The importance of Rick Perry
© Greg Nash

Back in 2010, I met here in New Hampshire with then-Texas Gov. Rick PerryRick PerryCollege football move rocks Texas legislature Trump tries to spin failed Texas endorsement: 'This was a win' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Officers recount the horror of Jan. 6 MORE’s agent, as Perry had asked that he drop off a copy of his book, "Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington.”

I was delighted to have it but was already well aware of Perry’s political instincts and timing. He was first off the mark before the idea of a Tea Party was ever heard of.


In December 2008 — still during George W. Bush's presidency — Perry penned an essay in The Wall Street Journal with then-Gov. Mark Sanford (R) of South Carolina, which in hindsight might be seen as a guide for conservative, heartland governors since:

“As governors and citizens, we've grown increasingly concerned over the past weeks as Washington has thrown bailout after bailout at the national economy with little to show for it. In the process, the federal government is not only burying future generations under mountains of debt. It is also taking our country in a very dangerous direction — toward a ‘bailout mentality’ where we look to government rather than ourselves for solutions.”

And governors read his book. Today, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has led 26 states in a 10th Amendment challenge to President Obama's executive action on immigration, citing the president's "lawless trampling on the Constitution."

Before Perry brought it up, it had not occurred to the nation's governors to use this inherent, constitutional authority to challenge federal authority. Now it constitutes a best practice for many governors.

I might have had the honor to receive his book because I wrote here at The Hill that it was a good thing and an auspicious beginning. And I declared that the features of this new movement — states' rights, sound money, constitutional government — could take the century. Others more venerable had also made that case, and today the strong force is rising, not only here but throughout Europe and elsewhere.

But there was danger there, and we still feel it today. It could go in any direction. Much depends on who ultimately takes on the leadership and forms the ascending life force. And though he has suspended his campaign for president, that should be Perry — I claimed so then and still wish so today.

He has advanced the higher principles of what the Tea Party could be and should be with his group Americans for Economic Freedom, where he is joined by former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), economist Art Laffer and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who is also running for president. At a Conservative Political Action Conference(CPAC) in 2014, Perry proposed a vision of new thinking which might be considered a manifesto of advancing Western conservatism.

Parsing three key items of Perry’s CPAC speech:

Jeffersonian rebellion. Rebellion, not revolution. In a word, there are two approaches to American governance articulated at the founding: Alexander Hamilton’s vision of centralized power and Thomas Jefferson’s of heart-based indigenous “natural states” rising across the continent. We today have two central-government parties, the Democrats and Republicans. Perry brings forth an actual Jeffersonian approach. It is a transformational approach to America’s future.

Red and blue America. Perry takes the blue vs. red division out of political abstraction to regional competition. “Among the states we see two visions for America. There's the vision common in blue states, where the state plays an increasing role in the lives of its citizens. And then there's the vision common to red state America where the freedom of the individual comes first, and the reach of government is limited.”

Devolution. “That's why we must elect the right kind of leaders to represent us in Washington, leaders who devolve power to the states and not rob them of it.” This is the truly rebellious idea. Since 1913 and the passage of the 17th Amendment, power has shifted to New York and Washington, D.C. Other conservatives talk of smaller government to cut or reduce spending but retain centralization of power. Actually reformulating America by restoring power to the states is a holistic crossing of the river to a new America.

As Perry leaves the stage today he can know that he has brought us to the edge of the river. It may not be time to cross just yet, but it will be in time. And he should know that he was the one who brought us to the water’s edge.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at