Friday, April 16, 2010

Maybe Howard Dean needs a Tea Party

by Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 4/16/10

I would have no objection if Texas wanted to hold a “state day of prayer” but here in northern New England we pray different or not at all and we consider that to be a sublime spiritual path; what Emerson, Bronson Alcott and Theodore Parker called “natural religion.” So it is good for us that U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb didn’t demand that Rick Perry sit through a Tibetan chant up here or that Howard Dean hold hands during that cry that comes pure from the heart of Free Church Appalachian, by ruling this week that The National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.

One-size-fits-all religion is not religion. It is gruel. Worse even than one-size-fits-all government. The judge’s ruling helps explain what we mean by federalism and one-size-fits-all American nationalism; that we are and were intended to be as per Jefferson’s vision, different but related peoples. Tea Party made that point at first. History may find it like the old Newport Folk Festival. It really caught on for a few years then faded. But when it was over the world had Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. When this is over, and maybe it is now, the world has or will have Sarah Palin and Rick Perry.

But whether he knows it or not, Howard Dean actually qualified for the first shouts of what became the Tea Parties. Sudden demands came from here first that we in Vermont and New Hampshire could oppose the invasion of Iraq as unconstitutional and as per Jefferson and the Kentucky Resolutions of 1797, we were not obliged to participate in unconstitutional action. Dean in fact, was a model of federalist thinking to some of us, including myself. In one of his last speeches as governor of Vermont Dean used the phrase, “We have more in common here with the eastern provinces of Quebec than we do with Texas.”

And Dean as governor pioneered what might be called a “new federalism” in opposition to what might be called “American nationalism.” American nationalists (Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, Reid, Clintons, Bushes) are ideologists at war, nationally and now globally, one with one another. They are “citizens of the world” who cannot name their state bird. Regionalists – federalists – are guided by earth, intuition and region to who they are. Dean was adopted nationally as an anti-war figure, but it would only weaken the Democratic party. He won no primaries and outside of his region became a political cult figure, much like George McGovern during the war in Vietnam.

But here at home he shares a common sensibility with his state and with many in neighboring states. With Collins and Snowe in Maine and with Independent governor Angus King there. With Lincoln Chaffee in Rhode Island and even with Scott Brown in Massachusetts I would venture. All of these people reflect a genuine New England sensibility finding itself again; a new sensibility which will be destroyed again by one-size fits-all nationalism.

His helper Joe Trippi writes this week for Fox: “If you strip away the social issues that separate the Dean movement from today’s Tea Partiers, they share a fundamental principle -- the government is broken, and it is the duty of everyday citizens to fix it.”

Dean cannot fix the country, and fixing the world is a nationalist delusion gone global. But he can fix New England. Vermont’s sovereigntists did not go away. The Second Vermont Republic is sending reasonable candidates up for office in November. Jefferson is new to Vermont, but what is happening here should be asked throughout New England: Suppose we hill Buddhists were required to sing The Old Rugged Cross in school because the Supreme Court says so. What should be done? Do the Supremes, which seem now to be identified with varied tribes instead of stats and regions as intended, dictate New England karma? If so, we not only forfeit self government, but we forfeit our humanity.