The GOP presidential field is already crowded as hell, and it looks to get even more so as the weeks slide by — there are currently ten Republicans officially in the running, one of whom being the former governor of Texas, Rick Perry. Perry, however, like his primary rival Rick Santorum, actually ran back in 2012 as well, and that means he has a presidential campaign track record to look back on. And, well, it's not a great look — Rick Perry's anti-gay ad "Strong" from 2012 has aged horribly, and it shows just how far we've come in a handful of years.
Make no mistake, "Strong" was already a drastic misreading of the politics of its time. It's not as though this was even a politically savvy gambit for 2012, even though that wouldn't make it any more excusable — when George W. Bush rode to reelection in 2004 partially by backing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, he was at least playing the cynical politics game well, exploiting longstanding cultural discrimination. Back then, according to Gallup, 55 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage, making it a handy wedge issue for a Republican in a tight race.
But Perry's 2012 ad is striking for how drastically it misread the climate, and for the potential it has to follow him around. It doesn't tackle same-sex marriage, to be clear, but rather condemns that "gays can serve openly in our military" while "our children can't openly celebrate Christmas, or pray in school." Yup, he talked down to gay servicemembers to get in a dig on the so-called "War on Christmas."
I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian. But you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas, or pray in school. As President, I'll end Obama's war on religion, and I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong, it can make her strong again.
Hoo boy. Considering the GOP is widely considered the more aggressively, rhetorically pro-military of the two parties, Perry's choice of words struck a deeply offensive tone. People by and large hated this ad, and the proof is in the pudding, so to speak — since it was posted on December 6, 2011, it's been viewed over 900,000 times, and a staggering 800,000+ of those viewers gave it a negative rating.
Perry wasn't the only 2012 GOPer to make some ill-advised remarks on this issue, to be clear — in a primary debate, Rick Santorum responded to a gay servicemember's question about the 2011 repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell by saying he wanted to reinstate it, a plainly impossible, unworkable plan of action, and nakedly prejudiced.
It's also worth noting that a handful of people in the debate crowd booed the gay soldier when his video recorded question was played to the candidates — apparently, for all the strident pro-military rhetoric, some Republicans were still down to boo a soldier stationed in Iraq if they disapproved of his sexual orientation.
In short, these were boneheaded responses in 2012, and even just three years later, they look almost disqualifying. Sad to say for Perry, or any other GOP candidate who's got a demagogic history on this, Americans' views on the civil rights of LGBT citizens have improved a lot over the last decade, and while there's still a ways to go, it figures to continue. It just goes to show you that sometimes, disparaging innocent people for political gain has its cost.
Images: Rick Perry/YouTube; Getty Images