Our panel of experts reports on the first national elections of the Tea Party era.
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Fred Barnes is executive editor of the Weekly Standard.
I have been writing, in the pages of the Washington Examiner and elsewhere, for what seems like a tediously long time, that the Obama administration and the congressional Democratic leadership have been operating on the assumption that economic distress will make Americans more supportive of or at least amenable to big government programs. The voters on November 2 made clear what I have long argued, not least in the pages of Our Country: The Shaping of America from Roosevelt to Reagan (1990: available on amazon.com for $3.50), that this assumption is wrong. Point made.
So in the spirit of The American Spectator let me focus on an issue which is seemingly peripheral but which I think tells us much about how the Obama Democrats have got America — seemingly a foreign country to many of them — dead wrong. That issue is high-speed rail.
The Obama Democrats love high-speed rail. They want to spend billions to place ribbons of high-speed rail lines across as many of the 3,141 counties in the United States as they can. They point out, correctly, that high-speed rail lines if not economically profitable nonetheless provide an arguably useful service in countries like France and Spain and Germany. In connecting major metro areas 300 or even 500 miles apart, high-speed rail lines provide a useful alternative to airlines for business travelers.
I have a certain sympathy, since I share the Obama Democrats’ nanny state impulse to channel all travelers into narrow routes of my own design. When I was a boy, my mother would supply me with shirt cardboards on which I would draw outlines of rivers and lakes and then fill in the land with streets and avenues. Telling everybody exactly where they could and could not travel came naturally to me, and still does. If it made sense to lace the United States with a network of Paris-Lyon TGVs or Tokyo-Osaka bullet trains, I would line up to design the routes myself.
But of course it doesn’t make sense. Other continent-sized nations have planned high-speed rail only on the very few circa-300-to-500-mile routes where it might make sense: Toronto-Montreal, Moscow-St. Petersburg, Sydney-Melbourne. Sort of like our (uneconomical, far from optimally fast) Acela lines from New York to Washington or Boston.
In this campaign we have seen Republican governor-elect Scott Walker attack the proposed Milwaukee-Madison high-speed rail line Wisconsin Democrats are determined to build. The two cities are 78 miles apart. They are connected by an interstate highway that is seldom crowded. Milwaukee is a typically American spread-out metro area in which for most people it would be a lot more trouble to drive into a rail station than it would be to drive out I-94 to Madison if you had need to go there.
Scott Walker ridiculed the high-speed rail line and promised to kill it. He was elected by a solid margin over Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, a nice man who backed this boondoggle. Voters in Wisconsin, a state carried comfortably by Barack Obama in 2008, are not about to be nanny-stated into an hour-long train ride from a station far from their homes to avoid an hour-and-10-minutes-long drive to their destination.
The Obama Democrats don’t understand why backward Americans resist their high-minded schemes, just as I could not understand at age eight why people would not want to live in the street grids I designed on my mother’s shirt cardboards. The difference is I grew up.
Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner and a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Two thousand ten was not nearly as important an election as we think it is — at least, not yet.
Don’t get me wrong. Winning the House of Representatives, rebuking the ideological overreach of President Obama and the Democrats, and putting a good scare into the establishments of both parties is a good thing. But conservatives won’t know how significant the 2010 election truly was until November 7, 2012, the day after President Obama has been either reelected or replaced.
The policies our nation desperately needs to reinvigorate our economy and reform our government are difficult to imagine under President Obama. He fundamentally supports a European-style social democracy model of economics and society. He believes government spending creates jobs, trusts the wisdom of bureaucrats over the wisdom of markets, and possesses equal parts ignorance of and contempt for the free enterprise system.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?