Guess who’s stumping for states' rights?

I proposed here in summer of 2015 that fledgling presidential candidate Donald Trump was a tricksterwho churns the ages.”

And that America was advancing to a new era of light and shadow driven by anthropology more than history: “History will follow, but at the moment, we face a 70-year transition. It is or will be, when all is said and done, a classic study for those students of generational history: We are almost at the turning. Something just ahead, almost at hand, just on the horizon.”

This was the same period when former Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Trump’s campaign “a cancer to conservatism” that “must be discarded.”

Perry is now, of course, secretary of energy and Trump is now president.

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There is a tendency in these 60 to 70 year political turnings to see conflagration, even armageddon, but in the end what occurs is a falling away of the way things were and a yielding to the awakening of new things.

 

The new awakening will be compensation; when a door is closed a window opens. And already we can see new forms and political norms beginning to take shape in America.

Going Around Trump, governors Embark on Their Own Diplomatic Missions,” declares the headline in The New York Times on Sunday.

Under the Trump administration, Alexander Burns reports, “Leadership at the state level has taken on an increasingly global dimension, as governors assert themselves in areas where they view Mr. Trump as abandoning the typical priorities of the federal government. They have forged partnerships across state and party lines to offset administration policies they see as harmful to the constituencies.”

To get a rough guess of what lies ahead it might work to go back and read the works of Frederick Jackson Turner. Turner was best known for his essay The Significance of the Frontier in American History published in 1893.

He saw the United States changing in time as immigrants made their way from the east across North America’s mountains and deserts, heading west and changed by their rugged journey, becoming less European along the way and more their own “peoples.”

We were a fledgling “union of potential nations” which in time would “equal great European nations.”

In a word “the west is the best” as a late Lizard King once explained it and the journey to it would make us that which we were destined to become.

Turner’s thesis may suddenly be relevant in the Trump era.

In the last decade Americans have begun to see ourselves as a variety of “potential nations.”

It explains why influential congressmen and women today like Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Steve King of Iowa and Utah’s Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzOvernight Finance: Trump pitches massive tax cuts | Freedom Caucus endorses plan | Dems slam framework | House GOP to move B border wall bill | Officials under fire for private jet use GOP lawmaker pushes to end sports leagues' tax-exempt status Republicans predict Senate ObamaCare repeal would pass House MORE might ruminate that they would prefer to be governors back in their native place rather than legislating from Washington, D.C.

The states and cities today are where the action is.

The left leads the way with California actually beginning to act like “the modern equivalent of the ancient city-states of Athens and Sparta” as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger claimed it to be back in 2007.

California and other states today openly challenge the commerce clause and the constitutional constraints of their job descriptions.

“After Mr. Trump rejected the Paris climate agreement, a dozen governors announced a state-level coalition to carry out the pact in a partial form, with Gov Jerry Brown of California, a Democrat, taking a leading role and traveling to China for a meeting on climate with President Xi Jinping,” the Times reports.

But it is not all Democrats.

Republican governors Charlie Barker of Massachusetts and Phil Scott of Vermont are readily joining in.

I find the popular Scott, a champion stock car racer from my neighboring state who did not support Trump for president, to be especially interesting and important to watch as he perhaps brings a sea change to the very liberal state of Vermont. Scott might be seen as a leading example of a governor in the new archetype of state and regional governance.

I wrote to him about this.

“The growing uncertainty about decisions made in Washington, D.C. presents a greater opportunity for state governments to secure partnerships with fellow states and foreign nations,” he wrote back.

Scott is vice chair of the Coalition of Northeastern Governors which he says “establishes a forum among the six New England states and New York regarding national and regional policy initiatives with a focus on the economic well being of the Northeast.”

And he has recently travelled to Quebec to meet with Premier Philippe Couillard to discuss ways to increase economic ties between Vermont and Quebec.

More than $5 billion in trade is generated across the Vermont-Quebec border. Scott says he will be discussing strategies to increase Vermont’s trade relationship with Canada at the 41st Annual Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers in August.

Governors taking the initiative to unleash greater regional potential brings a paradigm shift in America from the Hamiltonian model of centralization to a Jeffersonian decentralization of power and influence to states and regions.

These are Turner’s “potential nations” moving intrepidly toward maturity at long last. For New England it was always there underneath.

Which is not to say that this devolution of power is without danger. The tendency has advanced political contention between red states and blue states.

This swell of states rights enthusiasm began on the right when New Hampshire state reps brought a Tenth Amendment challenge to Obamacare in February 2009. It caught on like a prairie grass fire when dozens of mostly heartland states signed on.

And the Trump presidency with its insidious dynastic tendencies suggest crises ahead, maybe at home, maybe in the world; maybe not now, but soon.

Possibly in the post-Millennial generation just beginning to rise. I got a feel for it last month reading about the Texas Boys State summer convention.

These annual meetings sponsored by the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary of high school boys and girls in their junior year are often very good prognosticators for the rising decades in the mainstream of American politics and culture.

Bill ClintonBill ClintonAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE, Neil Armstrong, Dick Cheney, Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Senators grill ex-Equifax CEO over stock sales Wells Fargo chief defends bank's progress in tense Senate hearing MORE, Jon Bon Jovi, Jane Pauley and Chris Christie are all alumni.

This summer Texas Boys State voted with full enthusiasm for Texas secession by an astonishing margin.

In the spontaneous cheer that rose from the young crowd I thought I could read the echo of journalist Lincoln Steffens when he returned from Russia in 1919 to announce the beginning of a very different revolution and declared to the world, “I have seen the future, and it works.”

But it didn’t.

Bernie Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.