It's been quite a while since the last installment of our occasional series on the Democrats' 2008 platform, so let's get back to it.
Bob Herbert, an NYT columnist who is underrated, because he's on the same page with Paul Krugman and Nicholas Kristoff (who should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize), wrote a very well reasoned piece about the need to restore our infrastructure. Unfortunately, he sold the topic short by saying that he can't think of a less sexy story.
I think he's wrong about that. True, crumbling bridges and roads don't lead the news--unless they collapse like the tunnel in Boston's Big Dig did last year. (Ironically, that was part of a new project, not an old one.) But virtually all Americans must ride on those aging roads and bridges every day. Many of them know of the poor condition of our infrastructure first-hand, and many who don't bother to think about the subject could be educated if our would-be leaders called attention to it. Restoring our infrastructure is exactly the kind of bread-and-butter issue that made Democrats the dominant party for most of the Twentieth Century and, while such topics are sometimes derided in a globalized world, they remain important.
Indeed, as Herbert points out, if the US wants to compete in the global market, repairing our infrastructure will be vital. Without safe roads, bridges and tunnels, without dams that reliably hold back water, we will suffer from commercial sclerosis. If you don't believe me, look at the third-world nations in which getting products to market and distributing goods to customers are major impediments to progress.
There is another point that argues for Democrats making infrastructure a major part of their platform in 2008: it is yet another way to split the "conservative" coalition. Businesspeople who have voted for the GOP in the past have interests that diverge sharply from the starve-the-best yahoos like Grover Norquist. They will support money to repair the underpinnings of the structure on which their enterprises rest (sometimes literally), and some of them will vote for a Democrat who pledges to take on the task.