Jefferson vs. Obama: The rise of a revolutionary generation at CPAC 2012

The most important thing that has happened in the last two years is that the states have discovered that they don’t have to do what the federal government tells them to do, I said to a small group of New Hampshire mountaineers one year ago this month. It is one thing to say this in school basements before a few handfuls of New Hampshire’s hill people, where “live free or die” can be seen tattooed on forearms. It is expected of us. But when the same sentiments are presented at the button-down CPAC 2012 convention in Washington, D.C., as they will be tomorrow, something different is happening here. Liberal commentator Pat Goddell has suggested that the Tea Party these past two years has brought us to a “pre-revolutionary” state. For the last two years libertarian Ron Paul has been the overwhelming favorite of conservatives’ rising generation at CPAC. This year CPAC features a film produced and directed by Jason Rink exploring the history of state nullification, its constitutional legitimacy and how states can use nullification to push back against the encroachment of federal power.

“ ‘Nullification: The Rightful Remedy’ promises to be the most comprehensive documentary on the subject of the 10th Amendment and nullification, the long-forgotten tool that Jefferson considered our best defense against the federal government’s unconstitutional usurpation of power,” Rink said. The full-length documentary is presented by the Foundation for a Free Society and the Tenth Amendment Center and will debut at 5:30 p.m. in the Citizens United CPAC Theater.

Nullification and separatism are not just for New Hampshire hillbillies and Texans anymore. The left-wing “Counterpunch” reported that at a recent symposium at the Yale Political Union 45 percent of the participants voted to dissolve the United States. But original thinking that will bring new ideas to action takes longer and requires a revolutionary generation. The folksy Tea Party has fallen away in influence, blocked out, perhaps, by its own roar. But it is safe to say now that the young coming to CPAC these past few years will identify with these issues and constitute the life force that could formulate a new republic: a new age of Jefferson.

Rand Paul, Rick Perry and Sarah Palin are all confirmed speakers at CPAC 2012. They have all spoken to the issues of states’ rights, sovereignty and the 10th Amendment. But the Republican primary season most strongly suggests that real change is at hand. Separate wins by Santorum, Paul, Gingrich and Romney in different places imply that different regions today legitimately want different things. It is fair to say that this represents a maturation of the American regions. They have developed different natures as natural states evolved here in time, and one size no longer fits all. That is as it should be in time, as Jefferson suggested.

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