The animosity between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry at Tuesday's debate might have surprised a few viewers, but their their dislike for each other is well known among reporters who follow the candidates. Both The New York Times and the Washington Post ran articles after the debate which highlighted that history. Here's how WaPo describes how the two related as state governors in the 2000s:
They did not have a productive working relationship, according to Republicans who worked with both men, and each harbored a disdain for the other that was seemingly driven by cultural stereotypes and their perceptions of each other. They share little in their upbringings, careers, faiths or lifestyles.
This isn't the first time Perry has found himself in this kind of tussle with another Republican. Perry and George W. Bush don't like each other either. And when he faced Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the gubernatorial primary last year, Perry viciously attacked her as an emblem of establishment thinking—someone out of touch with the real Texas.
The resentment Perry directs toward his political opponents appears to be rooted in cultural rather than policy differences. It all has a Nixonian air to it. In Nixonland, Rick Perlstein paints a compelling portrait of the former president as a man driven by an unrelenting resentment toward the children of the upper crust who had success handed to them from birth. According to Perlstein, it started back when Nixon was in college:
The seventeen-year-old blossomed when he realized himself no longer alone in his outsiderdom: the student body was run, socially, by a circle of swells who called themselves the Franklins, and the remainder of the student body, a historian noted, "seemed resigned to its exclusion." So this most unfraternal of youth organized the remnant into a fraternity of his own. Franklins were well-rounded, graceful, moved smoothly, talked slickly. Nixon's new club, the Orthogonians, was for the strivers, those not to the manner born, the commuter students like him.
Combating the Franklins' dominance became Nixon's life mission; he would rally his fellow Orthogonians under the banner of the "silent majority," bringing into existence the divisions that have dominated the Baby Boomer generation. After Nixon's success showed that anti-elitism could be a winning campaign tactic, it is now common course for Republicans (especially ones hailing from Southern states) to play up class resentment. Most reserve this for their Democratic opponents. Perry, though, just can't seem to help himself, directing his Orthogonian antagonism primarily at his fellow Republicans. On most levels, he is the same model of Republican as Bush 43—a Chamber of Commerce tax cutter and an evangelical—so when Perry describes how he departs from his predecessor as Texas Governor, he says "I went to Texas A&M. He went to Yale."
Unlike Bush or Romney, who were practically bred to become president, Perry always notes his humble upbringing in Paint Creek, Texas and has fostered an image of a plain-spoken politician with little concern for the wonky details of policy. In The New Republic's profile of Perry, one Texas politician recalled a time when he attempted explain a bill to Perry, then a representative in the state house. "Don’t waste your time,” Perry said. “I wouldn’t understand it anyway. Just make sure you’re there to talk about it.” And back when Perry and Bush guru Karl Rove were still on good terms, Perry deferred to Rove. “My brain is like a chicken pot pie," Perry said. "His is like a refrigerator that is all very organized, pickles here, salad there.”
No Republican wants to lay claim to the mantle of Nixon, but Perry hasn't been hesitant to speak up for the Orthogonian majority Nixon envisioned. In Fed Up, the book he released last year, Perry wrote:
For too long, the silent majority has sat idly by, allowing the political establishment to wage an assault not just on the Constitution and the fundamental American principle of limited government, but on the very idea that it is a government closest to the people that best guarantees the blessings of liberty.
There are those who enable the statists -- a group largely made up of old-guard Republicans, sometimes professing a questionable belief in conservatism, -- who are complicit in expanding Washington at the expense of the states and the people. They cowardly and selfishly empower themselves politically by compromising liberty issue by issue, often selling principle for a bridge, a museum or some building named after them back in their home district or state.
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