The ‘Elitism’ Trap Migrates From Transport Reform to Climate Change

Transportation debates have a terminology all their own, whether arcane ("multi-modal"), hard to define ("subsidies"), or outright misleading — as is the case with "elitism," the standard line that road-building acolytes often apply to those who suggest that the government focus more on expanding transit and other forms of clean transport.

waxman_markey1.jpgClimate bill coauthors: Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts. (Photo: Wash Indy)

Now that the issue of climate change has come to the fore again in Washington, however, the E-word is breaking out all over. The Senate and House climate bills devote a disproportionately little attention to transportation reform, but the GOP strategy for undermining them seems to be all about stereotyping climate advocates as urbanized elitists.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) did it this afternoon at a press event slamming the Senate climate legislation:

It’s hard to believe that Kerry-Boxer is worse than the other California-Massachusetts bill, the Waxman-Markey bill. … I am most concerned that this job will kill manufacturing and
coal-dependent jobs in the Midwest, South and Great Plains.

And a spokesman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski used the same rhetorical devise in an interview with Roll Call:

“The
climate change debate is being driven by California and Massachusetts,”
Murkowski spokesman Rob Dylan said. “People forget what life is in the
middle of the country, and I think that’s what we’re trying to talk
about.” 

The conservative National Review has also taken the cue on the California-Massachusetts dis.

It’s no surprise that opponents of congressional action on climate change are trotting out the elitism trope, but it is a distressing sign that the nation’s cities, long under-represented in policy debates despite their powerful legislators, are about to become pawns in two culture wars at once.

California and Massachusetts are not just transit-rich, they’re also the nation’s No. 1 and No. 15 most-populated states. In a Congress increasingly dominated by rural-state lawmakers, it’s not such a bad thing to see Californians and Massachusettsans being spoken for on the climate question.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Senate Climate Bill Leaks: The Good News and Bad News for Transport

|
The Senate’s climate change legislation will finally make its debut tomorrow, courtesy of environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and foreign relations committee chairman John Kerry (D-MA). But the Washington Post has already obtained a "close-to-final" version of the bill [PDF], which provides some details but leaves unanswered the key question of how much aid […]

At Senate Climate Hearings, Lots of Transport Talk and All Eyes on Baucus

|
The Senate environment committee today held the first in a three-part marathon of hearings on its climate change legislation, with supporters singling out the bill’s investments in clean transportation even as one senior Democrat notably withheld his support from the measure. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) (Photo: Baucus 08) The Senate climate bill calls […]

Obama: Climate Pessimism More Dangerous Than Climate Deniers

|
In a speech much anticipated by those tracking the D.C. environmental debate, President Obama today took on opponents of congressional action on climate change, decrying "naysayers" who "make cynical claims" that ignore scientific evidence of the harm caused by emissions. (Photo: BusinessWeek) But "far more dangerous" than the rhetoric of climate deniers or skeptics, Obama […]