I am an ardent believer in the 10th Amendment, which was ratified in 1791, as part of our Bill of Rights. The 10th Amendment says that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved for the states respectively, or the individual. I know that state governments are more accountable to you than the federal government. But I'm also an ardent believer in the 14th Amendment, which says that no state shall deny any person in its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

There has been, and there will continue to be an important and a legitimate role for the federal government in enforcing civil rights. Too often, we Republicans, me included, have emphasized our message on the 10th Amendment but not our message on the 14th, an amendment, it bears reminding, that was one of the great contributions of Republican party to American life, second only to the abolition of slavery.

For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote, because we found we didn’t need it to win. But, when we gave up trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln, as the party of equal opportunity for all. It’s time for us, once again, to reclaim our heritage as the only party in our country founded on the principle of freedom for African-Americans.  
Finally, this week, Perry's justified feud with Donald Trump has put the proverbial icing on the cake. The former governor went of Fox News, called out Trump for "[knowing] exactly what he was doing" when he suggested that many immigrants who come through the United States' southern border are rapists and refused to back down when host Sean Hannity tried to give Trump some leeway. The next morning, Perry released a Youtube direct address to "Donald." Look, coming to the realization that you yearn for the good old days of your still-under-felony-indictment, maybe Dominionist former governor is tough, but here we are. We miss you, Rick. How about running again in 2018?
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young