Culture Clash: Why the Perry-Romney Showdown Is Significant

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney's sparring at last night's debate laid out the GOP's identity crisis in no uncertain terms.


Last night in Las Vegas, all bets were off. The takeaway from the GOP debate was the astonishing showdown between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney over illegal immigration. After appearing tongue-tied in couple of recent debates, Perry tried to redeem himself by calling out Romney for hiring "illegals," then (somewhat awkwardly) bulldozed over his opponent's rebuttal. Romney shed his cool-as-a-cucumber rep and rose to the occasion, making his disdain as clear as glass. He cackled, he smirked, he became visibly peeved, and in a pissing-contest move, he put his hand on Perry's shoulder. Anderson Cooper, CNN's correspondent on duty, even quipped, "I thought Republicans followed the rules." Both liberal and conservative pundits agree that the debate was a shitshow rife with infighting and thin on actual information.

But jokes and jaw dropping aside, Romney and Perry's showdown is significant, and not because of the substance of the back-and-forth. (After all, pitting the immigration policies of Massachusetts and Texas is, to use Herman Cain's metaphor, is like comparing apples and oranges). Despite Cain's lead in the polls, which doesn't mean much considering the tiny pool of voters involved, the fight is clearly between these two well-funded candidates. They couldn't be more different. Romney and Perry are indeed polar opposites, representing two distinct brands of conservatism. The GOP's identity crisis has been going on for years, but last night's clash between the establishment and the populist wing laid it out in no uncertain terms. And whoever prevails will determine both whether Tea Party-influenced populism translates to national elections, and which the GOP cares more about: purity or mass appeal.

My first reaction after watching this debate scene—"Romney is a smug bastard, Perry is a dimwit"—sums up the source of the rift. The way the two candidates embody their respective prototypes is uncanny. Romney is the cold, corporate, buttoned-up, practical, paternalistic, East Coast elitist that will have no hope of capturing the public's imagination with a cult of personality but will comfort both moderate Republicans and one-percent banker types who see themselves reflected in his perfectly coiffed visage. Perry is a fiery, folksy, populist, reactive, willing-to-go-there conservative with a Texas drawl that appeals to Tea Party frustration and diehard right-wingers, especially social conservatives and Obamacare-haters.

So who does the party want? Recent polls reveal that voters are less interested in ideological purity than whether or not a candidate can beat Obama in 2012, but primary voters are notoriously swayed by the person most loyal to party principles. At this point, the main contenders represent no middle ground—giving voters a choice between a volatile cowboy and an arrogant stiff. Voters frustrated that there's no candidate embracing the best of both need not look further than the guy who got us into this mess: George W. Bush. Sure, now he's vilified by the right for being a big spender, but it's not hard to see that his perfect blend of good ol' boy and old-fashioned Connecticut elitism was a significant part of his appeal.

After the mud-slinging we saw between Perry and Romney, it's hard to imagine that the victor would pick the other as their VP. But that kind of ideological combo may be exactly what the GOP needs.

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The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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