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.
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:
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
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.