“I think it’s time,” declaimed Rick Perry out of the blue during the Oct. 18 GOP candidates debate in Las Vegas, “for us to have a serious discussion about defunding the United Nations.” No one seconded the notion. Was this the opening round of a Perry effort to boost his flagging campaign by playing an anti-internationalist card?
Perhaps the debate’s locale encouraged Perry to gamble on an attack on the U.N. Or possibly he plucked the sentiment from the Iowa Republican Party’s platform in a bid for support from the right-wing zealots who wrote the platform and who dominate the party’s caucuses. The platform, among other extremisms, declares: “We want the United States out of the United Nations and the United Nations out of the United States.” Other similarly thoughtful planks: abolish minimum wage laws, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the departments of Education, Energy and Agriculture and, while dismantling the government, for good measure put an end to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
The U.N. provision may sit well with isolationists in the Iowa GOP, but if Iowans as a whole once were isolationist, they have long since outgrown the habit. The state’s internationalist outlook has been bolstered by heavy dependence on export markets for its farm products. So taking potshots at the U.N. can’t be smart political strategy over the long run. If Perry should win the Republican nomination with an isolationist far-right message, he would have a rough time making headway with it with the Iowa electorate in a general election.
Perry’s followers ought to be dismayed by his anti-U.N. stance and pull him back from the brink of what could become a serious flirtation with anti-internationalism.