Their Lesson Must Be Ours As Well…


I don’t know about you but I really, wanted Obama to win in the worst way. His win was a vindication of my investment in his 2008 campaign. It was necessary for him to win to wipe the “fluke” tag from that previous election. Because 2010 proved to be something of an embarrassment for the Democratic Party things were looking a bit dim for the President. But as tough as this election has been it still brought tears of joy and pride to my eyes to see a man like him re-elected.

My first instinct was to gloat. You know how that feels. You just scored a touchdown on the field of battle and you want to rub it in the faces of all the fans in the stands and the oppositions players. So you do a bit of a dance and wiggle you butt a bit and shuffle your feet and then as if it were an afterthought you kneel in prayer to show that you are not a complete hind end.

But frankly every time you win it makes you a little bit more responsible for the post celebration outcome than had you simply lost. Losers get to go home and lick their wounds and lay in wait for the victor to stumble and perhaps heap hot coals on his head for having gloated. Neither winners nor losers are free from the responsibility for the future and that is a lesson that is hard to learn.


Were I ever to come back again (reincarnation) I would want to be a weatherman. Heck that has got to be one of the cushiest jobs on the planet. You get to wear nice suits and can write them off on your tax returns because you have to wear them because of your job. Plus you get to be wrong half the time because what you are there to predict is well, unpredictable and everyone knows it. So your best bet is to forecast nasty weather ahead and thus free yourself from all blame. And when the weather turns out to be sunny and warm, who cares about or even remembers your gloomy prediction. It’s a win-win situation.

But political pundits are often quite different. They sometimes wear two hats. They predict election outcomes and then despite that outcome get to strategize with the candidate on the next go around. And the monies they bring down every four years is amazing. Plus they get to be on television and wear nice suits and like the weatherman they can be written off on your tax returns. Sweet!

Newt GingrichYodeling

So on every channel imaginable there are these talking heads who predict elections and strategize with the candidates trying to dissect the recent loss of Mitt Romney to Barack Obama. Even Newt Gingrich got into the act:

‘We Were Wrong’

“We were wrong,” he said on “CBS This Morning.” He and other Republicans, such as Karl Rove, former President George W. Bush’s chief political adviser, “misunderstood what was happening in the country.”
Part of the “rethinking” party leaders should do is how to appeal to Hispanics and other demographic groups who supported Obama’s re-election, Gingrich said.

“Unless we do that we’re going to be a minority party,” he said.

Now trust me when I tell you than since his time as Speaker for the House and the shenanigans he pulled during the impeachment of then President Clinton as a result of the Monica Lewinsky affair, he has been on my list of thoroughly hypocritical politicians. After all he was involved in a affair of his own and served his wife with divorce papers while she lay in hospital battling cancer.

But on this one point we are in total agreement. You cannot alienate the people you need to help you win an election when in fact your usual backers are dwindling in numbers. Every time you bring up illegal immigration as a sop to your working class white voters you strike fear into the hearts of legal immigrants that one day things could turn ugly even for them. And eventually they get the message loud and clear, “You are not welcome here”. Every time you use the code phrase “taking our country back”, you make it clear to every African-American who is not a dyed-in-the-wool Republican (and even some of them can see past your covertly racist language – just ask Colin Powell about that) that you are not valued. There is no “shared experience” implied in the kind of rhetoric being used at all levels of the Republican Establishment.

If the Tea Party types are not set adrift the stark alienation of the rest of the population will have gone too far. And frankly that is worrisome (or should be to dyed-in-the-wool Democrats). If the Republican Party fades into obscurity something else will rise to take its place and frankly that can only be nastier yet. It would be better instead that Republicans and Democrats find ways to cooperate with one another. It is what people want and most importantly expect.

Cycling’s Bigots

Like our Republican brothers we cyclists are often given to coded messages that resonate within our ranks but do nothing but alienate those outside. Every time a Randy Cohen writes that he can act as a scofflaw and still feel ethical it sends the wrong message. Every time a cycling advocacy leader excuses the kind of behavior that Cohen advocates by making the argument that:

But it’s a cop out to call everyone on a bike “crazed” when the biggest reason for bad behavior is poor street design.

We need a Newt Gingrich-style epiphany regarding “our side”.

It makes sense that we tell ourselves lies because it keep the troops pumped up and eager to enter the fray any time we need faces on camera. But eventually the very folks to whom we have been excusing our poor behavior are going to be needed to help us secure transportation funds the next time the Congress has to vote on its contents or our local governmental leaders sit down to divvy up the economic pie.

Writers like Mikael Colville-Andersen – CEO of Copenhagenize Consulting and the author of Parking The Bull are very happy to sell us a vision of the future that includes the diminished prevalence of the automobile. In fact I would not be surprised to find that most of the good folks on ChainLink Forum are of that persuasion. And despite their best efforts every time they write about an automobile or bus or pedestrian that encroaches on their territory they leave you with the feeling that the world is an us versus them arena.

The end result is a very clear and telling message to motorists and pedestrians alike, “you are not valued”. We can behave any way we want but you are a menace. When you look at the numbers you would think that with this sort of attitude cyclist must be in the majority and simply “feeling their oats”. Wikipedia tells a much different story than one would imagine from our posturing:

Of all people who commute to work in New York City, 41% use the subway, 24% drive alone, 12% take the bus, 10% walk to work, 2% travel by commuter rail, 5%carpool, 1% use a taxi, 0.6% ride their bicycle to work, and 0.2% travel by ferry.[11] 54% of households in New York City do not own a car, and rely on public transportation.[12] While the so-called car culture dominates in most American cities, mass transit has a defining influence on New York life. The subway is a popular location for politicians to meet voters during elections and is also a major venue for musicians. Each week, more than 100 musicians and ensembles – ranging in genre from classical to Cajun, bluegrass, African, South American and jazz – give over 150 performances sanctioned by New York City Transit at 25 locations throughout the subway system.[13]

If New York is any guide we are definitely in the minority. We are unable to remain a viable party if we do not modify our presentation of our goals to the outside world. We have taken the hard line approach to cycling and it is likely to back fire at some future date. We must first begin with telling ourselves the truth about cycling:

  • Cycling is unlikely to achieve the depth of popularity it has in Europe.
  • Cheap and abundant gasoline resources are becoming a stumbling block to further inroads by cycling.
  • Public transportation of motorized sorts are likely to always be preferred over cycling.
  • Bicycles in future are more likely to be electrified and enclosed.
  • Automobiles are going to get both more fuel efficient and also electrified.
  • Eventually the pressures of work-from-home strategies will make commuting of any sort less appealing.
  • Smart, driverless cars will eventually eliminate rush hour traffic jams and create an even greater demand for motor vehicles.
  • Cycling is like all other forms of exercise more appealing to younger persons.
  • As the population ages cycling will have less appeal even among those who are currently its biggest proponents.
  • Bad weather zones like the Midwest make year round cycling far less appealing than in temperate zones.
  • No amount of bicycle infrastructure will ever replace the skillful use of ones brain in navigating city streets.
  • We must be willing to obey the Rules of the Road if we ever plan to gain the respect of our motoring peers.