The incumbent Texas governor’s latest political victory proves again that the man who rose from ‘humble beginnings’ learned his lessons well on how to rouse his support base
There just seems to be no stopping that tornado of Texas politics, incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
Time and time again over the years, he’s gone to battle — for a seat in the state Legislature, for the helm of the Agriculture Commission, for lieutenant governor and finally governor. And he has won all the way.
He always comes out the victor in the most challenging of skirmishes — and without a hair out of place.
To his credit, he’s perfected the art of running a political campaign. He knows his base of support, and he panders to it.
That base, of course, is the state’s conservative religious community, and its members love him.
Having come from a somewhat humble background in Haskell County, Perry probably first realized his potential for success with this group of people when he was a student at Texas A&M. During the summers he and his fellow Aggies joined a Bible book sales group that profited off the poor but faithful of the Deep South in states like Mississippi.
When Perry, who was remarkably handsome and charming in his youth, discovered he could convince poor people to forgo essentials in favor of buying expensive Bible storybooks, he surely had already stumbled on to his successful career plan.
The interesting part about Perry’s story is that he didn’t exactly hang around with the type of people who would come to provide his bread and butter in life. His friends were more affluent, as was the family of his wife-to-be, Anita Thigpen Perry.
One of his best friends — who reportedly can still reach him on the phone in a heartbeat — was the son of a banking family. And the future governor’s girlfriend was a doctor’s daughter.
It would seem that Perry — the self-described "son of a tenant farmer" — had his goals and his strategy well established from an early age. And, God bless him, he’s succeeded.
He’s become a wealthy man since he began his political career. That hair and charisma reminds Perry supporters of a television evangelist, and they are thrilled to vote for him and to even help finance his campaigns.
Naturally, there would not be any room in this politician’s plans for concerns about LGBT people’s rights, and that has likely led to Perry becoming one of the most anti-gay politicians to ever step foot in Austin.
Fast-forward to the day after the 2010 Republican Primary, and Perry is sitting pretty once again. Having just thwarted the challenge of Republican darling U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, he’s set his eyes on the Nov. 2 General Election. That contest pits him against the Democratic Party nominee, former Houston Mayor Bill White.
It’s going to be an uphill battle for White, who ironically is balding. The only hope he has to win the governor’s seat is to identify an equally strong base of support, court its members and lure them to the polls to defeat Perry’s supporters.
One part of that group, the LGBT community, is likely already established. While Perry helped push a Constitutional amendment through to ban same-sex marriage, White said he voted against it.
For anyone who still favors Perry, despite his exclusionary politics, don’t worry about him should he finally lose to a Democrat. He’s already rich, and some hair care product company would undoubtedly be thrilled to sign him up for an endorsement deal.
Perry would be great for one of those hair color products that claim to slowly erase the gray. And Anita’s big blond hair as she stood beside him would no doubt complement him well in a television commercial — just like she’s been doing for a quarter-century now. •
David Webb is a veteran Texas journalist who now lives on Cedar Creek Lake. Read his blog at TheRareReporter.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 5, 2010.
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