Watch out for Rick Perry, governor of Texas and the latest contender for the Republican presidential nomination. He's the macho male to Obama's metrosexual. The hot branding iron to Obama's cool. Notice how Perry is snapping a salute at his campaign speeches. It's like he's already commander-in-chief.
Chris Matthews of MSNBC may consider Perry a "clown" in cowboy boots -- but those boots are made for stompin' and they'll stomp all over you. That means you, Mr. President. You are about to put your hand into the buzz saw of American politics. Hillary Clinton and John McCain are punks to this rattlesnake from Texas cotton country.
Perry has already got his "meme" established: a tough guy who is going to make America great again. G-R-E-A-T! Great! His announcement speech even edited Lincoln's famous paean to America as the "last best hope" on earth to "last great hope." No Third World America for this guy. Sure, all those new jobs in Texas may be at Walmart wages, but a docile working class is behind every great imperialistic nation.
No apologizing for Perry, either. Not even when he kills an innocent guy -- like Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for the arson-related deaths of his three daughters. Except that national arson experts say the fire was almost certainly caused by faulty wiring in the family's trailer, a tragic but common occurrence. Oh well, to Perry the defendant was a mean sumbitch who needed killin.' In the words of one Republican voter, "It takes balls to execute an innocent man."
On top of that, Perry seems determined to reignite the Civil War during its 150th anniversary. He may be quoting Lincoln, but he's channeling Jeff Davis by threatening secession. He uses the old ploy of segregationist governors to foment unrest during the civil rights movement: I'm opposed to violence myself but "who knows" what those other folks might do. Perry's iteration of that trope after endorsing the Tea Party:
"We got a great Union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb its nose at the American people, who knows what may come out of that."
It's not by accident that Perry entered the 2012 race in Charleston, South Carolina -- bastion of secessionism in 1860. Obama may find that he's having to follow his idol Lincoln in more ways than he ever anticipated.
Word is that Obama's team is gunning for Mitt Romney. That would be a huge mistake. There is no way in hell that conservative Christians, who consider the Mormon church a cult, will vote for Romney. And there's no way under heaven that Republicans will win in 2012 without conservative Christians. This isn't 2000, where dissatisfaction with Democrats led many progressives to support Ralph Nader, thus offsetting the lukewarm turnout of evangelicals for George W. Bush. Progressives are dissatisfied with Obama, all right, but the debt ceiling fiasco made clear exactly what is at stake in 2012. They may not cheer for Obama, but they'll vote for him.
There is a pack mentality among the worst of the Republican party, meaner than junkyard dogs, and Rick Perry is their designated alpha male. They are determined to restore the reactionary South, and Team Obama had better take them seriously. Michael Lind has written the best analysis of the consequences.
Americans look for a strong leader during times of crisis, and Rick Perry clearly aims to fill that bill. Obama's cerebral, reflective approach can make him appear passive.
He's got to find the fire in his belly about what he truly believes about America, and sell it. That's what Lincoln did, and that's the only way Obama will ever truly succeed. In 2012 we'll be reenacting the Civil War, all right, and there will be nothing civil about it.