How Mass Transit Became a Focus of the Culture Wars

Delving into the psychology behind the House transportation bill, Will Doig investigates the reasons why the Tea Party have turned their attention to mass transit as the next culture war battleground.

While couching their policy goals in economic terms (a premise which Doig debunks), Republican extremists are seeking to starve mass transit by cutting off its steady source of funding, and thus delivering a fatal blow to urban life across the country.

According to Doig, "Defunding transit is how you smack down urbanites, environmentalists, and people of color, all in one fell swoop. It's how you telegraph a disdain for all things European. It's how you show solidarity with swing-state suburbanites who don't understand why their taxes are going toward subways they don't even use. And it's how you subtly reassure your base that you're not concerned about the very poor."

Republicans are increasingly moving from ignoring cities, were GOP votes are often hard to find, to openly bashing urbanites to rally their base, writes Doig.

"When they tar Nancy Pelosi as a San Francisco liberal, or Barack Obama as a Chicago politician, they're not just referencing those cities' stereotypes. They're referencing the stereotypes of city culture itself: full of swindlers and gays and blacks and other suspect types.....Sarah Palin calling small-town folks "real America" states unequivocally that urbanites aren't real Americans. The offensiveness of that statement still boggles the mind."

Full Story: The Tea Party’s war on mass transit



Wrong focus

I just wish Doig and others would spend their time and energy making mass transit work for more people rather than bashing those who have differing views.

Michael Lewyn's picture

is this article supported by the evidence?

The Transportation Committee's bill keeps the 4-1 mode split between highways and transit. So that bill (though defective in numerous ways from my perspective) hardly supports Doig's theory that House Republicans are engaged in a Tea Party jihad against transit.

Of course, the Ways and Means bill (which takes transit out of the gas tax trust fund) is worse- but Doig supplies no evidence that the committee was motivated by an anti-transit holy war (as opposed to a desire to cut other spending while using transit as a bargaining chip).

The Govt's 4-1 road/mass transit spending split is itself biased

There's been a holy war waged by pro-sprawl conservatives against mass transit all along, Michael. The fact that the Transportation Committee's bill keeps the 4-1 mode split between highways and transit is one of the biggest parts of the problem, highlighting the extreme bias towards automotivism that this country has.

It should be easy to understand the basic injustice of this spending formula given that half of Americans don't or can't drive, while many of those who do can't really afford to. State and local spending formulas, meanwhile, only worsen the injustice by spending 10 times more on roads than on mass transit. It's not urban mass transit users who are the problem here, it's clearly suburban motorists. At the very least, it should be a 50-50 split!

Cutting or eliminating funding for mass transit for urbanites, liberal or otherwise, while conservative suburbanites hog so much more of our collective tax dollars to pay for their wasteful infrastructure is absurd, unsustainable and, frankly, immoral.

You want the automotive lifestyle? Pay for it yourself!

Anti-transit/communitarian jihad.

There's been a holy war waged by pro-sprawl conservatives against mass transit all along, Michael

I agree. And it seems the foaming in newspaper comment sections has been getting more frothy of late. To me it is clear that the standard tactic of division is occuring vis a vis suburban vs non-auto dependent areas as well. I can clearly see elements of the culture wars going on. These are indicators of what is happening in our society as we decline.



Influence of Oil Lobby?

I wonder if the oil lobby has anything to do with the 4-1 funding ratio.

Prepare for the AICP* Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245

Essential Readings in Urban Planning

Planning on taking the AICP* Exam? Register for Planetizen's AICP * Exam Preparation Course to save $25.
Habitat blockitecture tower

Build the world you want to see

Irresistible block set for adults when placed on a coffee table or desk, and great fun for kids.

Wear your city with style!

100% silk scarves feature detailed city maps. Choose from five cities with red or blue trim.