In a small attempt to connect political theory to actual power, last week I sent messages to some GOP members of the U.S. Senate telling them about my new book, Politics on a Human Scale.  (It might sound self-promoting but I like to think of it as being public-spirited.)  All of the senators use email forms on their websites so we can communicate with their staffs.  The first step for the user is to identify the broad topic of our question or comment.

What struck me is that my message did not fit into any of the categories listed on any of the websites.  I did not expect to find “human scale politics” or “decentralization” listed, but I thought I might find “big government,” “federal power,” “federalism,” “states’ rights,” or “Constitution.”  None of those were options.  The closest I found was a single website that listed “constitutional rights,” but these are presumably individual rights rather than federal-state relations or federal power in general. The Second Amendment (gun rights) showed up repeatedly; the Tenth Amendment (decentralized power) not at all.

These senators are conservative, Tea Party politicians.  They are the members of government most likely to be sincerely interested in our viewpoint and supportive of power devolution.  Yet the subject is not even on the radar, if their feedback forms are an indication.  Those of us who believe in widely dispersed power—political and economic—have some work to do to move the topic from the political fringe to the public agenda.

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Jeff Taylor
Jeff Taylor was born and raised in Spencer, Iowa. He is Professor of Political Science at Dordt College. He is author of three books: Where Did the Party Go?: William Jennings Bryan, Hubert Humphrey, and the Jeffersonian Legacy (University of Missouri Press), Politics on a Human Scale: The American Tradition of Decentralism (Lexington), and The Political World of Bob Dylan: Freedom and Justice, Power and Sin (Palgrave Macmillan).  He has written for Green Horizon Quarterly, Modern Age, Chronicles, The American Conservative, FirstPrinciplesJournal.com, HuffingtonPost.com, LewRockwell.com, AntiWarLeague.com, and CounterPunch.org. He is roughly half German, a quarter English, and the rest is Irish, Scotch-Irish, and French. In 1814, his ancestor Barzilla Taylor fought at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend as a Tennessee volunteer under General Andrew Jackson. The Taylors came from England in the early 1600s, settled in Virginia, and moved through the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois, and Indiana, before ending up in Pottawattamie County, Iowa. Jeff spent his entire life in the Midwest until moving to Alabama in 2008. He returned to his home state three years later. He has degrees from Northwestern College, University of Iowa, and University of Missouri. His research emphases are American politics, political theory, political history, and international relations. A political independent, Jeff has been active within the Democratic, Republican, and Green parties at various times.  His ideology, or political philosophy, is a mix of moralism, libertarianism, and populism. His favorite writers include C.S. Lewis, Watchman Nee, A.W. Tozer, Gene Edwards, Bonaventure, François Mauriac, Leo Tolstoy, Søren Kierkegaard, Thomas Jefferson, George Orwell, Dwight Macdonald, C. Wright Mills, Gore Vidal, Gabriel Kolko, Noam Chomsky, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Susan Brownmiller, Andrea Dworkin, Malcolm X, Murray Rothbard, Kevin Phillips, and Bill Kauffman. Jeff is the husband of Shirley Taylor, and the father of William, Jane, and David.  He is an ethical vegetarian and a low church Protestant.  Jeff can be reached via email at wherego (at) aol.com.

5 COMMENTS

  1. You already know that if Russ Feingold were still in office, he’d be as good a bet, or better, than many Tea Party senators. I’m not sure how many others remember that. Did you try Ron Johnson? I wouldn’t expect him to respond. The Tea Party as a movement had some important things to say, but the Tea Party as a political faction (funded by the same old Republican campaign consultants, starting with Sal Russo) is all about power, and those who get their hands on power don’t like to share it. One reason Feingold fell short in 2010 is that he refused to accept funding from outside the state of Wisconsin. Tammy Baldwin has too many agendas she wants to push as one size fits all for the whole country — albeit she has some populist economic positions.

    I’m trying to think of any others outside the Republican / Tea Party milieu who might listen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, just maybe. He is making a lot of noise about overturning Citizens United, although signing his petition always leads to a fundraising page, and he’s not being specific about the language of his proposed constitutional amendment. I don’t know a lot about Kay Hagen, but she won once in North Carolina. Heidi Heitkamp in ND? Jon Tester from Montana… Its not a long list, which is sort of what you’ve been saying from the beginning.

    There are some matters so crucial that there must be a national framework for how to handle them… and a lot of other matters that people may feel passionately about, but which have no clear moral imperative, and are better left to be sorted out as local or regional sentiment may suggest. Its gotten very hard for people who are passionate about anything to accept that maybe their current theme is not a one size fits all.

  2. Greetings from the opposite Northern corner of Iowa –

    I’m very much looking forward to reading your book, and wish you success in finding an ear in Washington that is willing to hear you. Your brief study of the email forms of these Senators’ websites, I think, shows how far our political system has sunk, becoming an amorphous, centralized government, though. Even those who, as you say, are most likely to support decentralization and local governance seem not to be ready to take comments from those who advocate for such positions. Certainly those more in the mainstream of American political opinion aren’t likely to be more open than they to hearing what you have to say. I am frankly tired of the bland and canned responses I get to probing questions, comments or concerns along these lines when I send them to our representatives and senators serving in DC.

    That said, I am pleased to see people like you raising a voice crying in the wilderness for reform and sensible governance. Keep up the call for change – it may one day finally find a broader resonance!

  3. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to communicate with congresscretins who are not your direct representative. If anything, the internet has made this worse since they can so easily screen out undesirables such as yourself.

    There are zero Democrats and only a couple of Republicans who could be expected to take you seriously, but bravo for trying, and please don’t stop. You probably should shift your aim away from DC, though, as it is nothing but a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

  4. Pardon me Brian but it is actually a “wretched hive of scum, avarice, insatiable ego and villainy”.

    Lets get yer facts straight here.

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