( Clinton, KY. Sunday July 31, 2011) - The dynamics of revolution are fairly straight forward and simple: political power is never shared nor is it given, it has to be taken. Such is the current victory of the Tea Party movement within the congressional debate over debt.
When the dust settles in Washington DC this week, it will be the leaders of the Tea Party who will be dictating the terms for a new American experiment. Their America will call for (1) a balanced budget (2) smaller government footprint (3) move toward a Fortress America. More importantly, their call for a new America will be based upon one single thought, “We must all cut back from debt and live within our means.”
During the hot budget revolt in Congress, late summer of 2011, a new complex figure emerged that took command of the revolution by sheer will of ideas and youthful stubbornness. History will record that figure was named Rand Paul, Kentucky junior Senator.
The pages of history will document that his actions became the tipping point for defining the next level of the American experiment in self governance and federalism. Whatever the outcome over the budget debate and fight, Washington DC as a seat of power and central government will forever be changed by a new breed of people's representative, who seek to bring down the status quo and reenact a new framework for moving America into the 21st century. This battle is nothing short of who will control, define, and direct the character and soul of American government for the next generation.
By whatever name or geography of state, these newly minted House of Representatives share one thing in common, a sense of purpose and energy of populism to fight the noble or good fight of people who want to reinvent their government. To them, the word revolution is a good word.
These new fiscal warriors see their mission as an united front of change directed at the past 50 years of good old boy politics where special interests control the US Budget. They fight against the belief that debt is good. Or that consumerism should be allowed to stand in for the loss of manufacturing jobs.
The Man from Kentucky
Senator Rand Paul is a natural leader of this new movement. There is an unique energy about the man that defies logic and yet, seems as natural as rain. Here lies a very complex individual who seeks not personal glory as much as personal triumph of ideas over ideas and spirit over broken promises.
A year ago, on a very hot summer night (102 degrees) in those few minutes of time between sunset and the fullness of night, I had the opportunity to watch this man campaign for the Senate. The event was the annual picnic of the Cayce First Methodist Church. Cayce, Kentucky is like hundreds of wide spots in the road in Kentucky back country. These wide spots in the road usually contain a gas station, convent mart, old school, or abandon housing, next to a cemetery and church define how most of these wide spots greet the 21st Century.
What made this night special, was that Rand Paul, candidate for US Senator had driven over 200 hundred miles from his home in Bowling Green to take part of the picnic. As the 427 good citizens of Fulton County and Cayce stood in line for the local BBQ, hand made desserts and cold iced tea, Candidate Rand Paul stood proudly and faced each person in the long food line with a aurora of star power and extreme self confidence.
This was a new experience for most of the church goers. Here was someone of national action standing in their front yard, asking for votes and debating all who had issues to confront him with. Throughout the two hour event, Paul held his shoulder s firm and made sure to touch or shake the hand of everyone there. He had the fire of populism burning in his gut on that night.
Lessons from the Frontier
Cayce Kentucky was but one of many backdrops to the race for US Senator last year. However, it defined just how far Rand Paul would go to deliver his message. He worked the back roads of Kentucky harder then did his opponent. This approach of travailing into the rural regions and small towns was a natural expansion of the man.
Paul is in great part, a creature and product of his geography. Bowling Green, Kentucky is still a rather small town when compared to a Louisville or any great American metropolitan center. And there are still some communities or counties in West Kentucky where the population is under 20 people per square mile.
In this world of lingering rural frontiersmen-ship, the rule of family, of church, and of country still frame a way of life. There is no mistake that much of the Tea Party Movement has its roots deep into the same band of hard core geography that voted against Obama for President. This is a belt of counties from the poverty and coal fields of West Virginia down through Kentucky and Tennessee, over through Arkansas ending in Oklahoma and Texas.
This unique band of counties and states is not just the back drop for the old Bible Belt, it is in this second decade of the 21sr Century the “Confused American Belt.” Local citizens over morning coffee and breakfast at hundreds of little mom and pop restaurants talk of why we have no jobs, where did all the money go from our taxes, why are we in three wars, why no one went to jail over the financial crisis of 2008, where are the good leaders, social security has been earned, gas prices gone crazy, again, raising health costs, fears of no medical insurance, and by the way, who stole the American Dream?
