When Rick Perry says, “Running for the presidency is not an IQ test,” we laugh because he sounds like a big dummy.
The Texas governor’s buffoonish stab at the 2012 GOP nomination was the rough draft of Dumb and Dumber To. In 2014, he’s wearing smart guy glasses and will probably have braces and a pocket protector by the time he’s done with his coaching from a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
This isn’t the plot of a Broadway musical or a Christopher Guest movie. This is what Perry is actually doing to prepare for his second run at the presidency.
All of this may make you think that Rick Perry is a big dummy.
The reality is Texas’ longest serving governor is no intellectual — but he’s something of a political genius. By employing “moneyball” tactics, he was re-elected three times by huge margins, cementing the Lone Star’s state firm slide into a Republican stronghold. He slipped into the 2012 race late and raised tens of millions in weeks. He would have beaten Mitt Romney, the frontrunner who’d been running for six years, if Romney hadn’t moved to Perry’s right on immigration and debates didn’t require talking.
Perry is smart enough to know he doesn’t sound smart — and he never will. He also knows sounding intelligent isn’t a huge advantage in a Republican primary. But Republicans donors have no real interest in putting a billion dollars into a candidate who has proven he might self-destruct on live TV. They’re too smart.
Today, I published a post about the fake Jonathan Gruber “controversy” called “Republicans Still Think You’re Stupid“. And the response when I tweet it usually is, “We are stupid! Look at the results of the last election.” I was arguing that Republicans think you’re stupid because they expect you to care more about the ramblings of one academic advisor than the overwhelming evidence that the Affordable Care Act is working.
The Gruber thing just happens to show that the right has run out of tactics to fight Obamacare, which by all objective standards is working. But it’s not about trying to convert anyone — except John Roberts. Now the right is just trying to give the Chief Justice the courage to gut the law that he lacked in 2012. To do this they’re inflaming the right and ignoring everyone else. They wouldn’t dare bring this lame crap to the voters in a presidential election.
Voters always seem stupid to the losers. Republicans often accuse Democrats of being “low-information voters” even though studies show that the only people less informed than Fox News viewers are Fox News hosts.
But the fact is Republican strategists and funders respect voters.
The right has spent billions of dollars and the last five decades building up an infrastructure of think tanks, policy centers and other organizations completely invested in reenforcing conservative ideology. The massive conservative media anti-Abortionplex that has sprouted like fungus over the last three decades exposes these ideologies to the world and repeats right wing frames — e.g. “taxes are theft” not investments — ad nauseum.
Conservatives don’t expect voters to have the time and willingness to luxuriate in the details of policy. They know that policy doesn’t matter anyway because we vote based on our unconscious reaction to how issues are framed. And in an election year like 2014 — knowing thing that all the fundamentals favored them — they focused tremendous resources on down-ballot races. While Democrats spent less on state races than they did losing one Senate race in Kentucky, Republicans won control of more state houses than at any time since before the Great Depression.
The left has to understand that when it comes to politics, Republicans are better at it than we are.
When there isn’t an obviously failed Bush/Cheney administration to run against or the magic of an Obama campaign, the GOP will be the favorite in nearly every federal election. Their structural advantages and ruthless willingness to spend a half a billion dollars vilifying a bill like the Stimulus — which prevented a Great Depression and helped increase America’s solar capacity by 2000 percent — are in no way way matched by the left.
Yes, the GOP has only won the popular vote in one presidential election since 1988. But during that time they’ve still exerted extraordinary control of the levers of power by maximizing their resources and using any possible tactical advantage they can imagine.
Republican ideology may be stupid. It’s clearly failed and helped lead to the worst inequality since before the New Deal. Until we understand that Republicans aren’t stupid and start duplicating their strategies, we’re letting them win.
[Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr]