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Let’s Agree: Treating Cities as a Wedge Issue Is Senseless

9:35 AM PST on November 8, 2012

In the wake of the presidential election, there's been a fair amount of chatter about the Republican position (or lack thereof) on cities. A lot has been made of the geographic division in the electorate and whether the party's refusal to engage on urban issues is politically tenable. We wrote yesterday about how sidewalks -- an indicator of urbanized areas -- seem to be the great dividing line between America's two great parties.

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But today Jarrett Walker at the Human Transit reminds us how ridiculous it is that somehow we seem to have invented and bought wholesale the fallacy that conservatism and urban issues are somehow at odds:

I've argued in the Atlantic that transit thrives on thinking that embraces diversity instead of presuming fixed divides. To me, that embrace of diversity must include the richness of views, passions and human experience that are currently trapped and concealed inside the word "conservative."

Conservatives can help make good transit policy, once they are engaged in conversation about it. Conservative-dominated places like Alberta and Utah have made remarkably aggressive transit investments, justified in part on sensible bipartisan understanding of what cities are, and what they need to thrive as engines of prosperity and innovation. When I've worked with elected boards or officials on difficult choices facing public transit in a city, I've noticed that self-identified conservatives are as least as likely as self-identified liberals to lead on the hard choices, by which I mean angering a core constituency or risking public complaint in order to meet some urgent large goal such as balancing the budget or establishing a clear policy.

The conservative-liberal or Republican-Democrat divide, as the media has constructed it, is not a real story. Delusional narratives are supposed to be entertaining, but this one is both delusional and boring. We will leave this story behind only when we start pointing out how searingly boring it is. The media are desperate to entertain, so only that message will get through to them.

Here is the real story: There is a polarization-vs-consensus divide, with large forces arrayed on the side of those who are terrified that people might begin listening to each other. There is an information-vs-ignorance divide, with large forces arrayed on the side of stopping the flow of information and rational argument.

Elsewhere on the Network today: BikeSD reports that San Diego's new mayor seems like a big win for cyclists and pedestrians. Wash Cycle wonders if U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will get "four more years" like President Obama. And Systemic Failure suggests communities "right-size" their parking infrastructure before considering any additions.

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