Nothing against Rick Perry, but his departure from the Republican field is a heartening step forward for both Republicans and political ideology in general.
When the Texas Governor entered the race, he was the odds-on favorite.
He was likable, conservative and successful as governor.
Perry had a history of fiscal conservatism, a strong plan to limit government as a civic conservative and was a god-fearing, faithful man as a social conservative.
But from the first moment I saw him, standing stiff and rigid, as if the starch in his freshly pressed shirt had spread throughout his body, I thought, “No way can this guy be president.”
A friend of mine, who happens to be a politician, went to meet with Governor Perry in Texas during his campaign to talk about a pet issue they shared.
After she came back I said, “Your new friend Mr. Perry really looks stiff up on the debate stage, like his tie is choking him or something.”
She shrugged and replied, “Yeah, he’s most comfortable in his blue jeans and cowboy hat.”
That’s part of Perry’s charm. He’s a southern boy through and through. How many of us would much rather be in jeans and boots than whatever it is we’re forced to wear to work?
Furthermore, how many people have, in an important moment, made a big misstep, forgotten the papers for a presentation or simply blanked on finishing a project at the office?
Perry was a guy you’d love to go hunting with, have a beer with and watch football with.
He wasn’t going to be president.
But here’s what I find truly fascinating about Rick Perry’s precipitous fall from grace among conservatives: nothing about his ideology changed over the course of his campaign.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but the reason that’s important is because it was his position on the issues, his solid footing as the “best conservative” candidate of the bunch, never waned.
Ideologically, he may have been the best choice.
But there’s more to being a leader than ideology. In fact, I could argue that ideology is one of the least important things about a president that makes him successful.
What the campaign showed was Perry’s lack of charisma, lack of preparedness, lack of improvisation and an inability to properly articute the conservative position.
Much like an incredibly intelligent person doesn’t necessarily make a good teacher, a good conservative doesn’t always make the best mouthpiece for conservatism.
Republican voters could have stuck with him for ideological reasons. Perry’s supporters certainly weren’t going to Ron Paul or Jon Huntsman and likely weren’t going to Mitt Romney if Perry faltered.
They could have dug in on the conservative line and said ‘No, this is our candidate, the good conservative,” and not budged.
But America saw Perry’s flaws as a potential president. To be Commander-in-Chief of the United States, you have to live out the title, you have to command it.
Perry was never that guy.
In economic turmoil, international financial uncertainty and a burgeoning feeling of restlessness at home, Perry was never equipped with the intangibles needed to be president, even if he was the best conservative.
Perry was the anti-Obama: all substance, no flash.
In a world of media frenzies, 24-hour news and Twitter, the President has to be equal parts legislator and magician. The president needs to make you believe certain things, even if there’s not entirely true.
Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum aren’t “better” conservatives than Perry – just better than Romney – but both are better equipped to handle the job of being president.
It’s nice to see, for once, ideology sharing the spotlight of importance in a political discussion.