Driving home through late-afternoon traffic, I got a message:
“Is it true?”
“Is what true? I’m driving, so I haven’t heard anything,” I shot back.
“Perry is out. ***** said so. Is it true?”
Governor Perry, for whom I’ve dedicated over five years preaching his value was about to speak at the 44th Eagle Forum Council in St. Louis. Until now, I didn’t think it was more than a speech I catch up on later in the evening. Of course, for the life of me, I couldn’t get a live feed. Pulled over, I tried two apps, three mobile devices and three different browsers… nada.
By now, my phone had lit up like the Fourth of July.
Finally, FoxNews began streaming the speech, so I pulled up my Uverse iPad app and streamed it on the dashboard.
In one of his most solid speeches in months, Perry said a lot of things everyone loved. The crowd nodded in assuring approval. This was normal. As I pulled into the garage, I never left the driver’s seat. I listened intently to every word, including his eloquent “campaign suspension” in closing.
But the only thing I could remember rang through my head till the next morning:
“When I gave my life to Christ, I said, ‘your ways are greater than my ways; your will is superior to mine.’”
This was Perry being himself. And revealing what guided him all along – a journey that doesn’t end, and isn’t limited by a particular campaign.
In this battle, the horse is down, but not the soldier. In the last few weeks Rick Perry has been strengthened by those he once encouraged, and buttressed by a faith he shares with others. Lord knows the sucking sound created by Trumpism gave Perry no comfort among strangers. Promiscuity was never his base voter anyway. We were his net when he needed it, but now the strategy was changing on us.
Social media and text messages flew: “No regrets.” “I am proud to have served an honorable man.” “Heads held high, our hearts are God’s, just as Rick and Anita’s.” “Hurting, but still moving forward.”
Who else has this kind of political base?
As the shock wears off and the dogs of competing campaigns looking for stragglers subside, we should remember one thing about this campaign, or any other worth fighting for – just because the standard bearers change, the Standard does not.
In January of 2012, Perry said the message was “greater than the man,” and he repeated those words Friday – he believes them, and so do I. It is this kind of mix of humility and true belief that engenders the sort of loyalty noted by others. He hasn’t assembled followers, but a cauldron of fellow leaders moving the same direction with the same call.
We know the call comes from higher than Perry himself.
THE EFFECT OF A CALL
After his first withdrawal, a group of supporters immediately helped launch a non-profit, FoundersIntent.org. Over the next several years, tens of thousands of people were met with the message Perry espoused of smaller, more accountable government, a healthy fear of God and the vision of the American Founders. Public classrooms from elementary to high school and even college opened their doors to them explaining why July 4th was more than just brats, burgers and beer.
The Governor had a greater effect on those schools, though indirectly than he had as a candidate. He’s always had a knack for that.
Oh, what I would give to go back to the Fourth of July, this year. It had only been two days since his preeminent speech on race, when Governor Perry shocked intelligentsia with perhaps the most raw, vulnerable important policy speech in a generation. It was a vision for the GOP’s future, admitting past mistakes, giving a nod to horrors brought upon black Americans and declaring it was Republican principles, rather than Democrat pandering that marked a brighter future. It drew universal praise from conservatives and adversaries alike. Jay Ambrose called it “something inspiriting.” Clarence Page praised it as “so powerful and courageously candid.” The Wall Street Journal staff declared it “the speech of the campaign so far.” Francis Wilkinson added, “remarkable.”
To those not paying attention to Perry, this came as a refreshing, though shocking revelation. To those of us who know the man and his record, this was merely another moment. And we beamed with pride as the National Press Club hushed in awe. This is nothing new, and will not end with this campaign.
There is a tendency of both the national media and policy makers within the GOP to gather around principles first addressed by Perry. Political junkies and campaign historians alike will one day look at that July speech as the paradigm shift in Republicans’ relationship to minorities in America. His value to the conversation is subtle, but vital and his legacy will remain intact regardless of where he sits on Inauguration Day.
Because when no one is looking, the former governor of Texas is busy drawing his wisdom from a higher source… one we should all be listening to more closely.
Have a blessed morning, this Lord’s Day.