On Jefferson and Miley Cyrus: Scott Walker cautiously enters the river

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Think of the government shutdown as the beginning of an agrarian rebellion, because that is in essence what it is. It has been building for decades: since William Rehnquist served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; since Newt Gingrich busted into the House of Representatives; since Tom "The Hammer " DeLay scared the pants off them as House majority leader in 2003. And guess what? The Hammer is back, ready to help out in what he sees as a “revolution for the constitution” and he is “ready to engage.”

Now Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, defies the federal government today in an actual territorial dispute. 

The Wall Street Journal reports: “One of the more visible manifestations of the government shutdown has been the closing of national parks and memorials. But at least one state governor is pushing back. Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, directed the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to keep open — using whatever legal means possible — several parks which the National Park Service ordered closed.”

Will other governors follow suit?

The arrival in the Senate of Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) created a beachhead, but what is ahead will be the work of Republican governors like Walker, Mike Pence of Indiana, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Rick Perry of Texas, 30 of them. This movement is essentially about states and regions and their rights under constitutional government.

Possibly America is at a historic crossroads, and the centralized government advocated by Alexander Hamilton has fulfilled its purpose and is no longer the best fit for a fully mature America. These governors may be served by looking back to the thinking of the Vanderbilt Agrarians — also known as The Fugitives — intellectuals; poets and writers like Robert Penn Warren, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate; and Frank Owsley, who called for a Jeffersonian revival at Vanderbilt University in 1930.

As Owsley wrote in his classic essay, “The Irrepressible Conflict”:

“In the beginning of Washington’s administration two men defined the fundamental principles of the political philosophy of the two societies, Alexander Hamilton for the North and Jefferson for the South. The one was extreme centralization, the other was extreme decentralization; the one was nationalistic and the other provincial; the first was called Federalism, the other States Rights, but in truth the first should have been called Unitarianism and the second Federalism.”

Simple fact is that from the Vanderbilt Agrarians’ time to now, very many state governments are better run than the federal government, while the federal government has exponentially declined in management ability and vision. 

But America is no longer about Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. It is about Miley Cyrus.