Rick Perry popped his cowboy boot in his mouth anew the other night.
The uber-conservative Texas governor is for building (doubtless non-union as much as possible) that oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. “Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil we don’t have to buy from a foreign source,” he vowed.
Liberals jumped all over Perry. “Does he not know that Canada is a sovereign country?” MSNBC’s Ed Schultz crowed.
A lot of liberals think the nuttier these tea party-tilting Republicans talk, the more likely they are to turn off John and Jane Q. Public.
I hope my fellow lefties are right.
But gaffes from righties like Perry seldom send tea partiers running for the Rolaids. Indeed, when the likes of Perry get lampooned by the likes of Schultz – one of my favorite TV talking heads — tea party true believers see them as “martyred” yet again by the “liberal media elite.”
Tea party types are always cool with Perry types because they love the same things the tea partiers do, guns and the Good Lord, for instance. And they disdain the same folks, too — for instance, immigrants, workers like me who pack union cards, gay people and the “Communist Marxist Socialist Islamic Terrorist” in the White House whose “PLAN,” according to a tea party sign, is “WHITE SLAVERY.”
We Americans in the political mainstream – liberals, moderates and, yes, conservatives – think elected officials ought to know their stuff – like geography. We believe people we vote to represent us in Washington should be smart.
Yet “smart” seems to translate as “smarty-pants” and “elitist” to Perry, the tea party and the rest of the loopy right-wing political and media roost.
Of course, ultra righties – from neo-Confederates, nativists and gun crazies to homophobes, union haters and the you-can’t-be-a-Christian-and-a-Democrat crowd – have been giving their political heroes a pass on bloopers and flat out falsehoods for years.
Ronald Reagan said “trees cause more pollution than automobiles” and that “facts are stupid things.” No matter, the faithful doted on the Gipper. Tea partiers think he belongs on Mount Rushmore .
Oh, liberals roasted Reagan. Mark Green wrote a book called Ronald Reagan’s Reign of Error. He filled it with the Gipper’s famous flubs and fibs, all of them documented.
The Reaganites didn’t care how many times the Gipper got things wrong or stretched the truth. He spoke in subtexts they understood.
It’s called “dog whistle politics” today. It means the use of coded words and phrases calculated to fire up the faithful.
Reagan partisans heard the dog whistle when he opened his 1980 presidential campaign in Mississippi by telling a bunch of whooping and hollering white folks he was for “states’ rights,” the old white Southern code word for slavery and segregation.
Its the same today. The tea partiers aren’t bothered when their candidates say dumb things. But they perk up their ears when their favorite pols dog whistle them to “Take Our Country Back!” and “Save Our Constitution!” They know from whom these pols mean.