New beginnings: Rick Perry, the new governors and the new Congress

As she often does, Peggy Noonan grasps the essence when she asks why the movie “The King’s Speech” is so popular and admired. “It is that no one knows how to act anymore,” she writes, “ and people miss people who knew how to act.”

Right again. America is today, as New York Jets Coach Rex Ryan says about the Indianapolis Colts, living on the quarterback. Adrift. There is a tribal element in any group to which basic anthropology applies: You take away the king and it all goes. The Colts get a few good years without Tony Dungy. Then it will start to fall apart. Question today is, how will 20th-century post-war liberalism do without Ted Kennedy in the near aftermath of his departure? As of today, in light of President Obama’s new appointments, consider the movement dead.

The change we face is systemic. The new Tea Party Congress people may be Jacksonian rustics, but it is good and positive that they are not moving to the high-rent district and are instead turning office buildings into smelly dorms and flying home to their families on weekends. They need to build and nurture their own network. Instead of the free meals — bribes — which so many will offered them now, may I suggest evening entertainment in the bachelor dorm featuring movies like “The Samurai Trilogy” by Miyamoto Musashi, “300” with Gerard Butler and the book Where There Are No Men, the autobiography of the Israeli soldier Moshe Feiglin?

This new Congress should bring a chorus for substantive issues in the states where governors will rise in importance. If it is not to be absorbed into the power vortex of D.C. it needs to keep focused on the states. Seventeen newly elected GOP governors are coming in, most with a Tea Party bent. It is significant that mainstream conservative commentators like George Will support Judge Henry Hudson's decision on ObamaCare. A year ago this was considered esoteric and libertarian. Now the states’-rights initiative is accepted by the responsible mainstream.

It is serendipitous that Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been named chief of the Republican Governors Association this year. It indicates that the states and regions have developed a different attitude than the Washington elite to the Tea Party issues of the last two years, particularly those that pertain to state rights and responsibilities. It is historic. America has learned again the first lesson of the Founders: The only defense against federal malfeasance and unconstitutional action is the states.

Under Perry’s tenure the governors might consider an idea that took the imagination of the great ambassador George Kennan late in his life. He proposed a national Council of Elders, an idea actually first discussed by a handful of undergraduate students at Wake Forest University 16 years ago. It would be something like a national Board of Trustees or a Board of Visitors intended to advise and occasionally warn; possibly a board of six or a dozen governors, meeting in a central (non-Washington) place (like Louisville, for instance).

New ideas need new people and new structures. As Congress was intended to watch the presidency, Congress, burdened by its own banality and bound by its own malfeasance, today needs to be watched. And such a new group could sustain, modify and amplify the new directions of the past two years.


Visit Mr. Quigley's website at http://quigleyblog.blogspot.com.

More in Presidential Campaign

If not victory for Rick Perry, at least redemption

Read more »