If Rick Scott had been governor in 1956

IF RICK SCOTT HAD BEEN GOVERNOR IN 1956…. Last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), for reasons that no one can figure out, deliberately turned down federal funding — and tens of thousands of jobs — for a high-speed rail project. The reaction has been less than positive, and even Republicans from D.C. to Miami found the decision incomprehensible.

But there was something the senior senator from Florida said the other day that stuck with me.

Democrats nationally and in Florida sharply criticized Scott’s decision as being short-sighted.

“If Florida would’ve had a governor who rejected President Eisenhower’s idea, we wouldn’t have an interstate system,” U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who has been vocally supportive of the project even as conservatives attacked him for it, said via Twitter Wednesday afternoon.

Nelson’s talking, of course, about the interstate highway system, championed by Eisenhower and approved by Congress in the mid-1950s. It’s a good line that drives a larger point home nicely.

But I’m wondering if there’s more to this. I know a bit about the history behind the system, but I’m genuinely curious — were there governors who fought against interstate highways in their states?

If President Obama proposed something like this today, we can probably imagine the reaction. Right-wing activists would demand to know where in the Constitution it says the federal government can build a highway; Republicans would file lawsuits in carefully-chosen courts; Fox News would call it a socialist experiment; Bachmann and Beck would tell us it’s a plot to make it easier for the president to send Americans to re-education camps run by George Soros; and ridiculous governors would resist this oppressive and unprecedented federal overreach.

But that’s only because the contemporary Republican Party has become so ridiculous. Did Eisenhower actually have to deal with similar stupidity? Was the interstate highway system ever in jeopardy because of hysterical ideologues?

I’d welcome the input of historians and/or experts in this area.

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