It’s safe to say that on the whole, liberals identify with the following three values:
- Having fact based opinions: Holding beliefs that are evidence based with the ability to change these beliefs and quickly adapting when presented with compelling facts
- Collectivist: Being collectivist-minded, concerned with the plights of fellow human beings and society as a whole
- Green: Being mindful about environmental issues
By contrast, we liberals believe that conservatives too often hold views for individualistic/selfish reasons, they don’t care about the environment, and generally tend not to ground their beliefs with evidence. We view the right’s beliefs on, say, gay rights, abortion, climate change, drug legalization, etc. as stemming from religious doctrine or emotions/irrationality rather than evidence and facts.
Perhaps this is why many liberals didn’t really mind candidate Barak Obama’s infamous gaff about conservatives: “They get bitter, they cling to guns and religion…”
Even though it was a deeply unfair generalization, to us liberals, this statement held a significant kernel of truth: the view that conservative often do cling to irrational beliefs.
In the case of gun ownership, we liberals often look at red state gun culture with confusion or disdain because we know the facts about guns:
- Guns kill over 10,000 people in America.
- Strict gun regulations or bans can dramatically reduce mass shootings.
- Guns in the home usually kill or injure not an intruder, but a family member, often children.
We think to ourselves, “All this death an misery for what? For the “right” of playing with deadly toys?”
Our perspective of conservatives and many of their beliefs is similar to that of a child clinging to a security blanket: all emotion, no logic.
THE LEFT’S SECURITY BLANKET: CARS AND REGULATION
Whether or not liberals are justified in viewing the right as insecure children, we have bad news.
Liberals have our own version of “clinging to guns and religion:” clinging to cars and regulation. And unfortunately, this irrational adherence is arguably much more harmful than that of guns and religion.
No Amount Of Evidence Seems To Change Our Minds
The past century has taught us that the car is a terrible idea as a primary means of urban mobility:
Cars are the worst form of urban transportation:
- They are much slower than we think (due to traffic and traffic lights)
- They’re terribly unhealthy, reducing physical movement
- They’re very expensive forms of transportation (car payments, insurance, taxes, registration fees, gas, parking, maintenance)
- They are the least energy efficient form of transport
- They are by far the lowest bandwidth transport option
In short, they provide the opposite utility of what they promise: fast, convenient transportation.
On top of all this, cars have enormous global consequences:
- Global warming (planetary destruction)
- Pollution (millions of deaths each year)
- Car crash deaths and injuries (tens of millions each year)
- Gigantic, polluting industries
- Unimaginably horrendous oil wars
- Poorer cities and local businesses
- Stressed, diseased, weaker, and poorer citizens
Most shocking of all, cars are deadlier than guns for the most innocent and vulnerable of our society: our children (see chart above).
LIBERALS USING THE SAME “LOGIC” OF THE RIGHT
Completely ignoring the immense harm and suffering caused by guns and cars, both conservatives and liberals unthinkingly and emotionally cling to the following rationalizations:
In defending guns, conservatives often give utilitarian arguments about home security. Likewise, liberals use the same utilitarian arguments about the convenience of cars or even worse, citing “family safety” when “upgrading” to a monstrous SUV.
The utilitarian arguments liberals use to defend car use are as absurd (actually more so, considering overall harms done by cars vs guns) as gun advocates’ justifications.
It’s My RIGHT
Defending gun ownership, conservatives cite the 2nd Amendment (even though this Amendment says nothing about individual gun ownership), claiming their Constitutional right to own firearms. Defending car ownership, liberals don’t even have any legal standing. Instead, our arguments are soaked in entitlement. Just observe reactions to any sort of car reduction measures like road diets, congestion pricing, or parking reductions.
Technology Will Save Us
Some conservatives talk about how gun technologies such as like safety locks or fingerprint identification can mitigate gun deaths. Liberals in turn worship at the alter of electric cars and autonomous driving technologies, both of which only marginally improve car impacts on society and the planet.
Grasping At Straws
When all else fails, both conservatives and liberals resort to the following lines, acting as if they’ve made a profound and infallible argument against car or gun reduction:
“It’s unrealistic to try to reduce [deadly toy] use.”
