New Urbanists are to Environmentalists as Republicans are to the Tea Party
After participating in the PRO-URB listserv while following the Republican primaries, it occurs to me that there's some similarity between the Republican Party's problems with its more extreme activist wing and the relationship between the new urbanist/smart growth movements and environmentalists.
Just as the Tea Party (by which I mean, the most right-wing element within the Republican Party) is the Republican activist base, environmentalists are urbanists' mass base. That is to say, environmentalists are the only politically organized mass movement that is likely to support more pedestrian- and transit-friendly policies. (And no, I don't consider the American Planning Association or big-city mayors a mass movement).
But Tea Party types often say things that make the general electorate cringe; for example, they tend to be more willing than most Republican politicians to attack noncontroversial government programs such as Social Security, and more willing to engage in reckless parlaimentary tactics. So Republicans who want to actually be elected should probably be careful about endorsing the Tea Party 100 percent.
Similarly, when I listen to my environmentalist friends, I hear things that would make most swing voters (or even most Democrats) cringe- remarks about how everybody should pay more for just about everything, and how we should have fewer children and have less of everything. So as much as urbanists need and respect the smart growth movement, we aren't going to get a lot of swing voter or Republican support for our priorities if we are perceived as being among the most extreme environmentalists.
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