Rick Perry for President 2012 recently aired the following political ad, entitled “Strong”:
It didn’t take long for liberals and Democrats nationwide to respond to the commercial in droves, posting a barrage of negative comments attacking both the ad and Governor Perry on a multitude of Internet forums and social networking sites. The overall liberal response was that of apparently irrepressible incredulity and outrage at Perry’s offensive, “anti-gay” statement: “…there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military…”
But I guess at that exact point every liberal and Democrat that was watching must have stopped paying attention to the ad, because they don’t seem to have caught the second part of the statement that completely alters its entire meaning. The full statement is, “…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.” Perry then proceeds to discuss how he believes faith and religion are important staples of American culture, and as President he will protect religious rights and freedoms better than President Obama has. In fact, he doesn’t mention gays or gay rights at all in the ad except for the one time, and even then he only offers it as an example of a right similar to the ones he’s advocating for, and not as a criticism. What he is actually suggesting is, “since we live in this advanced, ‘progressive’ society where gays have the right to be openly gay in the military, religious Americans should also have the right to be openly religious in public schools.” He doesn’t offer any more commentary on gay rights in the ad beyond that.
If anything, the wording suggests that Perry views the right to be openly gay in the military as a positive, since he’s advocating in support of another right that he considers to be similar and good. Contrarily, one could argue that he actually views prayer in public schools as negative, and is comparing it to gay rights because he thinks both are absurd. However, based on the rest of the ad, the former seems more tenable. Perry himself might be openly critical of gay rights, and liberals can disagree with him on this issue all they like, but he is not criticizing them in his video, so pointing to the ad as an especially damning instance of Perry’s anti-gay agenda doesn’t really make the most sense. It’s not an anti-gay ad; it’s a religious rights ad promoting Rick Perry.
Another thing that doesn’t make very much sense is the level of outrage that liberals have responded with to this video. Even if they do all believe that Perry is being anti-gay and offensive, what did they really expect? Rick Perry is a Republican politician running for President, and he’s been lagging in the polls. It’s not uncommon for a candidate in that position to put out a controversial statement hoping to secure a few more votes from the far right or left. In fact, if there were any anti-gay conservatives out there still on the fence about voting for Perry, all this public uproar has probably gained him their support, and cost him very few votes comparatively. That’s politics. Even a bunch of angry liberals writing things on the Internet about how terrible they think Rick Perry is won’t change that. So, not only is the liberal response to Rick Perry’s “Strong” ad based on misconception and misinterpretation, but also unnecessarily verbose and politically ignorant. It’s just sad that this is what passes for political literacy nowadays.
A final note to reflect on: At the core of his argument, Rick Perry is simply implying in his ad that people like President Obama care a lot about protecting gay rights, and don’t seem to care as much about our religious freedoms or rights. A majority of the subsequent liberal responses to Perry’s ad completely disregard mentioning religion, and focus entirely on advocating for gay rights. So, in a twisted sort of way, the responses to Perry’s ad have retroactively demonstrated his point. It’s just kind of funny when you think about it that way.