Gales of November

Last year, I wrote about the historic steamboat Delta Queen, whose withdrawal from passenger service was forced, on what appear to me to be very spurious grounds, by the federal government. One of the main perpetrators of this act was Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN), head of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

So I was especially pleased to see that Oberstar faces some serious competition in his race for re-election. This 18-term incumbent trails Republican candidate Chip Cravaack by only three points (42-45 percent). Quite an achievement on the part of the Cravaack campaign, given that Oberstar has something like a 10-to-1 money advantage.

There are plenty of reasons to support Cravaak over Oberstar in addition to the Delta Queen matter—indeed, some might say that the continued passenger operation of one steamboat is trivial in the context of the massive issues we face as a country. But the symbolism is important. In literally thousands of ways, the “progressive” Democrats have sought to restrict American freedoms, as the Lilliputians tied down Gulliver with threads. Your ability to choose your own light bulbs and shower heads, to have swing sets in your child’s schoolyard, to buy or sell pizza by the slice, to sell home-baked pies at a church sale, to have a transparent or translucent sunroof for your car, to decide for yourself whether or not to buy a Barbie doll for your daughter…all of these rights have already been constrained or are currently under attack. Not to mention the ever-tightening constraints on your ability to start your own business and make it succeed. Consciously or not, “progressives” seek to convert Americans from citizens into subjects, and the Delta Queen matter was simply one very visible symbol thereof.

Alexis de Toqueville:

Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately. It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated…It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd…That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing.

The Toqueville quote is from Michael Ledeen, who notes that “The metaphor of a parent maintaining perpetual control over his child is the language of contemporary American politics.”

Chip Cravaack looks like a strong candidate and a good man: Naval Academy graduate, navy pilot and then airline pilot; not a member of the permanent political class that has done so much harm to this country. His campaign web site is here.

6 thoughts on “Gales of November”

  1. One should remember that those who have lost the habits of decision and freedom are in dire need of help. It’s not an extensive course but necessary to break the progressive electoral coalition.

  2. Oberstar is certainly not a progressive Democrat. He is just old and disoriented. You could tell he was confused about the Delta Queen. He seemed to be reliving some former glory when he passed legislation to make airplanes safer. This is not a partisan issue. If we deserved the Delta Queen, Americans would come together to save her. Until then we remain divided and unhappy, bitter people dispensing with our national treasures one after another. That goes for historic preservation, the environment, and our public institutions. When my father and Betty Blake saved the Delta Queen in 1970, they were the president and vice-president of Greene Line Steamers. They led the campaign. When the Delta Queen lost in 2008, the company had done worse than nothing to help. They would have rather the boat was put out of business quietly, but the Delta Queen fans made it an issue. And if you remember, then-Senator Obama was a co-sponsor of the Delta Queen bill, and spoke on the boat’s behalf.

  3. Nori, thanks for the comment. “Not a partistan issue”…*should* not be a partisan issue, perhaps, but in an environment where everything is increasingly regulated, everything is politicized. If Americans had not been conditioned over the last 40 years to have so many aspects of their life micromanaged, the outrage over what Oberstar and others pulled here would have been much louder and stronger.

    In addition to confused thinking about safety issues—almost certainly, a week on the DQ is safer than a week doing many alternative vacation activities, such as driving or skiing or maybe even lying on the beach and absorbing UV rays—and possible revenge against the company having to do with labor issues—the action of Congress in this case reflects an overweening arrogance concerning the proper relationship between government and citizen. DQ was not operating as a common carrier such as an airline that people may choose on short notice; it was offering trips that people planned well in advance and hence had a full opportunity to evaluate any safety concerns for themselves.

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