In what will become one of the most “back to the future” political realignments in America’s history, the current Democratic Party is on course to embrace the tenets of Jeffersonian Democracy while the Republican Party in power increasingly opts for Hamiltonian and Madison redux centralized authority. Exacerbated by the hardening of blue versus red, socio-political culture, geographic and economic class divides and a central government that caters mainly to 38 percent of the electorate on a good day; progressive and centrist locales, counties, cities and even some states are choosing devolution as their political future.
Local becomes global in this brave new world view. States’ rights in a social media globalized context mean freedoms of association, belief and practice without and beyond borders. Traditional Republican values of public education, voting as an inalienable right free of any suppressive tactics, an unfettered press, limited government and central state interference in local-living and self-reliant economies favoring stakeholder ownership and civic equity, and a repudiation of class-based aristocrats and oligarchs are morphing and hardening into Democratic principles.
Break-away U.S. blue and centrist states, cities and counties are pursuing massively diverging paths from recently announced U.S. policies. America’s fabled “Laboratories of Democracy” have shifted to metropolitan regions who address climate change as a top priority, welcome immigration as an American legacy, revere and pursue science and the human capacity for resiliency associated with it, innovatively adapt to breaking technology developments, and hold the line on one-class public education, justice and healthcare as basic unalienable rights. Devolution patriots pursue global trade that builds bridges, not walls, while respecting worker and environmental rights, and protect free association such as unionism in the workplace while acknowledging race-based injustices that have helped to lock-down America’s underserved populations in redlined places.
The newly formed U.S. Climate Alliance, hundreds of U.S. Mayors, and thousands of U.S. corporations proclaiming “climate independence” as good business and sound policy represent a new succession movement in motion. Political devolution bypasses an increasingly intellectually and culturally irrelevant (although terrifying) national government in favor of international associations, governments, and multilateral organizations that “get it.”
This U.S. devolution trend is similar in some respects to the European Union’s formative years in the mid-to-late 1980’s and early 1990’s where a continent recovering from two world wars together with regional governments in Spain, Scotland, Ireland and liberated former Iron Curtain countries welcomed a common altruistic political identity beyond the historical nightmares of internally repressive and externally hegemonic nation-states. At home, it also reflects the secessionist spirit of the 1860’s not so much as rebels against tyranny but in revolt against a dystopian idea of America as wasteland carnage, and a world view that threatens the survival and livelihood of individual states to defend their climate borders as well as cultural freedoms.
The Washington Post suggests in “Jefferson’s last public letter reminds us what Independence Day is all about,” that the long road back to America’s aspirational future depends on restoring “the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion” in the public arena in order for this country so-founded to survive and thrive. America’s third President, the author of the Declaration of Independence, affirms for each U.S. citizen regardless of race, origin, political party and cultural affiliations, that “all eyes are opened, or opening to the rights of man. the general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth that the mass of mankind has not been born, with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of god. these are grounds of hope for others. for ourselves let the annual return of this day, forever refresh our recollections of these rights and an undiminished devotion to them.”
Devolving back to Jefferson’s vision recognizes that an economically unequal, unfair and intellectually ignorant America demeans the country’s founding principles which themselves were global principles in their day but codified and practiced first in a new world reaching for exceptional freedoms in concept if not in perfect practice. It is the measure of America’s growing imperfect refreshing “of these rights and an undiminished devotion to them” that inspires Democratic and Republican parties to philosophically trade places with each other as elected witnesses in a nation where now much more than one-third of its citizens are ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished, ill-served and popping opioids to ease the pain of permanent indentured servitude on the plantations of those in self-serving economic, cultural and political power.
Michael Peck is a co-founder and executive director of 1Worker1Vote.