I was turned against federalism by two things. First, when I’d walk up to get my first-grader after school in the neighborhood of Duke University in Durham, N.C., I had to keep my hand on my 3-year-old, to keep the students from touching her. They were not bad kids, but they were nervous and erratic because their mothers were addicted to heroin when they were born. The second was the president. Although I had voted for him twice, it appeared to be a mother/child relationship he had with Hillary. Lots of men — especially artists and musicians — have that because it works for them. But when it became approved by a good majority it seemed we had gotten to the end of the difficult work we started back in 1776.

The first was failure on a catastrophic scale. The nervous students had no chance. No doubt many of them are dead already. Except for my kids and maybe three others, the students were all black. The white liberals in the neighborhood, most of whom worked or taught at Duke, would try to get their kids in the “AG” classes in the public school, which contained only two or three students. If they didn’t get in, they’d send them to private schools.

President Obama is no man-child like Bill Clinton. He is a fully mature and well-adjusted adult. But these children are no better off today. Their situation is worse. It is not the fault of Clinton, Bush or Obama. Their intentions were all honest. It is the fault of the system. It is the fault of central planning from outside the region.

But it was the second part that made a greater difference. What the country had come to want is a “rock star” for a president. My children’s public school colleagues were getting knocked up in the sixth grade and smoking reefer on the way to school and America wanted a rock star for president. I felt it left us defenseless. The federal government could and would do anything it wanted without consequences. Citizenship had become mush.

So when George W. Bush invaded Iraq I shared the general desire for revenge of 9/11 but felt the approach was illegal, unconstitutional and simply wrong. But I knew, as Bush and Cheney did, that with a constituency that wanted a rock star as president, they could get away with anything they wanted for as long as they wanted. And they did. Here in New Hampshire and Vermont I proposed with a few others a states’-rights opposition. We used a model based on the Québécois’, which wanted Quebec to be considered its own nation within the Canadian confederation. The state sovereignty movement has since caught on all over the country. This week Obama brings a first challenge in Arizona.

Gov. Jan Brewer’s challenge to the federal government is a cry from the heart. It is only that, but it is a start.

States and regions should make their own determinations. It makes the country stronger. Strong states keep the country honest. Canada was considered a “Third World North American country” deeply in debt and culturally dependent on America 20 years ago. Since Quebec has declared itself a nation within a nation, Canada has a new interior dynamic that is obvious to anyone who is attentive to it. It has lost its neurotic “pseudo-American” shadow and its economy has since become the envy of the world. This is democracy as Jefferson imagined it.

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