The wind that stirs across this geography is developing into a harsh natural force of anger directed at big corporations and big government. The leaders in Washington DC, including the White House, have allowed the flaws of ill governance from the last 30 to 40 years to explode into a raging conflict over the right to proceed forward with America.
Lessons for Washington DC
From this historical moment in the American experience, nothing will be as it was last week. Last week the big corporations and big lobbyist government ruled. From this weekend's debate over the debt ceiling, new rules are being established that will force racial and brutal change upon the American government, but even more importantly upon the people called American citizens.
The primary lesson to be learned at this juncture of debate is that the GOP leadership in the House and other leaders totally misread or underestimated Rand Paul and his army of Tea Party budget warriors. Their biggest sin, as told to me by my editor, Mary Potter, was the fact that the ruling powers in the House gave up earmarks as sweetening to get legislation passed. Taking out earmarks was the status quo's first attempt at appeasing the Tea Party Barbarians at the Gate movement. All leadership has left is their powers of persuasion.
Without the ability to play games and make smoke and mirrors public policy with the federal budget, they lost the “insider deal factor.” Leadership could no longer hold out or threaten special budget projects just to force through policy or deals.
Now to go forward and save America from financial default, victory must be given to Senator Rand Paul and his followers. They now have the Keys to the Kingdom. From this moment, no budget deal or appropriations will be allowed to stand unless it passed the Tea Party stamp of approval.
The values of rural Kentucky are forcing the values of urban Washington to bend or to change. This is by definition a revolutionary moment within the American Experiment. The last time such a debate was held in such angry, loudness, boldness, and unwillingness to comprise was the period just before the Civil War (1860-61).
The next time before that was in 1776, as South Carolina held to its beliefs of slavery above all else and especially states' rights above the system of federalism. It was in great part the historically stubborn views of the South that have laid the current seeds of city and state against federal forms of taxation and governance.
At each juncture for America, the question of who we are as a nation, good men and women debated just causes and views. Only when rational behavior was lost did we stumble into open physical conflict. Some would say that this moment of our existence as a young country is once again being tested. And it is to such men as Rand Paul who will become the voices and faces of those would redefine how the American Experiment will move to its next level of existence.
Rand Paul is but one man. But in the course of revolutionary times, one man, stubborn in his beliefs and faith, can play an important role well beyond his state.
The words of T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) come to mind:
“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night
in the dusty recesses of their minds,
wake in the day to find that it was vanity.
But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men,
for they may act their dreams with open eyes
to make it possible.”
Is Rand Paul a dangerous man? Yes, he is.
Is Rand Paul firm in his faith and beliefs? Yes, he is.
Is Rand Paul a natural leader for his time and space of geography? Yes, he is.
Is Rand Paul and his followers the face of a 21st Century America? Could be.
Only history will have the luxury of time and distance to report just how well the citizens of America were willing to change their habits of vast out of control consumerism. What happens if, instead of being 70% a consumer nation, we dropped to a 40% consumer nation? What happens to the cash flow, jobs, communities, corporations of our time?
Rand Paul and his followers have thrown the brick through the window. They demand to be heard. They have earned that right to be heard through elections. We should listen. We should debate in Congress, at every corner, in every beauty parlor, in every church just what kind of America we should build from the wreckage of what has stood for the past decade and even back to the social revolution of the 1960's that never had a ending. That revolution was cut short with the killings of Bobby and Martin. The baby boomers of that age became the great shoppers and consumers of the Reagan age.
It seems that now is the time for hard choices. Do we, as a people, have the courage and clear vision that Rand Paul has? I am not so sure.
One thing for sure, the winds of revolution are blowing hard through the back roads of this great country. This force is beginning to slam into the facade of our present form of government that is run by special interest, and big corporations.
Beyond the darkness of the storm clouds and winds are the movements of the people. They are awakening and stirring!
Be warned Washington DC, they are coming for you!