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.
State & Local Politics
“One size does not fit all" was the catch phrase I used in my early complaints, and Romney first used the phrase publicly. He was clearly suggesting a change in format and a historic change of outlook. Truth is, it was only after the Tea Party event at the Alamo that state and regional autonomy became a real and advancing possibility. So when Gov. Romney suggested early on that his Massachusetts healthcare plan go national, he was merely advancing it from the “initiative state” of Massachusetts to the vast generic, continent-wide model of governance, the only way ideas had come to practice in the United States since 1865. But after the nationwide, grassroots Tea Party uprisings of April 2009, a more practical and efficient system tailored to regions and states became a real possibility. Nixon had tried earlier to regionalize, but the model he used was ineffective as it did not follow the natural cultural contours of America and the timing was all wrong. But Romney could see now that the times had at last changed enough to mobilize a more creative and efficient management model. Provided that leadership had the prodigious management skills that he has.
President Obama’s invitation to Bush family members to the White House makes him seem an Everyman, all things to all people, and Caroline Kennedy’s open letter to vote for Obama a second time because her name is Kennedy — both mark the turning of the times, and suggest that Obama, like the Kennedys and the Bushes, is no longer a rising part of the times.
We have left the age of two-family politics, honoring Northeastern gentry who bask in Kennebunkport or Hyannis, and have entered instead into a full-bore Jacksonian heartland awakening. Tea Party has taken the mantle these past two years. But Jacksonian populism, channeled today by Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Ron and Rand Paul, all started in Virginia with Mudcat Saunders.
New England was a Jeffersonian region of independent-minded yeoman farmers and freethinking independents before the Civil War. We lost that earthy colloquialism to the abstraction of federalism after teaming up for the conquest of the West and the South in 1857 and 1865, and again to globalism after the conquest of Europe and Asia in 1946. But today New England begins to find its yeoman soul again. We have always been Jeffersonian. We just forgot. When it starts to catch on, any step outside the prescribed constitutional reservation by the feds will be considered overreach, domination, totalitarianism. And it is starting to catch on. The National Defense Authorization Act is a giant step in the direction of the benign American police state.
“Come and take it” — Texas flag at the Battle of Gonzales, March 1831
Rick Perry takes it back to Texas. He might run again for governor. He should. As Steve Forbes says, he's a great governor with great ideas. I'd make the case that his poor performance in the presidential race is a credit to him as a Texan and as a Texas governor. He feels uncomfortable away from home, away from Texas. It is the Jeffersonian ideal, and Perry is paragon of these earth-based, sense-of-place values. More than values. A sense of being; at one with the ancestors, at one with God, at one with one’s own place on earth and free of abstractions.
What Perry wanted to achieve for Texas as a Texan is unachievable for a president, and Ron Paul should take note. Because Perry and Paul are both “free-state” guys. But the freedom and autonomy they seek cannot be granted top-down like a benevolent master freeing his provincial serfs in the far provinces. They need to take it. Like his boots say, "Come and take it." If Texas wants it, she’s got to take it.
The “revolution in a cornfield” that is happening today in Gov. Sam Brownback's Kansas is potentially as important as what happened here in 1776. Because in the last two years the states have learned that they don't have to do what the federal government tells them to do. They can think for themselves and govern themselves, just as Dorothy promised. As The Washington Post reports with an excellent article today titled “In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback puts tea party tenets into action with sharp cuts”: “If you want to know what a Tea Party America might look like, there is no place like Kansas. In the past year, three state agencies have been abolished and 2,050 jobs have been cut. Funding for schools, social services and the arts have been slashed. The new Republican governor rejected a $31.5 million federal grant for a new health-insurance exchange because he opposes President Obama’s healthcare law. And that’s just the small stuff.”
“… states’ rights, states’ rights, states’ rights …” — Texas Gov. Rick Perry, April 15, 2009
When I proposed up here at the buildup to the war on Iraq that if the United States no longer wanted to be part of the U.N. then New England should send its own representative, it brought a kindly note from John Kenneth Galbraith, who thought it “wonderfully to the good.” America’s greatest ambassador since Franklin, George Kennan, like Galbraith, almost into his hundreds, proposed New England secession. “We are a monster country,” he wrote, and proposed decentralizing the U.S. into a dozen constituent republics. Harvard’s pastor, the Rev. Peter Gomes, proposed a new Hartford Convention like the one during the War of 1812.
My daughter, who is not old enough to go to college, says that although she doesn’t really understand all of the issues, she likes President Obama because he seems “normal.” She says most of the Republican candidates “don’t seem normal.” It’s been my observation. I met Obama with my kids up here when he was running and instinctively liked him for that reason. It is why as things go today, Obama will likely win in a landslide. Jon Huntsman seems normal too and Republicans have no use for him whatsoever. Rick Perry, normal. Same.
Another thing, they like to fail. The Republican apparatus today is enormously proud of its failures (Gingrich). The Democrats, especially in Massachusetts, were like that for a long time after JFK. Took pride in impossible losers like George McGovern and The Duke. Considered losing with McGovern a victory. With Howard Dean as well. Likewise, they did not seem exactly “normal.” They seemed ideological, driven by ideas, even vengeance, abstracted and ungrounded. Like Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum today. Maybe it is a Reagan afterglow; there will never be another; we will wait devotedly for the return of the avatar.
Kudos to Cameron Joseph for his story in The Hill Wednesday about the gigantic victory for House Democrats in the new redistricting plan just approved in court. This is huge. This is powerful. This is potentially transforming.
Under the new plan, Texas Democrats, who now control 9 House seats, could win 13 House seats in the next Congress. If the Democrats gain 4 new seats in the House from Texas alone, they have a big head start on regaining control of the House of Representatives and returning the Speaker's gavel to Nancy Pelosi.
“ … states' rights, states’ rights, states' rights!” — Rick Perry at the Alamo, June 15, 2009
Until you get higher in the hills, Laconia might be considered the vortex of New Hampshire redneck politics, heavy into the Tea Party. The Lakes Region Tea Party is small but might be indicative of how things will go. A straw poll on Nov. 16 gave Newt Gingrich 49 percent while Cain tied with Ron Paul at 15. Romney 12 percent and Rick Perry 0. Similar results in a straw poll at a Republican club in Alabama on Saturday: Newt 45 percent, Cain 13, Paul and Romney both 11 and Perry 3. Interesting because Perry first gave national credence to the Tea Party when he chanted for states’ rights at the Alamo. But with the sudden rise of Newt, the consummate Washington insider, the Tea Party is no longer really about states’ rights and specific issues. It’s about passion.