Oh, Texas Governor Rick Perry. Remember him? At one point, the cowboy-boot wearing huckster from the Lone Star State was the darling of the GOP's right, before shoddy debate performances and a goofy stump speech in New Hampshire sent his poll numbers plummeting. Now Perry has adopted a hyper-Christian posture in a last ditch effort at garnering support from Iowa's Evangelical base of Republican voters. The shift to the far right has been controversial, but has Perry accidentally landed into the GOP's 2012 wedge issue?
In a new and controversial ad, Perry has tossed up a political long bomb football pass by comparing the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell with keeping prayer out of school. Wearing what is becoming a trademark beige Carhartt jacket and audacious big belt buckle, the Texas governor promises to fight the scourge of secularism plaguing the political landscape.
As President, I'll end Obama's war on religion, Perry says in the ad. And I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.
The ad has, once again, made Perry a living, walking meme. First came the astounding rebuke made by YouTube viewers, giving the video 426,000 dislikes to a mere 10,000 likes: the golden Rebecca Black ratio of YouTube infamy. In fact, Perry's ad has eclipsed Black's much-hated Friday as the worst-rated video on YouTube. It has also sparked a creative outpouring online.
A Tumblr has been created, called Rick Perry's Unpopular Opinions. There, animations of Perry are laced with pop culture references such as Dane Cook is funny.
A spoof replacing Perry's face with a flatulent buttocks has the opposite ratio of viewer approval. Others have noted the remarkable similarity between his outfit and the clothes worn by Heath Ledger's legendary gay cowboy Ennis Del Mar in the motion picture Brokeback Mountain (2005).
Once again, Perry has made himself an internet sensation for all the wrong reasons. The former frontrunner landed in the online spotlight first with a rambling speech before New Hampshire Republicans.
But last night, the talking heads on Fox News, Bill O'Reilly included, portrayed Perry's ad as a politically savvy ploy to land Iowa's Evangelical voting block for the primary, in an effort to revitalize a campaign in its death throes. In Iowa and New Hampshire, the issue of gay rights came to a head when emboldened Republicans moved against judicial rulings that allow gay marriage.
According to Roll Call, gay rights could become the Republican Party's silent nod to social conservatives and culture warriors in 2012. Several states, including the early GOP primary duo of Iowa and New Hampshire, have become key battleground states in the fight over gay marriage. Others, like New York, have also amplified the discussion by allowing gay marriage. During an earlier GOP primary debate, audience members booed a gay soldier.
The tactic of raising a ruckus over social issues dear to conservatives drove voter turnout for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, when gay marriage and abortion became a wink-nudge to Christian voters who came out in droves. With unemployment figures trending down and President Barack Obama holding the high ground on national security, Perry's move could be prescient for the 2012 battle -- whether or not he is the GOP nominee.