Rick Perry's Conservative Credentials

Russ Vaughn

In the articles, blog posts and their attending comments being posted here at American Thinker and at other websites about the possibility of Texas governor, Rick Perry entering the presidential race, there seems to be some question as to Perry's authenticity as a conservative and Republican because he was once a Democrat and was Al Gore's Texas campaign manager in 1988.

As someone who lived almost thirty years in Texas, perhaps I can clarify the issue. The Democratic Party that controlled Texas for 150 years was more conservative than half the current Republican Party nationwide. Just a few decades back, everyone in Texas was a Democrat. I was raised a Democrat and married into a long-time, Yellow-dog Democratic family in West Texas. We were all conservatives except for a couple of rebellious hippie types residing in Austin, which at that time was becoming the liberal capital of the South.

As the Texas Democratic party was slowly taken over by that liberal movement emanating from Austin and increasingly, Houston, millions of conservative Texas Democrats changed parties to remain true to their conservative beliefs. Rather than being cause to question Perry's authenticity, his switch is a testament to the solidity of his conservative principles. As I and so many other Southerners are fond of saying, "We didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Party left us," which is exactly what happened to Rick Perry.

By the way, the Democrat who beat out Al Gore for the candidacy in that primary was a Massachusetts liberal, Michael Dukakis. Another primary candidate was Jesse Jackson. Gore, from Tennessee, and Dick Gephardt from Missouri were considered the conservatives in that primary race.

Too many Americans forget that Al Gore hasn't always been the flaming liberal he is now. Gore was the scion of an old Southern family, son of a U.S. Senator who once advocated using nuclear weapons to end the Korean War. While more liberal than most Southern Democrats, Gore's father was conservative enough to refuse to support the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Like his party, he gradually became more liberal, too much so for his conservative Tennessee constituents, who booted him out of office in 1970 and handed political power to the Republican Party for the first time since Reconstruction.

So Al Gore was a product of a liberalizing Democratic party in that 1988 primary, but he was still more conservative than all the other candidates except Gephardt. By campaigning for Al Gore in 1988, Rick Perry was not betraying his conservative principles, he was, like so many of us, simply a product of the changing political times, another Southern Democrat slowly awakening to the fact that he was being abandoned by his increasingly liberal party. It is noteworthy that it was the very next year after he campaigned for Gore that Perry changed party affiliation.

I can see how being around Al could do that to you...

In the articles, blog posts and their attending comments being posted here at American Thinker and at other websites about the possibility of Texas governor, Rick Perry entering the presidential race, there seems to be some question as to Perry's authenticity as a conservative and Republican because he was once a Democrat and was Al Gore's Texas campaign manager in 1988.

As someone who lived almost thirty years in Texas, perhaps I can clarify the issue. The Democratic Party that controlled Texas for 150 years was more conservative than half the current Republican Party nationwide. Just a few decades back, everyone in Texas was a Democrat. I was raised a Democrat and married into a long-time, Yellow-dog Democratic family in West Texas. We were all conservatives except for a couple of rebellious hippie types residing in Austin, which at that time was becoming the liberal capital of the South.

As the Texas Democratic party was slowly taken over by that liberal movement emanating from Austin and increasingly, Houston, millions of conservative Texas Democrats changed parties to remain true to their conservative beliefs. Rather than being cause to question Perry's authenticity, his switch is a testament to the solidity of his conservative principles. As I and so many other Southerners are fond of saying, "We didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Party left us," which is exactly what happened to Rick Perry.

By the way, the Democrat who beat out Al Gore for the candidacy in that primary was a Massachusetts liberal, Michael Dukakis. Another primary candidate was Jesse Jackson. Gore, from Tennessee, and Dick Gephardt from Missouri were considered the conservatives in that primary race.

Too many Americans forget that Al Gore hasn't always been the flaming liberal he is now. Gore was the scion of an old Southern family, son of a U.S. Senator who once advocated using nuclear weapons to end the Korean War. While more liberal than most Southern Democrats, Gore's father was conservative enough to refuse to support the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Like his party, he gradually became more liberal, too much so for his conservative Tennessee constituents, who booted him out of office in 1970 and handed political power to the Republican Party for the first time since Reconstruction.

So Al Gore was a product of a liberalizing Democratic party in that 1988 primary, but he was still more conservative than all the other candidates except Gephardt. By campaigning for Al Gore in 1988, Rick Perry was not betraying his conservative principles, he was, like so many of us, simply a product of the changing political times, another Southern Democrat slowly awakening to the fact that he was being abandoned by his increasingly liberal party. It is noteworthy that it was the very next year after he campaigned for Gore that Perry changed party affiliation.

I can see how being around Al could do that to you...