Republican tantrum over electric cars
All the major automakers and the federal government have decided that when it comes to cars, the future is electric. Every manufacturer now plans to phase out traditional gas-powered cars, and the Biden administration has said that by 2035 the federal government will stop buying them entirely.
But as Emily Porticorvo writes for Heatmap News, Republicans are fighting the future tooth and nail. Current EV purchases are skewed heavily toward liberal areas like California, while conservative states like Texas have imposed hefty new fees on EVs. To be fair, it would be necessary to replace the road maintenance money currently provided by the gas tax, but as Politico reported, “the fee is equivalent to twice what the average driver pays in taxes at the pump, according to consumer advocates.”
All of this will be a major obstacle to combating climate change. Cars and trucks are responsible for nearly one-fifth of total greenhouse gas emissions; Decarbonizing it is absolutely essential to meeting America’s climate goals.
At first glance, conservatives’ dislike of electric vehicles seems puzzling. Anyone who has driven a car can tell you that the experience is immediately better than a gas-powered car in most ways. They are cheaper to operate, require little maintenance, and provide exhilarating instant acceleration. (You might think that being able to blow the doors off any car on the road would be attractive to muscle car fans.) Above all, randomly fluctuating fuel prices, where your transportation expenses might double overnight out of nowhere, are simply inconsequential. Does not affect EV drivers.
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The only major downside—the fact that charging is much slower than visiting a gas station—isn’t a problem for most commuters who don’t drive long distances daily and can charge at home or the office. Road trips are becoming easier with today’s longer-range electric vehicles, and will continue to do so as America’s charging network builds.
But to someone familiar with the conservative mindset, it makes more sense. Electric vehicles have long been associated with a liberal guilty conscience — something NPR listeners buy into to do their part to protect the environment — and much of conservative politics is coercively doing the opposite of what liberals want. This carries a double whammy when you do this thing that makes liberals upset.
A few years ago, a big trend on conservative social media was “rolling coal,” where right-wingers rig huge diesel trucks to rig their fueling system so they can spew plumes of choking black smoke at the push of a button, like some portable cars. Asthma trigger. There was a brief sort of cheerful social media post featuring smoke bombs being launched at Toyota Prius owners in particular. (By the way, eBay faces potential billions in fines for allowing hundreds of thousands of these items to be sold, as they blatantly violate the Clean Air Act.) It will become a meme on conservative social media tomorrow.
One related factor is the conservative culture of antisocial grievance. If something is framed as broadly socially beneficial, conservatives will often refuse to do it even if it is. Personally very helpful. Heather McGhee wrote an entire book on this topic called Our totalthe main metaphor in which conservative whites close public swimming pools that allow black residents, thus depriving everyone of a refreshing summer recreational spot.
The only thing worth trying is for liberals to stop buying Teslas.
A more recent and particularly nightmarish example can be seen in 2021, when six conservative regional broadcasters proudly bragged on air that they refused vaccination, contracted the coronavirus, and died. The GOP lost the 2022 Arizona attorney general race by a margin of Republican voters who killed themselves by refusing to get a safe, free vaccine developed with their tax dollars under their party’s president.
The last factor is the influence of car dealership owners. It has political influence as a rule, but it has gained new influence under the Republican Party led by Donald Trump, which relies on the petty bourgeoisie much more than in previous decades. Electric vehicles pose a major threat to the dealership industry because they require little maintenance, which is the main source of dealership revenue. And every year they can prolong the transition is another year of big profits for America’s provincial gentry. Florida’s sinking is just a small price to pay.
It is difficult to say what can be done about this situation. The rise of Tesla and other high-performance electric car companies has weakened the association between electric cars and liberalism, but it remains. Manufacturers have started producing monster trucks with more conservative coding, but they’re already having trouble selling them.
The only thing worth trying is for liberals to stop buying Teslas. Elon Musk is a right-wing vigilante who destroys unions, his cars are poorly manufactured, and unlike a decade ago when Tesla was one of the only electric car options out there, plenty of other manufacturers are making competitive cars. Even for the cash-strapped, there’s always the good old Chevy Bolt, which is cheaper than a Tesla and made by American labor unions.
If liberals start hating Tesla cars so much, it could trigger a backlash from conservatives, and they’ll start buying Cybertrucks to own libs. Maybe if Musk goes full-blown fascism — recently posting on Twitter that melting down statues of Confederate generals means “they want you completely extinct,” an apparent reference to a white supremacist conspiracy theory — that might help, too. Maybe if your Tesla could be emblazoned with the Rhodesian flag, conservatives would buy it.
But reverse psychology aside, there is one strategy that will definitely work: banning the sale of carbon-fueled cars. Cars wear out sooner or later, and if there is nothing else to buy, conservatives with the most extreme cases of oppositional defiance have no choice.
I think that’s what it will take. As usual, if America is to shift to a brighter, cleaner, healthier future, Republicans will be dragged kicking and screaming.
(Tags for translation) Electric Cars