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Detroit, Mon Amour

Remember the liberal war on the automobile?

Feb 24, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 23 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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Meanwhile, Detroit struggled. Both the city qua city and the American automobile industry. The city was strangled and left in the ditch by a political machine (D) that made promises it couldn’t keep, so it kept them by stealing. Eventually, there was nothing left to steal, and Detroit became famous not as the city with the largest per capita income in America—a distinction it once owned—but for being the largest American city ever to declare itself bankrupt.

The automobile industry went through similar travails. Mismanaged by executives who were not “car guys” and micromanaged from afar by Washington, where the anticar sentiment prevailed (do you suppose Henry Waxman loved cars?), it wrong-footed itself at every turn. And, of course, allowed itself to be strangled by the United Auto Workers. Right-thinking people hated cars but they loved unions.

So two of three American car companies were on life support with no hope of recovering when Barack Obama became president. His administration worked up a bailout that favored the unions, and his campaign mouthpieces bragged about how he had refused to let Detroit die.

And now we are supposed to believe that Detroit and the American car have risen from the ashes. Take it from the people who did so much to stoke the fire. And if you can’t believe them, then certainly you can trust Bob Dylan, who did a Chrysler commercial that aired during the Super Bowl.

The ad took the form of a ballad rhapsodizing the American spirit, the American road, and the American car:

Detroit made cars and cars made America.

Let Germany brew your beer. Let Switzerland make your watch. Let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car.

Where was Rambling Bob when Detroit really needed him? Out on Highway 61, no doubt.

Geoffrey Norman, a writer in Vermont, is a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.

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