The GOP candidates that lumbered through Ohio before our March primary sang a common refrain: vote for me or America will turn into Europe!

The former House Speaker, who has emulated the late Francois Mitterrand in his personal life, declared "Obama should move to Europe." The guy who tried to persuade Parisians to give up their Beaujolais and Gitanes during a two-year Mormon mission in France warned that the president will "transform America into a socialized Europe."

In the run-up to Super Tuesday, my wife and I were on our own mission to Paris: visiting our 18-year-old daughter, who is taking her senior high school year in Europe.

During a magical week we did what tourists do: enjoyed the expansive public spaces, crowded into museums, dined at charming bistros, walked for miles and rode the efficient and safe subways that Parisians use for work and play. Despite all the financial turmoil in the headlines, life seemed pretty darn good.

Historic Ties

Our Paris experience made me wonder: what's so evil about Europe?

Here in Cincinnati, we bask in our cultural and historic ties with Europe. For nearly 25 years I've squeezed into my tux on March 17 to join the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, an organization with roots in the 19th century. Last time I checked, that snake smiting Saint and his "Sons" heralded from a European nation.

Cincinnati's historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, with its rich brewing history, traces its roots to the German immigrants who associated the canal that once ran along Central Parkway with their native land.

And of course, our nation's deep connection with Europe continued into the 20th century, when my grandfather "” an Army ambulance driver "” joined more than a million Americans in France in 1917, tipping the scales in a horrific war.

My father's generation went to Europe again some 30 years later, to help repulse the tyranny of fascism and genocide.

Just a Hunch

So why has Europe now become a "guilt by association" icon?

My hunch is that it is a knee jerk aversion to the investment in the public amenities and services so apparent on our recent trip, which clash with that mythic "rugged American individualism." With gas prices that have been more than twice as high as ours for years, Europeans rely on a robust system of public transportation, as well as fleets of "public share" bicycles and the ubiquitous gas sipping Vespas so well suited for those narrow lanes. Europeans seem to relish their parks, museums and other publicly funded institutions, including low cost higher education and national health care plans.

Of course, those goodies don't come free. They are paid for in the form of higher taxes, particularly a value added tax that cranks up the price of just about everything. It's a system that repels the "starve the government beast" crowd, led by the likes of Grover Norquist in D.C., and locally, by groups like COAST who have crusaded against the Cincinnati streetcar.

But is the age of American "Go it on Your Own-ism" coming to an end, even in Southwest Ohio?

Our community's suburbs, extended now into Butler and Warren counties, were built in an age when gas prices were cheap, mortgages were easy, and public funds for more highways were abundant.

The new reality "” gas prices spiking, funds for highways dried up, foreclosures blighting those ex-urban subdivisions "” may mean a renaissance for more European development (or redevelopment) patterns in re-energized city neighborhoods like Northside, Clifton or Over-the-Rhine, where residents can actually walk, bike or ride public transportation to get to work, shop or eat out.

If so, maybe in the next election cycle, there will have to be another continent to hang around the neck of your opponent. Australia, maybe? No one likes Crocs.

Don Mooney is a partner at the Cincinnati office of Ulmer & Berne, LLC and is active in local politics. He served on the Cincinnati Planning Commission.