Sifting through the election fallout.
1. Light rail will return. Not because of the capricious will of the Smart Growth urbaneers, holier-than-thou enviromaniacs, or the anti-everything-we-like inclination of modern liberals. It will return because the city needs it. Capital Metro really can't lead the charge, so it is going to be up to us, the concerned citizenry. The campaign against light rail was eloquent and simple: "Costs too much. Does too little." The opposition was widespread and broad-based -- small-business owners, neighborhood groups, radio deejays, the anti-any-government-project folks, and more. Their alternative? Roads, and more roads, and more roads ... oh, and express buses and other alternative stuff.
The concept of light rail is hard to sell. My light rail commercial would have started with a shot of I-35 at, say, 5:30pm. Superimposed over the traffic jam would be the projected number of cars by 2025 (based on the most conservative traffic growth projections). This would be followed by a graphic representation of I-35 built out to 10 lanes with the projected traffic flow of 2050. Then a picture of some crosstown strip -- 15th to Enfield or 381/2 with the current traffic. Then a projection of what that same street will look like in 2050. The question isn't cars vs. public transit. The question is: When cars become impossible, how do you get around? The issue isn't congestion, not today and not in the future. The issue is mobility. One reader wrote in, asking about the "Austin or L.A.?" question, given that L.A. has a mass transit system. Los Angeles didn't build its public transportation until it had no other choice. Getting around by car had become more and more difficult. They waited too long. The lines will service existing communities, but L.A. is so built out that it won't have much impact on future development.
I could go on about light rail, but I won't now. Because it will come back -- demanded not by the voters but by this living civic organism we call Austin.
2. "I haven't missed a week getting the Chronicle since I moved here eight years ago, and I find the cover of the new Chronicle -- the all-black with the 'W' emblazoned in the background ... if it's what I think it is ... as a matter of fact it is so sick I can't believe ... I must be the sick one to believe what I think this is, to put a 'W' etched in black in, of all places, the city of Austin, especially when it isn't even determined if Bush is president or not. What on earth do you have in mind?" This was the message I heard when I checked my voice mail from Los Angeles last Friday. When I left town, the Chronicle cover was going to be UT regent and possible 2002 gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez. I came back to phone calls asking what the all-black cover meant. I'm betting it has something to do with the election, or near-election, of George W. Bush to the presidency of this great country being a dark day for American politics. And, yes, the idea of that actually happening really is sick.
3. How do liberals form a firing squad? In a circle. The Naderites are a little better than the rest of us, a little purer. Just read their letters.
In 1968, after the debacle of the Chicago Democratic Convention and in the wake of Eugene McCarthy's failed crusade, many of us worked against the Democratic Party. We did not want Hubert Humphrey as president. He was one of them, part of the war-making machinery and the ruling military-industrial complex. Forget that when it came to social and economic justice issues, Humphrey's leadership role dwarfed McCarthy's, forget Humphrey's commitment to labor, minorities, and the working poor -- he was The Man. By defeating him and electing Nixon, we would push the government so far to the right that the American people would rebel (and, at the time, at least some of us really believed there was going to be a revolution -- we just weren't sure if it was coming from the left or the right). Humphrey lost. We got two terms of Richard M. Nixon (the second finished by Ford), one term of Carter, followed by two of Reagan and one of Bush. As much as the economy going south, it was Perot's run in 1992 that handed the presidency back to the Democrats. There was no revolution. Twenty of the past 32 years there has been a Republican president. In what way has this been good for the environment or the working class?
The saddest thing is that by the end of the campaign, Nader and his operatives had morphed from reformers into political animals. They no longer wanted just to win, they wanted to beat the other guy, message be damned. Afterward they spun with the same glib dishonesty as most every other politician. The problem is that the American people are centrist. If the Greens manage to get 3-15% of the vote for years to come, well then, for years to come they guarantee Republican control. If the Republican right really doesn't have to court the middle, think how much fun they will have.
Meanwhile the Naderites walk a little bit closer to the holy light than the rest of us. Just ask them.
4. What's going on in Florida is great! I love democracy. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and the constitutional crisis alarmists are going to look like Y2K fanatics in just a few months. I'm pretty sick to death of the letter writers, pundits, and political operatives who explain why the political strategy that most favors their candidate is the right one. Drop all the lawsuits. Back off. Finish the vote. Issue no additional challenges. And let's get on with it.
5. You can find more letters online at www.auschron.com. You should check them out.