When Palinism Collides With Infrastructure

I suppose collides isn’t the best choice of words. Anyway, Adam Gopnik has an excellent piece in the New Yorker that points out what drives much of the opposition to mass transit infrastructure, including trains (boldface mine):

“The reason we don’t have beautiful new airports and efficient bullet trains is not that we have inadvertently stumbled upon stumbling blocks; it’s that there are considerable numbers of Americans for whom these things are simply symbols of a feared central government, and who would, when they travel, rather sweat in squalor than surrender the money to build a better terminal.” The ideological rigor of this idea, as absolute in its way as the ancient Soviet conviction that any entering wedge of free enterprise would lead to the destruction of the Soviet state, is as instructive as it is astonishing. And it is part of the folly of American “centrism” not to recognize that the failure to run trains where we need them is made from conviction, not from ignorance….

What we have, uniquely in America, is a political class, and an entire political party, devoted to the idea that any money spent on public goods is money misplaced, not because the state goods might not be good but because they would distract us from the larger principle that no ultimate good can be found in the state. Ride a fast train to Washington today and you’ll start thinking about national health insurance tomorrow….

Trains have to be resisted, even if it means more pollution and massive inefficiency and falling ever further behind in the amenities of life—what Olmsted called our “commonplace civilization.”

As I’ve noted before, movement conservatism has completely surrendered to this impulse–what I call Palinism (boldface added):

While people have described Palin as engaging in identity politics, that sells identity politics short. Palin along with the proto-movement surrounding her–Palinism–practices what could be call ‘politics of the blood.’ It’s derived from Giovanni Gentile’s description of fascism: “We think with our blood.” …In Palin’s case, it’s an emotional appeal to a romanticized, mythical past of “real America.” And that’s why I think the fixation people have on Palin’s complete policy incoherence and ignorance is missing the point.

Her policy ignorance isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Palin is conceptually and intellectually poor because her politics are not about policies, but a romantic restoration of the ‘real’ America to its rightful place. The primary purpose of politics is not to govern, not to provide services, and not to solve mundane, although often important, problems. For the Palinist, politics first and foremost exists to enable the social restoration of ‘real’ Americans (think about the phrase “red blooded American”) and the emotional and social advantages that restoration would provide to its followers (obviously, if you’re not a ‘real’ American, you might view this as a bad thing…). Practicalities of governance, such as compromise and worrying about reality-based outcomes, actually get in the way. Why risk having your fantasy muddied by reality?

In this way, symbols and short phrases are the goal, not a means (although others, such as corporations and lobbyists, are willing to co-opt the emotions these symbols generate to further their own agendas).

And thanks to these bozos, our public transportation is awful.

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6 Responses to When Palinism Collides With Infrastructure

  1. jonolan says:

    I’m sure that ant idea that Liberals want to believe in. It doesn’t really hold water though. Even NYC can’t, even with a Liberal Mayor and Governor, expand or improve it public transit. Nor can Minneapolis, once again a Liberal-controlled city in a Liberal-controlled state, do so in ant fashion other than providing route from the suburbs to the center of the city – mostly through low-density areas where the trains are less needed.

    Americans, real or Liberal, just don’t as a group want public transportation. It’s not part of our culture except as something to endure when absolutely necessary. And it’s been that way for generations.

    • jrkrdeau says:


      • citizenw says:

        LOL, jrkrdeau. And the beauty is, by using the Latin initials, it will go completely over jonolan’s head. Not that it wouldn’t have anyway. Masterful, sir.

        • jonolan says:

          Hardly, citizenw. Like so many of America’s domestic enemies, you make the mistake of thinking we’re ignorant. Ironic since the post itself suggests doing otherwise.

          I’ll admit though that I found jrkrdeau’s use of quod erat demonstrandum somewhat less than apropos, but that’s neither here nor there since jrkrdeau is most likely a Liberal true believer who would reject the simple statement that Liberal strongholds also don’t invest in improving their public transit systems.

          Then, anytime a Liberal blames Americans for something it’s not a proof, it’s a construction. Hence, Quod erat faciendum should be used…. 😉

        • jrkrdeau says:

          Tibi gratias (which now just about exhausts any Latin I remember)

          Dominus, tecum.

  2. jrkrdeau says:

    I am neither American nor a Liberal (the last point may be missed by some).

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