Presidential Campaign

Steve King’s Iowa summit and the ‘Texas century’

Moving to Texas doesn’t make you a Texan, as the Bush family is finding out. Especially if the journey is merely for political purposes. Surely New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) — the man in the bright red sweater conspicuously hugging Jerry Jones in the owner’s booth at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium again yesterday — loves Texas. But it is too early to say that Texas loves Christie.

Awkward. Like President George H.W. Bush in those cowboy boots, trying to convince the world that he was really a Texan. I look forward to Christie’s appearance at Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) Iowa Freedom Summit on Jan. 24, where Christie will be so conspicuously the odd man out in this rural conservatives love fest. Will soon-to-be-Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) be on hand for instruction on gelding pigs? Will there be a workshop on Celtic clogging with outgoing Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin (R)? What’s the appropriate dress code for a city-bound New Jersey governor who wants to be president of places like Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska? What sends the right signal? Liberty overalls?

{mosads}Old money gentry, like former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.), do better by staying home. Give it time. The rustics will eventually come back to Kennebunkport. They always have. But this time Christie is right: For Democrat or Republican, to win in the day ahead or in the century ahead, they must go country or country this time will go away.

And King’s summit may well be the signature event. Not necessarily the day of reckoning, but the day in which the reckoning gets its start. The key event where the 2016 presidential season begins at a time when heartland America is undergoing a profound philosophical and psychological shift. So, potentially, where the century gets its start.

Already it is late. Politics is still dangerously stuck in the last century, now 15 years past. Conservatives are stuck in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan and Democrats in the 1960s with the Kennedys and Clintons. But the demographics since World War II suggest a new American beginning and that starts now, sooner or later, west of the Mississippi.

What we have seen since 1776 may in time be considered only prelude, while the dominant force of the American moment rises in the middle, which was only forest back then. And as Gaul and Europe rose between Rome and Athens over millennia, the main event in our history ahead may so be the awakening today between New York and Los Angeles.

In a word, we see Jefferson’s promise of independent and free states rising in the West, while we see Hamilton’s vision of central dominance receding. Since the historic Nov. 4 elections, Hamilton’s vision of America as “greater New York” has shifted. The inland states no longer relate to the dominant ethic of New York (or its sister, Los Angeles) but they do increasingly relate to “Texas values,” economically, legally, culturally and otherwise.

Visualize this: Austin, Texas rising in time as the benign center of red inland states forming and coalescing together, while New York and Washington, D.C. are sidelined. And that could start later this month at Steve King’s hoedown.

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 2016 presidential election Chris Christie George H.W. Bush Jeb Bush Jerry Jones Joni Ernst Rick Perry Sarah Palin Steve King
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