If Rick Perry, governor of Texas, gets up here anytime soon — and I have a feeling he will — he might take a look at Henry James’s classic, The Bostonians. He might find us today much as James found us in 1886 — feminists, utopians, New England Hindus, mesmerists and socialists — and feel some kinship to the more stalwart Confederate cousin, Basil Ransom of Mississippi, who eat his peas with a Bowie knife. But Perry, Eagle Scout, Texas rancher, C-130 Air Force pilot and governor longer than any in Texas history, is no Confederate. In fact, in his guide to states’ rights, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington, he writes that it was the South’s unwillingness to give up a way of life inexcusably based on the abominable practice of slavery that persuaded Congress to pass the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which compelled citizens of Northern states to act against their conscience and help return escaped former slaves into bondage.
“Thus,” he writes, “while the southern states seceded in the name of ‘states’
rights,’ in many ways it was the northern states whose sovereignty was violated
in the run-up to the Civil War.”
This book is one of the best things to emerge from the Tea Party movement, and Perry is just the man to be doing the explaining. In time, it could be that all of this, including Sarah Palin’s carrying the flag these two years, was just prepping and plowing the fields to prepare for Perry’s arrival on the national scene.
We are seeing an astonishing change of outlook in our times. Just one year ago Nadeam Elshami, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) aide, said questioning the constitutionality of ObamaCare was “not a serious question.” This week Judge Henry Hudson of the Eastern District of Virginia said it is.
Perry’s book explains with the clarity of the Boy Scout Handbook the constitutional history of the United States and the essential issues we might face just ahead. Perry, with Mark Sanford, then governor of South Carolina, was the first to bring a public challenge to government bailouts, writing in The Wall Street Journal back on Dec. 2, 2008, “As governors and citizens, we've grown increasingly concerned over the past weeks as Washington has thrown bailout after bailout at the national economy with little to show for it. In the process, the federal government is not only burying future generations under mountains of debt. It is also taking our country in a very dangerous direction — toward a ‘bailout mentality’ where we look to government rather than ourselves for solutions.”
Perry sees the states as laboratories of democracy. “States can be free to experiment with different ideas to deal with societal concerns and problems, and they can do so at a level closer to the people so that those particular trials can match the morals and beliefs of the people most affected,” he writes.
“We are fed up with a federal government that has the arrogance to preach to us about how to live our lives, and the chutzpah to haul every baseball player and other ‘evildoer’ in the world before a congressional committee — or some comic such as Stephen Colbert.”
He hopes his book will lead to a new conversation about the proper role of government and perhaps be a step toward renewing our collective appreciation for the genius of our nation’s federal system of government — when it works the way it is supposed to.
Visit Mr. Quigley's website at http://quigleyblog.blogspot.com.