“People will never give up their [deadly toys].”
THE REAL REASON FOR CAR CLINGING?
Jeff Gefferies perfectly encapsulates the liberal perspective of the right’s love of firearms:
“There is one argument and one argument alone for having a gun, and this is the argument… ‘Fuck off. I like guns.’ It’s not the best argument, but it’s all you’ve got.
And there’s nothing wrong with it. There’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘I like something. Don’t take it away from me.’ But don’t give me this other bullshit.”
Here we can give liberals a little bit more credit than conservatives when it comes to individual car rejection. Too many cities are literally built around cars so it often takes a lot of time and effort to get around with any other mode of transportation. Therefore, giving up a car as an individual is much harder than giving up a gun.
Collectively though, giving up cars is very doable, as many cities from Bogota to Copenhagen have shown.
But when it comes time for policy action, liberals are just as bad as our conservative counterparts. And this is the main point of this article.
As soon as cities try to collectively make car-alternatives easier and driving a little less so, we liberals kick and scream like spoiled children, recalling mayors, Twitter ranting, and even resorting to racist/classist euphemisms about how public transportation or bike lanes will bring “unsavory people” into the neighborhood.
Or in case of celebrities, using their platform to cling to cars as in the case of this latest, saddest example, Whoopi Goldberg on The View talking to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio:
“You know what’s really pissing me off? You’ve built 83 miles of protected bike lanes, okay. And I like bikes, I like people who ride, but I don’t think you understand the impact of taking something like 10th Avenue, which is six lanes down to two-and-a-half, particularly when you have a winter storm and you can’t move—none of that is movable. So you can’t get—nothing flows.”
Her rant, full of false claims and inaccurate statements, didn’t stop there.
Like Whoopi, many of us liberals feel like we have knock-down arguments against car-alternatives. We proudly proclaim these untruths as staunchly and ridiculously as ardent Trump supporters or flat-Earthers without so much a fact check about the truths about cars: their utter failure as urban mobility and their staggering consequences.
So basically, liberals’ defense of cars boils down to “Fuck off. I like cars.”
It seems when it comes to cars and guns, we’re not so different, Left and Right.
AS FOR REGULATION?
Much of the time, the we lefties doesn’t clinging to regulation in they way we cling to cars. We actually have a great history of using laws/regulations for progress: Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Civil Rights Act, countless consumer protections, etc, etc.
However, here are two striking examples of where we cling to regulation like it’s our religion:
- Scooters: For decades, thoughtful city officials and urbanists have been struggling for ways to get people out of their cars. Great infrastructure and public transit are key, but take decades and enormous political will. Last year, we were presented with a solution that seemed almost a Godsend to our climate, traffic, and pollution crisis and which people actually started adopting en mass: electric scooters and bikes.What did cities (especially liberal ones) do in response? They immediately clung to regulation, putting unprecedented caps on this incredible new mobility model.
- Zoning: What’s a surefire way to turn gentle liberals into a basket of deplorables? Suggest mixed use zoning. We liberals cling to regulations that keep suburbia just the way we like it: sprawling, boring, wasteful, and lonely.
We could write a whole other blog post about the left’s regulation clinginess, but we’ll just stop here.
WE HAVE NO GOOD REASON TO CONTINUE DOWN THIS PATH
Liberals are stereotypically well-traveled. We should theoretically know just how much more beautiful, healthier, wealthier, and more pleasant cities with less cars because we have seen such examples with out very own eyes.
So why do we so vociferously cling to our cars and city regulations?
Our attitudes towards car reduction efforts and healthy transit and zoning regulations is deplorable. It is absolutely vital that we take a hard look in the mirror and confront our own shameful guns and religion problem.
In an era of urban pollution, climate change, tens of millions of car deaths and injuries per year, cars are a planetary existential threat nowhere near scale of the guns or religion problem that we so mock conservatives about.
It’s time to let go of our own childish security blanket and embrace car-alternative idea, innovations, and infrastructure.
Our future depends on it.