Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) wants people to think he is Mr. States’ Rights. He thinks Texas should have the right to flout Medicaid laws, ignore federal education laws and thumb its nose at environmental regulations. He notoriously proposed having Texas secede from the union, and he has a long record of support from pro-Confederate groups.
As it turns out, however, Perry only really thinks that states should have the right to do what he wants them to do. Last week, after Perry briefly claimed that respecting the 10th Amendment means respecting New York’s right to treat gay couples with dignity, he almost immediately went grovelling to the leader of an anti-gay hate group to pledge his fealty to an anti-gay constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. This weekend, Perry added women’s reproductive freedom to the list of things he thinks states should be forbidden from respecting:
[Perry’s] spokeswoman, Katherine Cesinger, said by e-mail today: “Gov. Perry is proudly pro-life and successfully championed strong pro-life legislation in Texas including parental consent, this year’s sonogram bill and a budget that significantly defunds abortions in Texas. The governor has long supported overturning Roe v. Wade, and would support amending the U.S. Constitution, with the backing of Congress and the states, to protect innocent life.”
So Perry completely supports a conservative state’s right to flout progressive laws ensuring clean air or health care for the poor, but he would also rewrite the Constitution to prevent progressive states from governing the way they want to govern.
Lest there be any doubt, Perry’s belief that things like environmental regulations are completely optional has no basis in the Constitution. The Constitution gives national leaders sweeping power to regulate “commerce…among the several states,” and that includes the power to regulate polluting industries and polluting products such as automobiles. Similarly, while states do have the right to simply refuse Medicaid or federal education funds altogether. They may not, as Perry believes, simply suckle at the federal teat without also agreeing to obey Medcaid and education laws.
Simply put, Perry’s beliefs about the Constitution are radical even among the most radical tenther conservatives. He doesn’t simply misread the founding document to write essential health, education and environmental laws out of existence — he then ignores his own supposed loyalty to states rights to give the finger to gay couples and women.