When Abraham Lincoln lost the 1858 U.S. Senate race in Illinois to Stephen F. Douglas, he remarked that he felt "like the boy that stumped his toe - it hurt too bad to laugh, and he was too big to cry."
Those of us who hoped for a Washington, D.C., more sympathetic to American liberty's cause, more solicitous of American aspirations, and more understanding of the sources of American prosperity know exactly how Lincoln felt. We are disappointed today. Yet in our disappointment, we must congratulate the victor: the now-reelected President Barack Obama. His victory signifies one big thing, and we who work for freedom ignore it at our peril:
He won an argument before the American people.
What argument did he win? It's simple: he argued that Washington, D.C., is a better steward of American life and liberty than, well, Americans themselves. It's a contention that we know to be discredited across time and history, yet it shows its power when an electorate battered by years of economic insecurity and material deprivation makes these choices. It's not that they're frightened, or unreasoning, or ignorant. We cannot believe that, and we can never condescend with that sort of conclusion. They've simply given up on the old American Dream.
And why wouldn't they? They hear that class determines destiny. They hear that education is unaffordable. They hear that only government can secure their homes. They hear that the free market - or what they're told is the free market - is rapacious, capricious, and a threat to their homes and families.
When that message takes root, the reelection of President Barack Obama becomes plausible. And when it becomes plausible, it becomes real.
The question for those of us in the liberty movement is the same question Robert Redford's character asked at the end of the 1972 classic, "The Candidate": "What do we do now?" For us at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and answer to that question is crystal clear.
We keep defending Texas.
We keep defying Washington, D.C.
You've heard me say it time and again over the last four years that Texas is where freedom proves its case. That reality is cast in stark relief when you consider the record:
- Texas accounting for a near-majority of American job creation across the past half-decade.
- Texas attracting nearly a thousand Americans a day in search of a better life and more opportunity.
- Texas beating the national unemployment rate, despite the immigrant influx, for nearly five full years.
- Texas boasting some of the cleanest big-city urban air quality in America.
- Texas surging past big-state peers like California in nearly every relevant metric.
- Texas becoming America's largest manufacturing state.
- Texas becoming an epicenter of the fracking-led American energy revolution.
The Lone Star State accomplished all that - and more - in the teeth of Washington, D.C.'s mismanagement, and sometimes opposition, during the worst national economic times since the Great Depression. That's extraordinary. And it's a testament to what a free people can do when they're allowed to be free.
Texas is where freedom proves its case - and it's proven to be more prosperous, more vibrant, and yes, more compassionate than its detractors ever dreamed for their own ambitions.
The mandate before us now is to keep that flame alive - not for Texas, but for America. Everything great about our state is simply what's great about our country, and we intend to keep on as we've been: dismantling big government where we can, fixing it sometimes, and opposing it always.
The national-election results illustrate well why we're embarking upon a series of big pushes in the forthcoming 83rd Texas Legislature that convenes this coming January:
- We'll work to reform the entitlements behemoth that is Medicaid, which is presently threatening to consume nearly half our state budget in return for inadequate results. We believe that Texas can run its Medicaid program better, for less money, for better outcomes - and get care to the people who truly need it.
- We'll work to bring real choice to our school systems, and place the control of our children's educations in the hands of teachers, students, parents, and taxpayers - and not the myriad bureaucracies that grasp for funding dollars at the expense of the Texas future.
- We'll work to continue and extend the extraordinary achievement of the 82nd Texas Legislature, which implemented the first all-funds cut from a previous budget in over half a century. It was one thing to do it when projected revenue collections were down - now we'll have to do it when they're up. But the outcome is worth the effort.
When we do these things in Texas, we'll be doing more than just helping Texas. We'll be reminding America that liberty works, that freedom is a birthright, and that hope and change are more than just slogans. Ronald Reagan reminded us that America is a "shining city on a hill," and the task - and the privilege - of our generation is to illuminate it with the Lone Star.
Congratulations to Barack Obama, reelected to the Presidency of the United States. And welcome to all of you who join us now in the renewed fight for freedom.
President & CEO