Rick Perry is Barry Goldwater

By Josh Feit September 22, 2011

In presidential politics, the internal battle between populist insurgents (who flirt with fringe ideology) and the establishment mainstream (who look like 19th century bankers), is nothing new within the GOP.

US Sen. Robert Taft, a populist Republican from Ohio (who pandered to the nativist right wing of the party) was rebuked by the Wall Street mainstream several times in credible bids for the party's nomination.

In 1964, just a decade plus after Taft's last unsuccessful bid in 1952, the party ruinously handed its nomination to Taft's immediate heir, right-wing US Sen. Barry Goldwater whose candidacy was associated with the rascist Birchers. Goldwater was trounced by LBJ.

However, here's the thing: Sixteen years out, just four election cycles later, the party veered decidedly in Goldwater's direction when---in a bizarre bit of alchemy---Ronald Reagan was able to fuse populist rhetoric with the party's traditional big business agenda. The improbable formula has come to define the modern Republican Party.

So: If Democrats are secure in their belief that populist Rick Perry is too out there to win the presidency, I submit this: You're right, but you're not right for long.

If someone like Perry or Michele Bachmann gets the nomination (and loses), their heirs—whoever they might be (I put my money on South Carolina's Gov. Nikki Haley) are certainly in ascendancy if history is any guide.

In fact, even if suave Mitt Romney gets the nomination (as incumbent, establishment Republican President Gerald Ford did over a real insurgent challenge from Ronald Reagan in 1976), the tide is still coming in.
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