On Thursday, while giving his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Texas Governor Rick Perry reaffirmed the degree to which he and the rest of the conservative base are out of touch. Perry drew "boos" from the crowd when he refuted the idea that the Republican party must shift to appeal to the "growing Hispanic demographic." His tone and the meaning behind this statement reflect how little the extreme wing of the Republican Party understands its outdatedness.
Perry strutted out on the CPAC stage to give his speech to the tune of the country song, "God Bless Texas." He spent the better part of his speech touting Texas’s success through cherry-picked statistics such as job creation, and citing ways in which the president is taking America in the wrong direction. These include, most notably, the recent cancellation of all White House tours due to the sequester. Perry wrote that cutback off as liberal elitism striking once again. Most conservatives find common ground in making jabs like these at the president and his administration. Instead of keeping with this dichotomous tone that paints conservatives as good and liberals as bad - a successful approach at this conference - Perry went on to criticize his own party. This is where he lost his hold on mainstream Republican Party ideals and went too far to the right.
Perry used the last moments of his 20-minute speech to defend conservative ideals, insisting they are not a thing of the past and do not need to be remade to appeal to Hispanics. Going even further, he lambasted his own party for nominating candidates who were not sufficiently conservative in 2008 and 2012. Both John McCain and Mitt Romney are fairly conservative. Perry doesn’t seem to understand that the rest of the country isn’t like Texas, and that moderate candidates historically succeed in presidential elections more than their partisan counterparts. He said that some Americans think of Texas as a "foreign country." but maybe it’s actually him who has this misconception.
Perry criticizes the election of 2012, clearly believing he would have been a better nominee for the Republican Party. On stage he seemed sure of his support from his hometown Texans, but polls from after the 2012 primary season show otherwise. After withdrawing from the campaign, Perry’s approval ratings in Texas sunk to 40%, even lower than Obama’s statewide approval rating which hung at 43%. More than half of the Texans surveyed said they hoped Perry would not run for another term in 2014. 45% of those polled said they believed his campaign hurt the state’s image. Conservatives in America voted and chose Mitt Romney. Rick Perry didn’t stand a chance after leading a gaffe-ridden campaign.
CPAC is the largest conservative conference. It is unquestionably the place to discuss the party’s future. If only the speakers would discuss it productively. Maybe Governors Chris Christie or Bob McDonnell would have done had they been invited. Instead, CPAC cultivates intolerance and extremism within the Republican Party and that gets us nowhere in the grand scheme of things.