Watching Urban Cowboy set in Texas in 1980 the other night and noting Sarah Palin’s self-indulgent resignation made me think about Texas politics as a template for American conservatism. Unlike other southern states its rightward shift was driven more by economics than race as the post-war explosion of the Sunbelt generated a new rich. Incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry, very much from the Bush-Palin wing of the party faces a primary challenge from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson who was on some reports under consideration as a vice-presidential pick for McCain. Not surprisingly Palin has endorsed Perry and the incumbent after trailing in the polls is now level pegging with Hutchinson whose indecision about whether or not to run has attracted negative publicity. Hutchinson is staunchly conservative but she doesn’t enthuse the conservative base, despite or perhaps because her record of public service and experience puts Palin to shame, Hutchinson’s campaign advertisment alludes to womens’ advances in the 1960s along of course with constant reiterations of conservatism. Respondents on a pro-Palin site bag Hutchinson as a RINO = ‘Republican in Name Only’ despite her conservative record, one is annoyed she had a kind word about Hillary Clinton. The campaign could provide a pointer as to how a battle between Palin and other Republicans might play out for 2012. Noteworthy that Perry’s appeal largely ignores the old culture wars talking points in favour of economic conservatism:
“I am fighting for the very Constitution that our Founding Fathers crafted to limit the reach of the federal government in our lives … [U]nderstand, this campaign is not about personalities but principles. It is about two models of governing: the Washington model that talks the talk about limited government while delivering record earmarks and increasing bureaucratic control and the Texas model of balanced budgets and fiscal restraint …”
Hutchinson is to be portrayed as a Washington insider. True Christian conservatism has less support in Texas than the core south but it does suggest that the Palinite Republican right will focus on economic rather than social conservatism. The fact that Palin’s first op-ed since departing the Governorship is on energy policy supports this conclusion.