State & Local Politics

Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn: The new paradigm

Two stars are born this season, Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn,
Westerners traveling in righteous vengeance. She with the “author of all
things” watching over her and a fine horse. He with true grit. The Coen
Brothers in “True Grit,” this the greatest ever movie, return us to
ourselves in the Western epic we last visited in 1968 after a 40-some
year skywalk. And in our time their players, Mattie Ross and Rooster
Cogburn, come to resemble two new and rising stars on the political
scene, Elizabeth Warren and Rick Perry, governor of Texas. In Perry,
Andrew Jackson has found his avatar. In Warren, Rachel Maddow has found
her anti-Palin.

Warren says she will now consider running for Senate in Massachusetts. I hope she does. Interesting, we have now two formidable politicos come to us from the West: Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, and now John Wesley’s own Oklahoman grandmother, Warren, whose old-rugged-cross character and diligent work ethic suggests her to be Mattie Ross incarnate. We need this badly in New England. Potentially, we are finally leaving Europe behind as Emerson demanded. I’d like to see Warren look ahead to bigger goals like governor of Massachusetts, but this will do. I don’t see that Scott Brown will be that much of a problem. He has not made much of an impression. His great gift seems to be the ability to drive a truck. I’ve tried it. It’s not that hard.

Perry might have seen his first vital moment on the national scale this past Thursday with an essay in The Washington Post signed with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on the debt crisis. He used the phrase “cut, cap and balance.” It has since become a mantra. It will identify the rising paradigm in conservative politics, and Rick Perry will be identified with it. The states’-rights perspective is now embedded in conservative politics. Every candidate in this race, including Jon Huntsman Jr. and Romney, references states’ rights as Rudy Giuliani did up here at Dartmouth College last Friday when he told the audience that what the next president should do to cut the size of the federal government is “to move functions of the federal government down to the state and local level, which are better at delivering what states and cities need.” This is boilerplate Tea Party.

Should be recalled that the “true grit” feature in American politics — the Jacksonian, heartland uprising thatevolved into the Tea Party — was started on the left by the tobacco-chewing, Glock-toting Scotch-Irish Virginian Jim Webb, writer, warrior, former secretary of the Navy and currently Virginia’s senator. John McCain had the good literary sense to pull in the Alaskan governor, Palin, to advance the theme.

Andrew Jackson liberated the American frontier and heartland. It brought the end of the Colonial period and the domination of American politics by the Eastern colonials. To regain influence, the Northeast had to go country as well (thus the funny whiskers and silly hat on Abraham Lincoln). Today, the agricultural heartland has arrived in America as a political influence, finally gaining its birthright. The Democrats will have to do the same today as the Republicans did back then to gain influence: Go country.

Their new Okie star Warren is a beginning. Look to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and farmer/senator Jon Tester of Montana to advance. Look maybe to more from Jim Webb.

Tags Elizabeth Warren John McCain Jon Tester
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