Rick Perry and the politics of ‘otherizing’

Rick Perry and the politics of 'otherizing'
Rick Perry and the politics of 'otherizing'

Tuesday was the day he pledged to “uproot and overhaul” every branch of federal government if elected president. It appears that is just what Rick Perry does to get warmed up.

First, there was the new Iowa ad in which he dusted off the “Obama-as-Socialist” meme. The Texas governor got some rotation from that broken record, even as it was quickly shown that the Obama “lazy” quote he showed was ripped shamelessly out of context.

Then the same guy who employed the “I can’t do it, so it’s stupid” defense against criticism of his debate performances reportedly challenged House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (who isn’t running for President)…to a debate. From his letter to the former Speaker:

I am in Washington Monday and would love to engage you in a public debate about my Overhaul Washington plan versus the congressional status quo.

I think it would be a tremendous service to the American public to see a public airing of those differences. Let the people decide.

If Monday doesn’t work, perhaps we could find a time in Iowa over the course of the next month to discuss these issues in front of the people of America’s heartland.

But only if you’re not busy or anything! (UPDATE: Leader Pelosi responded to Governor Perry’s debate challenge this afternoon with some humor.)

However, it was another Perry gambit that really stood out to me.

Last night on Fox News, Governor Perry called President Obama something even more ludicrous than “socialist”:

Rick Perry said on Wednesday that President Obama doesn’t understand the plight of Americans because he grew up “privileged” and “never had to work for anything…”

“He grew up in a privileged way,” Perry said.

“He never had to really work for anything, he never had to really work for anything, he never had to go through what Americans are going through,” Perry added, theorizing that Obama’s upbringing is what distances him Americans.

Yes, the old and familiar “otherizing” politics we’ve become accustomed to in the Obama era are at play here. (Though any of us who’ve been called “affirmative action babies” and the like know that sentiment long predates Mr. Obama’s election.) Uttering falsehoods about the president never having “had to really work for anything” (you know, like Americans do) has the twin benefit of stoking white voter angst about that already very unpopular affirmative action baby in the White House, while avoiding the embarrassment of going full Orly Taitz in order to do so.

But what is particularly peculiar is how it goes beyond race-baiting. Sure, candidates have used socio-economic backgrounds as a wedge issue before. But as the Occupy movement continues to grow, it is particularly notable to see a Republican this compelled to turn a man raised by a single mom, without wealth, into Richie Rich. Rick Perry wants voters to think President Obama embodies the One Percent, with all the associated privilege – not just now (because even the president would admit that), but all the way back when, when he grew up in that distant, foreign, socialist Hawaii.


Rick Perry

Rick Perry and the politics of 'otherizing'