Gov. Rick Perry was a star at the Texas “tea parties,” denouncing Washington and mentioning the s-word—secession—in front of enthusiastic crowds. Perry had already made headlines by calling for Texas to reject Washington’s “stimulus” funds and by backing a resolution in the Texas House of Representatives affirming the state’s sovereignty, before he fired up the tea-party crowds (he spoke at three gatherings, gave numerous TV and radio interviews on the 15th, and had promoted the nationwide tea parties beforehand) with statements such as this: “I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference in the affairs of our state.” Washington, stated Perry, is “mortgaging our future,” and “My hope is that Washington pays attention. We’ve 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 might come out of that.”
Perry, known as a Bush loyalist, has been surprising some of us recently. The violence along the southern border, for instance, has become so serious that, in February, even Perry, who previously had barely noticed that Texas had a southern border, called for 1,000 troops (he said he didn’t care if they were military, National Guard, or customs agents) to provide the “boots on the ground” to bolster border security. And he went further, adding that the U.S. government needed to pay attention to a threat much closer to home than the Middle East. Perry was speaking in El Paso, where Juárez Mayor José Reyes Ferriz and his family, fleeing death threats, have taken refuge, joining a flow of middle-class and wealthy Mexicans coming to Texas to escape drug-cartel violence and another Mexican growth industry, kidnapping.
The Mexican drug war is serious business, with the cartels reportedly commanding a force of 100,000 of their own “boots on the ground.” But its spillover into the United States is only another phase of the continuing Mexican invasion and the gradual merger of the United States with an alien nation that has historic grievances against America. What the powers that be likely do not want is for the public to become so alarmed by the Mexican drug war that Americans demand swift action to secure our borders, preventing the merger from continuing. Thus the waffling in Washington about how to respond to the outcry over the spillover of the drug war into the United States, with security officials calling troops on the border a “last resort,” even as a Homeland Security report released in April had Secretary Janet Napolitano fretting more over alleged “right-wing extremism” than over the Mexican drug cartels.
And so the distracting arguments from Washington have begun: The drug war is the fault of U.S. gun laws. But as a number of observers have pointed out, many of the military weapons used by the cartels, including grenade launchers, aren’t the kind of hardware you can pick up at a U.S. gun show—and there is that pesky Second Amendment to think of. Anyway, wouldn’t tighter border controls likely decrease the flow of guns into Mexico, if that’s your major concern?
The United States can’t “militarize” the border. Why not, if that’s what it takes to protect U.S. security? The United States has invaded, occupied, and “militarized” countries thousands of miles away, and some of the same people who take the antiborder “militarization” position haven’t minded that.
And then there’s what many see as the clincher in the blame-America game: We must recognize that U.S. drug consumption finances the drug cartels. Consider it recognized. Now what? Should the United States legalize drugs, and if so, which ones? How would the drug trade be regulated? The debate on this particular subject would probably take years, while the immigration invasion and drug-war spillover continue. Wouldn’t it be wiser to secure the border first, then have a debate about drug policy? Meanwhile, talk of aid to Mexico (for law-enforcement training, equipment, and “technical advice”—anything but a real border-security crackdown) has continued. And Americans should beware a stealth amnesty for illegal aliens in the guise of a “refugee” program.
True, Rick Perry’s response to the war along the border and his anti-Washington statements (Perry failed to notice the expansion of state power as well as the increase in border violence and uncontrolled immigration under George W. Bush) to the tea-party crowds are likely fueled by his own political ambitions and could be a model for GOP politicians intent on doing some distracting of their own. Perry faces a challenge within his own party from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the 2010 governor’s race and may be eyeing a presidential run in 2012. A politician motivated by ambition is hardly something new under the sun: Before we simply write off Perry’s recent statements as completely cynical, perhaps serious people of the right should consider the possibility that at least some in the GOP are starting to understand that securing the Middle American “base” is far more important for their party than a futile quest for the elusive “Hispanic vote.” Even then, mobilizing that base is still a long way from actually following through on something more than a facsimile of Nixon’s “Southern strategy.”
The non-neocon blogosphere has been debating the political potential of the tea-party movement, as well as the danger that the GOP establishment might co-opt that movement. Takimag.com’s Jack Hunter, for example, wrote that the tea parties were “something that would never have been possible on the Right a year ago—a substantial, anti-government grassroots movement that is becoming increasingly more radical.” Mr. Hunter noted that after eight years of big-government Republicanism the themes at the tea parties (among them, calls to abolish the income tax and to stop foreign aid) would have made Ron Paul feel “right at home.” Richard Spencer also noted that the tea parties had veered off of the GOP’s recent big-government/warfare-state line: “For the first time in at least a decade, conservatives appear to be rediscovering their ‘Don’t Tread on Me,’ Old Right tradition.” Spencer hoped that the GOP establishment would fail to co-opt the grassroots, as the Republican base becomes less focused on foreign intervention and more on fighting Washington. Blogger Chris Roach looked back at the obsession of the Republicans with Bill Clinton in the 1990’s, an obsession that prevented the right from mounting anything more than a personality-based resistance (a theme the late Sam Francis wrote of at the time). Obama may also be a figure who could mobilize conservatives, but Mr. Roach warned of a “political disaster” if such popular sentiments are co-opted by another pseudoconservative.
The sentiments of the crowds at the Texas tea parties do seem to indicate that something has changed, and that maybe the grassroots will be harder to co-opt this time around. Tea-party participant Mike Smart, a 51-year-old oilfield worker from West Texas, for example, told the Associated Press that he is a conservative, but not a Republican. (Mr. Smart was quoted as saying that Bush II had been “going to the same destination” as the Democrats.) People like Mr. Smart represent a considerable contingent in the tea-party crowds, which seem to reflect a growing sense in Middle America that the present powers that be have lost their legitimacy. With George W. Bush out of office, his brand of Republicanism recognized as futile, a deepening economic crisis, and Obama’s open anti-American leftism (along with his administration’s apparent goal of supporting an illegal-alien amnesty), an authentic right fueled by populist anger might have a chance to mount an effective resistance to the ongoing deconstruction of America. If that is to come to pass, the personification of either popular resistance (in a pseudoconservative like Bush II) or of The Enemy (Obama subbing for Clinton) must be avoided, and the resistance focused on principles (antiintervention, antitax, defending the borders, pro-life) rather than on slogans or knee-jerk defenses of dubious Republican politicians.
At heart, the struggle for America is a culture war and a Nixon- or “W”-like politician could co-opt the grassroots simply by attracting the ire of the anti-American/multiculturalist left. As yet, no clear leader for a grassroots right has emerged, nor have the tea-party/anti-immigration/anti-intervention branches of popular discontent merged into a coherent force. Still, the tea parties, and the apparent disenchantment of their participants with the conservative mainstream, are hopeful signs. The anti-Obama, antisocialism grassroots could form an authentic resistance and emerge as the vanguard of a counterrevolution. Let us pray that is the case, for anything less will not suffice to salvage our country.