Like the Blues Brothers, Texas Governor Rick Perry is on a mission from God. Elwood Blues pleaded "Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration don't fail me now" and now Perry is pleading "Our Lady of Blessed Social Conservatism, don't fail me now." Both men put their faith in the driver's seat. In the political mission of capturing the nomination and ultimately the presidency, Perry's vehicle is social conservatism.
Governor Perry hails from the conservative area of West Texas. His conservatism is not surprising even though he spent six years as a Democratic state house member. His Democratic allegiance was a function of an incomplete Southern partisan realignment not of a progressive political agenda.
The Texas governor's social conservatism has become more prominent as the social conservative bloc has moved into the mainstream in Texas politics. Only Perry knows if his heightened social conservatism is a function of having the political context to exhibit it or if he latched on to the tide of Texas public sentiment. Either way, the result is the same -- Perry has become the spokesman for Texas social conservatives and the larger Tea Party movement.
Perry has amped up his conservatism in the last 18 months. In the gubernatorial primary in early 2010 he embraced the Tea Party and they embraced him. Even Sarah Palin provided her stamp of approval and stumped for him. Perry was able to place himself to the right of Kay Bailey Hutchinson, harness the Tea Party momentum, and handily win the nomination.
Following his election and coming up on a potential presidential run, Perry fast-tracked a staunchly conservative policy agenda. The Governor took a pro-active move to signal his conservatism at home and nationally. Two of the most polemical policy initiatives were mandatory pre-abortion sonograms and stricter voter identification laws. Both issues solidified the conservative Texan legislators and drew national attention.
Mandatory pre-abortion sonograms were especially important to Perry. The legislation was not just a badge of social conservatism, but a move to cancel out an earlier not-so socially conservative position. In 2007 he signed an executive order mandating all girls entering the 6th grade to receive the HPV vaccine. The Texas legislature overwhelmingly crushed the order. Presently, this is Perry's only social agenda peccadillo and in light of his larger track record it will likely be forgiven.
Governor Perry has firmly established his social conservatism at the state level. Now he is rolling it out at the national level. Perry has cultivated social and religious conservatives at the popular and elite level. In public Perry charismatically stumps a pious agenda. But more importantly, he has developed alliances with prominent Evangelical leaders. Perry has cemented strong relationships with Texas-based Evangelical leaders (e.g. John Hagee). Recently, he has developed stronger ties with national Evangelical leaders. Just this week he participated via video conference in a meeting of conservative South Carolina evangelical leaders.
Prospective presidential candidate Rick Perry seems to be cementing his social conservative base through a day of prayer and fasting, the Response. Coincidentally, the event takes place August 6 - right around the time Perry pledged to announce whether he would run. This event brings together the social conservative rank and file with the evangelical leadership. More importantly, the Response has been advertised and disseminated on the national level. It has even attracted a lawsuit for blurring the lines between church and state. The lawsuit has become a blessing for Perry because it has served to only solidify and rally his base of support around the event.
Governor Perry has given all indications that he is on a mission -- a mission to run for the presidency. This mission, like that of the Blues Brothers to save the orphanage, comes from God. Faith will serve Perry well, but more importantly the support of social conservatives is what will answer Perry's prayers of getting the Republican presidential nomination.
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