POLITICSnThe LastnJeffersoniannby Bill KauffmannLet Vermont State Senator JohnnMcClaughry describe himselfn(with what he calls “a notorious Ozarknaccent”): ” am a 1700’s Virginia republican,nan 1800 Tertium Quid, ann1830’s Loco Foco, an 1850’s Republican,nan 1890’s Western progressive, an1930’s agrarian distributist, and today anplain old decentralist agrarian Reaganaut.”nIt makes perfect sense. Alas, nonone gets it.nJohn McClaughry was born in Paris,nIllinois, of a border-state family thatn”made the same pilgrimage that Lincoln’sndid.” He’s from Vachel Lindsayncountry, and like that sad vagabond poetnhe knows that the American redemptionnmust start in the small towns:nO you who lose the art of hope.nWhose temples seem to shrinena lie,nWhose sidewalks are but stonesnof fear.nWho weep that Libertynmust die,nTurn to the little prairie towns.nYour higher hope shallnyet begin.nThe wanderlust seized youngnMcClaughry; like many tribunes ofnrootedness, he was itinerant for a time.n46/CHRONICLESnVITAL SIGNSnHe rode the rails west and picked up thenhobo name of “Feather River John.”nIn 1963 he moved to northern Vermont,nbewitched by the gods of its hills.nHe built himself a log cabin and raised anfamily and plunged into politics, servingnin the Vermont House and preaching anJeffersonian gospel of dispersed power,nstrong communities, and civic responsibility.nHe wrote speeches for RonaldnReagan in the late 70’s and joined thenWhite House policy staff when camenthe millennium.nBut a Loco Foco is brave and true,nand never lubricious enough to slidenthrough the corridors of power.nMcClaughry was almost fired from hisnWhite House job in March 1981 whennhe flew home in midweek to presidenover the Kirby, Vermont, town meeting.nHe was fount of fresh, unorthodoxnideas, the kind that make ambitiousncareerists write you off as a kook. “Mynsuggestion that we appoint America’snmost respected Indian elder as the U.S.nrepresentative on the U.N. HumannRights Commission, with no instructionsnbut to speak plainly about justicenfor the oppressed nations throughoutnthe world, was greeted in Foggy Bottomnas evidence of advanced insanity on mynpart,” he remembers.nSo he took the honorable route, thenroad less and less traveled: he quit.nYankee stubbornness, an intransigentnloyalty to principle, motivated Mc­nClaughry. Thoreau’s guidance is relevant:n”If the tax-gatherer, or any othernpublic officer, asks me, as one has done,n’But what shall I do?’ my answer is, ‘Ifnyou really wish to do anything, resignnyour office.'”nHe went home and got elected to thenState Senate on an Old (circa 1798)nRepublican platform. Though initiallynpegged as a wild man, a troglodyte, annopponent of the 20th century, he hasnwon grudging plaudits for his wit, hardnwork, and seriousness of purpose inndefense of a political creed that elsewheresngoes unchampioned. And henhas discovered just how hard a sellnJeffersonianism has become in annAmerica in which nationalism hasneclipsed patriotism, and men care morenabout Madonna than they do the trampnnext door.nnnVermont is a curious state, politically.nFrugal, flinty Yankees are scarce innMontpelier; “woodchucks,” as nativesnare derisively called, are being overrunnby those whom McClaughry termsn”The Pretty People”: affluent immigrantsnfrom New York City and Boston,ntransient Arcadians who’ve done dealsnand leveraged and arbitraged and stillnlove the City — Sunday Times in bed,nMOMA in the aft, a stroll through thenVillage at dusk — and want to makenVermont as pretty, quaint, and utterlynlifeless as a picture postcard. (Over thenYork border a similar conflict simmersnin the Adirondack Mountains, wherenbaseball-capped natives are losing theirnhome ground to the Manhattan summerncrowd, with its $400,000 condosnand godawful accents and imperiousncitified demeanors.)nBut unlike New York, Vermontnhums with discourse. Dissidents arengiven a respectful hearing. SocialistnBernie Sanders has a shot at winning anseat in Congress this fall. A CreennParty, gloriously disorganized, is aborning,ninspired by the Burlington anarchistnMurray Bookchin. And a populistnpolitical scientist (!?!) named FranknBryan, a scholar of rural governance, isnthe state’s premier tub-thumping orator,nif not kin to William Jennings thennthe Green Mountain State’s closestnapproximation.nFrank Bryan and John McClaughrynare close if fractious friends, and theyncollaborated to write The Vermont Papers:nRecreating Democracy on a HumannScale (Chelsea Green, 1989), anblueprint for radical restructuring ofnstate government. Proceeding fromn”values that are libertarian in the facenof authority, decentralist in the face ofngiantism, and communal among ourntownspeople,” they proposed to stripnMontpelier of its accumulated powers,nreducing it to the “protector of thenenvironment and guarantor of basicncivil rights and liberties.”nResponsibility for welfare, education,nand road maintenance would devolvento “shires,” new units of governmentnresembling counties. The shiresnwould be small — average populationnten thousand — and extremely democratic:n”reeves,” or shire legislators.n