I Just Don’t Understand

There are a lot of positions conservatives take that I understand, although I disagree with them. There are sincere anti-abortion people who believe life begins at conception, for example. Belief in “fiscal responsibility” leads many people to draw (bad) analogies to household budgets and disputes over what sorts of behaviors actually are fiscally responsible.

I even understand–I think–where less intellectually respectable positions come from. The desire to roll back women’s rights to birth control, equal pay and similar markers of equality, the hysterical response to same-sex marriage (or even equal civil rights) for GLBT folks, the punitive attitudes toward immigrants and similar attitudes are pretty clearly part and parcel of a profound unease with contemporary realities, and a desire to return to a (largely imaginary) past.

But what in the world motivates opposition to mass transit?

A couple of years ago, Chris Christie–the Republican Governor of New Jersey–killed one of the most important transit projects in the country: a tunnel that would have linked his state to Manhattan and relieved the congestion that currently chokes both. At the time, he claimed his reasons were financial–that New Jersey’s share of the costs were simply too high.

Yesterday, it turned out he was lying.  Not mistaken, not misinformed. Lying.

I hope everyone reading this will click through and read the whole report. This is absolutely bizarre behavior, but what makes it worse is a passing reference in the article to the fact that opposition to mass transit has become part of the conservative “creed.”

Why in the world would someone have a philosophical opposition to transit? I certainly understand believing that a particular project is not well thought-out, or too expensive or otherwise flawed, but opposition to all mass transit? To suggest such a belief sounds paranoid.

The tunnel Christie killed is desperately needed, and had been planned for many years. It would have relieved congestion and helped the environment (okay, I realize that conservatives also reject science and the fact of climate change, but still). If built on schedule, it would also have created jobs at a time when those jobs were desperately needed.

I thought Christie was stupid and short-sighted for pulling the plug over up-front costs that would be recouped (many times over) over the long-term. But stupid and short-sighted are explicable; flat-out lying in order to justify an otherwise inexplicable decision is beyond my ability to understand.


  1. “…. flat-out lying in order to justify an otherwise inexplicable decision is beyond my ability to understand.”

    That’s unexplicable enough, but it’s the flat-earth variety that really gets my blood pressure up these days.

  2. He’s not only a liar, dear Sheila….he’s a bully, too. When I get discouraged about indiana’s throwback to the 1920s, I think about NJ, and thank my lucky stars. Big hair and bigger bellies. And ego. Oy vey.

  3. If “Liberals” are “Progressive,”
    the “Conservatives” are “Regressive.”
    Perhaps, in this labeling-loving political atmosphere,
    this is a simple, memorable, repetitive way to frame and explain the Christie-like thinkers,
    not Christ-like, simply regressive, regressive, regressive.

  4. Democrats like it. Therefore, Republicans are against it. Unfortunately, that’s what our political system has been reduced to.

  5. I don’t believe Republicans undestand what they are upholding or why they are voting for the currnt Republican elected officials and those hoping to be elected. They wear the lable “Republican” and that gets them elected. Republicans are a nation of sheep; following Judas goats into the destruction of this country we have witnessed in recent years and President Obama has fought to overcome. Lies are commonplace and needs such as public transportation are either an unnecessary use of tax dollars or an issue they do not understand and/or do not need. They live in the past century and refuse to move into the world we know and understand the need for change. Remember, staunch means steadfast and unmoving which means they are stuck in place and ain’t goin’ nowhere.

  6. Thanks Prof. I was wondering if we would see any coverage of tubbys lying ways. Lets see if the Star can locate the NJ story. (Any Bets?)
    As regards the “R” people and mass transit: We have seen this sort of thinking for years from them. “It is FINE to spend Billions and Billions on airports and highways. They are used by well off white folks and we all know and like them.” AND their friends in the paving business make tons of money off the road building.
    BUT those nasty railroads: They dont turn a profit so they must be bad. Every train takes scores of cars off the road but only the PROFIT of the railroad matters to the “R” people.
    And the “R” position on Local mass transit: “That only benefits those low income folks, some of them even blacks and why would we want to spend public money on them?”
    These “R” folks are Racist / Classist boobs. Lying is the least of thier faults.
    Go get ’em Prof !!

  7. “So, I think if we look at America, we find a country that is in quite a bit of psychological self-doubt at this particular moment. We find a country that has had much of its government, many of its leaders besieged by irrationality, religiosity, they don’t believe in evolution, they don’t believe in climate change, we cannot pass a simple measure in Congress to extend the national debt. How can a government that is so paralyzed by its own inability to see reason, how can it be the custodian over that critical part of every economy that a government must preside over?”


  8. Sheila, I think this is symptomatic of something that has been developing for a while now, going back to Reagan’s “government IS the problem” statement.

    Some on the right, and I include some Libertarians, not just Republicans, want as little government as possible. Unless you are a Ron Paul adherent, that usually does not include the military. And they mean it. They are against public schools, public roads, even public prisons, they literally want to privatize EVERYTHING.

    This is a mindset of “Government is the enemy” where most of the rest of us see “Government as a servant of the people”, with differences of opinion on how that should and can be done.

    The logical end of the “Government is the enemy” thinking is anarchy, and abolishment of the rule of law. But those people just don’t see it. They are living in a different universe.

  9. Can we not use fat-shaming as a way to attack a guy who is legitimately a target because of his policies and approach to governance? He would be eminently worthy of criticism no matter the size of his body. Thanks.

  10. maybe the Governor just wasn’t getting his cut of the action? It is New Jersey we’re talking about, after all. lol

  11. Thanks SA…I am a fat woman and I don’t want to be lumped in w/ Gov Christy.

    I think of Inpls, driving from Plainfield to downtown on Washington St trying to imagine why we don’t have mass transit. Efficient mass transit can help elevate people by giving them a chance to work in an area of town that may pay better. The bus is not efficient as it can take over an hour to go several miles.
    St. Louis put in a mass transit-Metro LInk in 1994, it was one line and now it has spread all over town and it is quick. Maybe it is fear-either way I don’t get it.

  12. I think I have a suggestion as to why oppose transit: Thorstein Veblen. The American ideal promoted by the elite celebrates outward displays of wealth- conspicuous consumption. Republicans seem to celebrate wealth above all else. Some evangelical Christians even preach that God wants them to be wealthy. (I learned the opposite at Sunday school). So long as the car is a primary signifier of wealth and status (and the “vehicle” for oil and manufacturing profits), Rs will be loathe to devalue the car by investing transit, aka the anti-car. It is also personal. If you borrow $50k to buy a car, but it becomes chic to take the train or a bus and people stop driving cars, boy was that $50K loan a stupid idea.

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