Saturday, May 2, 2009

Department of Elite Name-Calling

Ryan Avent at the Bellows quotes the reputedly "left-leaning" Ezra Klein leaning hard right on transportation:
One of the quirks of the elite political debate is that it tends to occur in dense cities with extremely impressive transportation infrastructures. DC. New York. Places where cars are more of a luxury item. But that, as the graph shows, is not how most Americans think of them. Car stereos are a luxury. Cars are a necessity.

"Elite" is a fighting word in American politics, and since Klein is apparently on the left, your Cap'n is making a tremendous effort to restrain himself from saying something nasty back. Here our fine "left-leaning" blogger is resorting to the same repulsive spinning that we heard from the reactionary politicians in last year's congestion pricing debate.

Most of the time suburban motorists like to think of themselves as superior to the subterranean train riders, welfare-dependent bus passengers, underprotected cyclists, slow pedestrians and apartment dwellers. They assume that we all are gazing at their Suburbans and McMansions in desperate envy, wishing that we could just afford to have even a Subaru wagon and an attached single-family. They can't imagine that we might just be using the gas and insurance money to take an extra vacation every once in a while, or even making a principled decision to avoid being complicit in the collapse of our planet's life support systems.

Whenever there's any hint that transit riders or cyclists might have more power than motorists, all of a sudden the picture changes. We become the latte-sipping eggheads able to afford expensive condos in Manhattan or San Francisco, smugly chuckling at the poor obese rubes who are trapped in the suburbs with option ARMs spending hundreds to fill their gas tanks.

Ezra Klein, if you really lean as left as they tell me, do me a favor. Don't buy into that crap. Keep in mind that the income of the average transit rider in the country is far below that of the average driver. Give us some credit for perhaps figuring out that there's no way to stave off global warming without shifting massive numbers of people from cars to transit.

As a transit advocate, I see drivers as people who have been fed a line of bullshit. I don't fault them for that, since most of the country seems to have fallen for this bullshit. "We" don't want to punish "them" for driving. We just want "them" to stop driving and become "us." But if they persist in asking the government to build more car infrastructure and blocking transit improvements, what are we supposed to do?

Whatever you do, please stop calling your potential allies "elites." Thank you.