Jumbo sized drubbing is no Republican endorsement
Published 02/11/2010 | 05:00
IT has been easy this year to present the American mid-term elections as exhibit one in the case that the country has gone crazy.
We've had Congressman Alan Grayson, a Democrat, doctoring audio tape to make his opponent sound like he was issuing a fundamentalist edict that women submit to their husbands. Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party candidate who once campaigned against masturbation, aired a television ad that began: "I am not a witch." A liberal activist in Kentucky had her head stamped on by a volunteer for Rand Paul, another Tea Party candidate. A reporter was handcuffed by security goons working for Joe Miller, the Tea Party candidate in Alaska.
But widespread hilarity -- inside the country, as well as beyond its shores -- about a supposed 'Idiot America' obscures the fact that at the heart of these elections have been big, serious philosophical questions about what government is and what it should do.
Out of myriad criticisms of Barack Obama, perhaps the least valid is that he is a president who thinks small. In Chicago on Saturday night, he paraphrased Abraham Lincoln's dictum that "government should and must do for the people what they cannot do by themselves individually".
I watched the crowd gazing at him as he spoke of expanding the role of government as part of a "movement for change that endures". Part of this, of course, can be put down to Mr Obama's colossal vanity. But at its core, his message is one of promoting what Margaret Thatcher called the "nanny state".
A few days earlier, I had stood 1,600 miles away in Vernon Worthen Park in St George, Utah, as Mike Lee -- the state's Republican candidate for the Senate and certain victor -- outlined his philosophy. Like Mr Obama, Mr Lee, just 39, is a frighteningly bright lawyer and dedicated family man who enjoys talking about the American Revolution. There the similarities end.
Mr Lee wants to return power to the states and the people, abolish the Department of Education and introduce term limits so that no politician could serve more than a dozen years in Washington. He is determined to cut off funding to Mr Obama's historic healthcare reform so "we can freeze most of this monstrosity".
Many Democrats echo the president's view that Republican supporters are not "thinking clearly".
"Americans are stupid," Heidi Massey (49) told me after the Chicago rally. "That's the bottom line. I happen to read newspapers and educate myself, and I know what he's doing is right."
Democrats appear set to suffer a historic drubbing at the polls today. But the vote would not be an endorsement of the Republican party or its leaders. Washington will be largely divided between advocates of two competing and fiercely-held notions about the role of government. After today, and with the 2012 presidential election campaign approaching, expect acrimony and gridlock in Washington. (© Daily Telegraph, London).