Why am I feeling so good these days? Somehow it doesn’t bother me that the Democrats are inching toward passing some kind of healthcare reform or that that global warmers are celebrating in Copenhagen.
Maybe it’s the reception Sarah Palin has been getting on her book tour. Maybe it’s the way the polls all show the Democrats headed straight down. But somehow it doesn’t seem as if it’s going to be long before the Republicans get the chance to govern again.
The clincher was the CNN poll showing only 19 percent of Americans think Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. The fog created by liberal adulation is beginning to lift. The President is being revealed for what he is — an academically trained intellectual with a lot of abstract ideas who doesn’t have much real feel for the country. Sarah Palin is the perfect foil for him — the earthy, commonsense straight talker who knows the things that are important are what happens away from Washington.
It’s not even too early to start speculating Obama may be a one-term President. We’ve seen this twice before with the elections of Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Mayor David Dinkins of New York in 1989. In both instances candidates to the far left came to office under unusual circumstances. Carter was healing the nation after Watergate, Dinkins was New York’s first African-American chief executive.
When the glow wore off and their politics became clear, however, the public soon became disenchanted. Carter couldn’t handle the energy crisis or the Iran hostages and made a mess of the economy. Dinkins raised taxes in the midst of a recession and let rioters in Crown Heights run wild. Each of them served one term.
What is more important, each paved the way for a Republican renaissance. The GOP used its time in the wilderness wisely. Ronald Reagan always knew he wanted to rebuild America’s military and the supply-side crowd at the Wall Street Journal had worked out the details for reviving the economy. Mayor Giuliani spent the few months before taking office attending a series of seminars arranged by the Manhattan Institute. There he learned first-hand the details of James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein’s “broken windows” hypothesis, which said that reducing crime meant establishing public order. The day he took office the squeegee men were gone, subway fare beaters were being arrested and New York was on the way to reducing annual murders from 2,200 to their present level of 600. Along with that he deregulated New York’s sclerotic economy. George Will called it the best effort at governance in recent America history. (For a full account, read Fred Siegel’s The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life.)
So what theme should the Republicans prepare for their coming revival? I have a few suggestions. I’ve actually tried to convey all this to Sarah Palin a couple of times but her website never answers emails and I figured standing in line all night at one of her book events wouldn’t do much good. So I’ll float this up here on The American Spectator in the hopes that the prevailing winds can carry it up to Alaska. I say this because I think Palin would be an excellent representative of the GOP to promote this issue right now. If it comes from any of the male faces of the party, it will sound too caustic and resentful.
The message is, “Put men back to work.” Seventy-five percent of employees thrown out of work in the current recession have been men. We’re about to pass the point where there are more women than men in the workforce. Obviously this idea is going to have a constituency. But it’s not just men who will respond. There are millions of women out there who would like to see their men back working again as well.
The reason men are out of work has nothing to do with feminism or “feminazis” or any of that stuff. The problem is we don’t build anything in this country anymore. The reason is the twin towers of bureaucracy and environmentalism. The main products of our economy are now lawsuits and environmental impact statements. This creates a lot of jobs, but they’re all for pencil-pushing bureaucrats — male or female — who sit around telling other people what they can’t do. Just the other day at a rally at a Democratic sponsored job rally in California, somebody got up and complained, “I wanted to put solar panels on my house and found the first thing I have to do is fill out 400 pages of government forms.” Solar energy isn’t even off the ground yet and already it’s mired in bureaucracy.
As David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy in Princeton, N.J., puts it, “We don’t make anything in this country anymore.” Crane should know. He’s been trying to get a license to build the first new nuclear reactor in this country in 30 years. Already he’s discovered that America’s nuclear industry — which led the world into this technology — has now vanished. Remember Westinghouse? It’s now a Japanese company. GE doesn’t do anything in nuclear anymore without partnering with Hitachi. Babcock & Wilcox, the third manufacturer, has given up building large reactors but does have a design for a “mini-reactor” that can work at the factory level. It’s two years away from applying for a license at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, however, and the NRC will take another five years to approve it. Meanwhile, the Russians are already marketing a similar mini-reactor to other countries.
There is no steel forge in this country that can cast the 500-ton ingots used in building today’s reactor vessels. For a while Japan Steel Works was the world’s only manufacturer, but China and Russia have now caught up and France and Britain have plans on the drawing board. Altogether, there are 54 reactors under construction in the world, none of them in the United States. Korea, which gets 45 percent of its electricity from nuclear (we’re at 19 percent), has developed its reactor (from an American design) and is starting to compete with France’s Areva and Japan’s Westinghouse on the world market. This month it stunned the two by emerging as a legitimate candidate for a $40 billion contract to build five new reactors in the United Arab Emirates.
China only started working on nuclear in 2006 and already has four Westinghouse AP1000s under construction. The first will open in 2012. It also reversed-engineered the model and has 132 projects of this design on the drawing boards. Meanwhile our Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not yet awarded design approval to the AP1000. It will be at least five years before shovels are in the ground and a decade before a new American reactor comes on line. By that time, the Chinese will probably be selling them in Wal-Mart.
I was reading Brooks Adams’ The Law of Civilization and Decay the other day and he mentioned something I’d never heard before. What gutted Rome during the declining years of the Empire, he wrote, was that the city didn’t manufacture anything anymore. Gentleman farming was considered the only noble occupation (the Roman version of environmentalism) and all the dirty work of manufacture was farmed out to the provinces of the Eastern Mediterranean. The provincials actually prospered during the era. Meanwhile, Rome tried to survive on conquest and taxation. Taxes were raised to brutal levels in the conquered provinces and all the money funneled back to Rome so that generals and government officials could live in luxury. Soon the Empire was over its head in debt, forced to devalue the currency, and things went downhill from there. It has a familiar ring, doesn’t it?
What I would suggest, then, is a Republican for 2010 and beyond built around the idea of putting men back to work in regenerating industrial America. Manufacture is the kind of heavy lifting men do best. Nuclear power is the place to start. It’s the energy technology of the 21st century and those who ignore it will be in the same position as countries like Spain and Portugal that missed the Industrial Revolution. Look at France today. The French are 78 percent nuclear and have weathered the current recession very nicely. They have the lowest electrical rates in Western Europe and electricity is their third largest export. The French certainly don’t work any harder than us and take longer vacations, but nuclear electricity is keeping the whole economy afloat.
Our failure to adopt nuclear has reverberated through the economy. Between 2000 and 2006 we lost 100,000 jobs in the chemical and fertilizer industries because natural gas prices quintupled and those industries use it as a feedstock. All of them moved abroad. The main reason natural gas supplies ran short is that we have appropriated it to generate 20 percent of our electricity. Environmentalists won’t let anybody build anything else. Now they are promoting an “Age of Renewable Energy” that will consist of hundreds of square miles of windmills and solar collectors backed up by natural gas plants ready to be fired instantly if the wind dies down or the sun goes behind a cloud. California, which leads the nation with 12 percent renewable energy, gets 40 percent of its electricity from natural gas, twice the national average. If we squander the recent discoveries of shale gas in the Midwest by using it to generate electricity, we’ll probably never manufacture anything in this country again.
So let’s get ready to reindustrialize America and save it from Obama’s bureaucrats and government employees whose only job is to make life difficult for everyone else. Putting men back to work is the place to start. Think of the tens of thousands of construction jobs that would come from building new reactors — and that would be only the beginning.
Sarah Palin may be the best flag-bearer for this issue right now. She can become America’s Joan of Arc, breathing courage back into a culture that has lost its nerve. But any Republican who can make the case for America’s industrial revival is soon going to have the whole country behind him. A la victoire!