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Rick Perry Religion Ad Is Tactless, But Tactically Brilliant

In his sisyphean attempt at the GOP nomination, Texas Governor Rick Perry has taken a new approach, hoping that the best way to win the nomination and keep the corporate checks flowing, is to pick the best wedge issues with the political right: A fight against “secular education,” the dubious religious faith of President Barack Obama, and the perennial debate over homosexuality.

His newest ad, titled “Strong,” while emotionally crass and overtly feckless, may yet prove to be tactically brilliant.

From Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith to Newt Gingrich’s multiple marriages, there is little to motivate Evangelical voters. And, lest religious voters be dismissed, it was with their ballots that an underfunded, disregarded, über-religious governor was once able to catapult himself to an unexpected victory in Iowa.      

To many, it must seem like a meaningless exercise to spend even one minute on a campaign trailing three points behind Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas).

However, as the congressman can likely attest, you don’t have to win office to change the debate. For proof, just look at the number of times fellow candidates have taken on Paul’s anti-Federal Reserve mantra as their own; some further than others.    

But, for a candidate who once said that he doesn’t “think the federal government has a role,” in education, while running for the highest federal office in land, to suddenly proclaim his solution to the problem with a ringing federal endorsement of prayer, is dispiriting to say the least.

Indeed, what is worse than political pabulum is inconsistent political pabulum.  

Yet, more importantly and ultimately more insidiously, is that in 83 words, Perry has taken a far-flung escapade in political culture wars, hoping that rashness and bigotry will win him votes.

Governor Perry’s message is the problem in American political discourse. It is a coded language that openly trades in and profits from our fears, not our hopes, from our animus, not our deepest held aspirations.   

“There’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military,” he opines, while suggesting a fight for true civil rights is the same thing as whether or not our children sing Silent Night in their school choir.

While it is hard to fight the biggest slab of Republican red meat the governor is hurling, it is coincidentally fitting that the day he aired his ad, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was in Geneva proclaiming, on International Human Right’s Day, that “gay rights are human rights.”

As she went on to describe, the act of “caring for others is an expression of what it means to be fully human. It is because the human experience is universal that human rights are universal and cut across all religions and cultures.”

Perry asks us to do just the opposite and may well benefit for it.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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