The 2016 presidential race had its first major casualty on Friday, as Rick Perry made the decision to suspend his campaign amid serious financial struggles and a failure to gain any traction in the polling.
Perry did not leave quietly, however. In a speech delivered to the Eagle Forum in Missouri, the former Texas governor reiterated the principles which had formed the foundation for his campaign and, most strikingly, issued two warnings to Republicans in advance of the rapidly approaching primary season:
1.) “[T]he answer to a president nominated for soaring rhetoric and no record is not to nominate a candidate whose rhetoric speaks louder than his record. It is not to replicate the Democrat model of selecting a president, falling for the cult of personality over durable life qualities.”
Americans are understandably fed up with a lack of principled leadership in Washington. And the temptation is great for voters to take out this frustration by supporting an outsider candidate with an appealing personality and grand proposals for change.
However, as Perry points out, we have all seen this play out before. Lofty promises are rarely kept, and after the last six and a half years, voters ought to be especially skeptical of candidates making grandiose, yet vague, pledges. Much more important than what a candidate says is what he or she has done.
2.) “[W]e cannot indulge nativist appeals that divide the nation further. The answer to our current divider-in-chief is not to elect a Republican divider-in-chief.”
I mentioned above the Americans are fed up with a lack of leadership, and one issue on which that absence is particularly noticeable is immigration. One immigrant crisis seems to follow upon another, and as it becomes ever more clear that the system needs to be fixed, very few leaders seem able to address the situation.
Donald Trump’s rise has been buoyed, in part, by his willingness to take on the issue with tough rhetoric and even tougher proposals. Nevertheless, in doing so, Trump has arguably crossed the line separating a legitimate concern for national sovereignty from a baser prejudice towards foreigners who would come to America simply to seek a better life for themselves and their families.
Continuing down this road would obviously have disastrous political consequences for Republicans. However, more importantly, Perry also notes the moral concerns at stake in this debate:
[F]or those of us in Christ, our citizenship is first and foremost in God’s kingdom, our brothers and sisters are those made in the image of God, and our obligation – after loving God with all our heart, mind and soul – is to love our neighbors as ourselves, regardless of where they come from.
Demeaning people of Hispanic heritage is not just ignorant, it betrays the example of Christ. We can enforce our laws and our borders, and we can love all who live within our borders, without betraying our values.
A balance must be struck between, on the one hand, enacting and enforcing strong immigration laws, and, on the other, ensuring that those who wish to come to our country to work hard and pursue the American dream have the opportunity to do so. This is what conservatism stands for at its best.
While Rick Perry may no longer be a Republican contender for the White House, it would behoove the remaining GOP candidates—and voters—to listen closely to his advice.
Paul Dupont is a legislative assistant for American Principles in Action.