Too Texas — that’s the political knock on Perry. Will a gun-toting evangelical with a Texas drawl be able to reach suburban soccer-moms in the Midwest? Far from being naive on this point, Perry places it at the center of his philosophy. He rests much of his argument for federalism on America’s diverse local cultures. For a country forged from ethnically and religiously varied immigrant communities, federalism was the solution, Perry reminds us. With religious and cultural variety on the increase, Perry argues, federalism — not racial or ethnic bean-counting — remains the way.
So while Perry may want to be the president of us all, his real goal is to let Midwesterners and New Englanders develop, say, local K-12 curriculum standards or energy regulations with as little interference from Washington as possible. Since Californians want to legalize medical marijuana, says Perry, the Supreme Court ought not to have allowed Congress to override that state law — even though California’s policy was not to his personal liking. Perry, in other words, isn’t trying to remake the country in the image of Texas. His real argument is that federal efforts to press Texas into a single, national cultural and economic mold have deepened his respect for local differences — and for the Founders’ system of protecting those differences. If Perry can make that point to Midwestern soccer-moms, he can win.