The Wrong Reason Is (Far) Right.
Those of us who spend a good deal of our time and energy being advocates for more and better passenger trains, are often frustrated because we don’t seem to make much headway with some of the elected officials who are in a position of influence and, if they wanted to, could actually make things happen.
Rational argument doesn’t get anywhere with them or with community leaders who could, if they made it a priority and worked together, would have us riding fast, efficient, comfortable passenger trains within a decade.
So what’s their problem? Why don’t good, solid arguments penetrate with these people?
I recently came across a provocative theory addressing that question in “The Plot Against Trains”, published some months ago in The New Yorker magazine. The postulate is this: conservatives are philosophically opposed to a successful, popular national passenger rail system for the same reason they hate Obamacare: because it would be a highly visible symbol of an effective, necessary and strong central government.
That really got my attention. For one thing, it could be the unstated rationale behind the law, pushed through Congress by the Republicans, that says any subsidy needed for a passenger train with a route of 750 miles or less must come from the state governments.
So, OK … what if we start phrasing the pro-rail arguments this way:
“Your congressman voted against funding for Amtrak because he wants a weaker federal government. And that’s why you don’t have Amtrak service in your town.”
How do you think people will like being screwed because their legitimate transportation need conflicts with a political ideology?