The party of Hamilton? Webb and Warren may offer a better path

Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, Friend of Bill and a member of the Clinton Global Initiative’s advisory board, has written a book called Don’t Wait for the Next War, which reviewer Walter Russell Mead says “lays out his vision for American grand strategy in the coming years.” Clark was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2008. His insights could bring a preview of what is ahead in a potential Hillary Clinton administration.

Mead calls the Clark book “Hamiltonian,” a “vision of big government and big industry working together for national prosperity” which “has deep roots in American history, dating to Alexander Hamilton’s ‘Report on Manufactures’ presented to Congress in 1791.”

“But Jeffersonian opposition to what many would simply call crony capitalism is also embedded in American political culture,” writes Mead.

{mosads}Hamilton vs. Jefferson goes to the core of the American condition. As a prominent historian in an earlier day wrote, two men defined the fundamental principles of 1776: Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Hamilton’s vision was of extreme centralization, while Jefferson’s was extreme decentralization. Hamilton’s was urban and nationalistic. Jefferson’s was rural and provincial.

“Mr. Clark understands that contemporary politics features a strong Jeffersonian movement and he attacks the Tea Party as supporting ‘doctrinaire antigovernment policies,’ attributing the group’s prominence to bitter resentment against the Great Recession,” writes Mead. (In fact, the Jeffersonian movement began on the left and morphed to the right in 2009.) “Yet Mr. Clark’s propensity to propose federal spending that would benefit industries and interests with which he himself has been closely connected will raise the hackles of small-government advocates — and rightly so.”

Democrats annually celebrate Jefferson-Jackson Day to great hoopla, but Jefferson is despised today by many liberals and there hasn’t been a Jacksonian president since Andrew Jackson. There is no party of Jefferson and Jackson. Both parties today are Hamiltonian.

The Hamiltonian strain is of the urban uber-rich, of centralized government, of globalist conquistador desires and delusional Leviathan dreams like those of the Clinton Global Initiative. How did the Democratic Party, the Jefferson and Jackson party, become the Hamiltonian party? Possibly former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, who visits New Hampshire next week, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, can offer a better path.

They both oppose “crony capitalism.” Warren rails against the entrenched 1 percent. Webb sent the benign establishment to the fainting couch when he used the phrase “robber barons” in his Senate response to President George W. Bush’s 2007 State of the Union speech. Both have rural roots and long heartland traditions which they honor and value; both can be considered Jacksonian while few other Democrats today can. Both have books out today which tell their stories. Unlike many politicians, these two have stories to tell; stories which rise from a deep, earthy tradition of family, love and Emersonian self-reliance.

They bring the possibility of a restoration. A prelude might come from another book, Foxes in the Henhouse: How the Republicans Stole the South and the Heartland and What the Democrats Must Do to Run ’em Out by Steve Jarding and Dave “Mudcat” Saunders.

“We argue that the Republicans lost their moral compass when they sold out for electoral success,” write Jarding and Saunders, “while Democrats, shell-shocked at losing power, lost their courage and their will to reason and to fight.”

Jarding, Webb, Warren and Saunders together make for an auspicious quaternity, potentially offering a new path to a new century. One in this critical moment between political ages with every possibility of an awakening.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at

Tags 1 percent Alexander Hamilton Andrew Jackson Crony capitalism Elizabeth Warren Jim Webb robber barons Steve Jarding Thomas Jefferson Wesley Clark

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