A revolution may have started in America on Tuesday. From coast to coast, the states awaken. Ironically, the thinking that guides this change belongs to Democrats. Perspective might begin to be found today in Steve Jarding and Dave "Mudcat" Saunders's book, Foxes in the Henhouse: How the Republicans Stole the South and the Heartland and What the Democrats Must Do to Run 'em Out.

ADVERTISEMENT

Yet it might be a good day for Democrats. Their anthem is silent, their avatars old, cliche and spent. They have the opportunity to begin again. Jarding and Saunders, who advised Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D) and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb (D), might offer a path.

As a native New Englander, I read the book with some fascination in 2006. I and a very few others (novelist Carolyn Chute, author of The Beans of Egypt, Maine; retired Duke professor Thomas Naylor, and George Kennan) had already mined Jackson and Jefferson to find a defense against the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq. We came up with Jefferson's sublime Kentucky Resolutions, which said, in effect, that the state's relationship with the feds is a marriage, but if the federal party is unfaithful to its vows, the marriage is null and void. Our north country states, we determined, need not participate.

It brought a small academic following; then my neighbors and friends in the New Hampshire state house, Paul Ingbretson and Dan Itsy, caught wind of the Kentucky Resolutions idea when the Gadsden flag had begun to fly here in New Hampshire. In February 2009, they proposed a Kentucky Resolutions approach to ObamaCare, saying the law was unconstitutional, thus the states need not participate. More than 30 states immediately followed their initiative, and the states' rights movement was born from there.

But it had started on the left. Others had the same idea in the Bush-Cheney period, especially Michael Boldin of The Tenth Amendment Center. They issued a press release on Tuesday:

"Tuesday wasn't just a big day at the ballot box for Republicans. It also featured significant victories for advocates of decentralized governance. The people of several states flexed their muscles at the ballot box, directing their states to essentially ignore federal overreach. 'Nobody really wants monopoly government centered inside the Beltway. We're starting to see this play out at the ballot box. You can look at it as an anti-trust program for government,' Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Mike Maharrey said."

The 2014 election brings a systemic shift. As legislation in the past century has come top down — issues dictated from Washington to the states — today, increasingly states are feeding the rising Congress.

"With the states acting as laboratories for legislation that cannot advance in Washington, policy changes are likely on a variety of issues," reports The New York Times. "Republicans posted sweeping gains in state houses across the nation on Tuesday, taking control of the most state legislatures in nearly 100 years and approaching a record number of governors' seats — a critical development at a time when most major policy has been coming out of states, rather than Washington."

This is exactly how Jefferson intended the American frontier to develop. The question Democrats need to ask today is, how did they get where they are? How did the thinking of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, pillars of the party, migrate to the Republicans, the traditional party of centralization?

And as Saunders and Jarding ask, what do Democrats need to do to get it back?

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 quigley1985@gmail.com.