Tom Junod uses his family’s experience at an amusement park where bearers of “FlashPasses” can skip lines to explain why he remains a Democrat, despite the Democratic Party. Excerpt:
It sounds like an innovative answer to the problem that everybody faces at an amusement park, and one perfectly in keeping with the approaches currently in place at airports and even on some crowded American highways — perfectly in keeping with the two-tiering of America. You can pay for one level of access, or you can pay for another. If you have the means, you can even pay for freedom. There’s only one problem: Cutting the line is cheating, and everyone knows it. Children know it most acutely, know it in their bones, and so when they’ve been waiting on a line for a half-hour and a family sporting yellow plastic Flash Passes on their wrists walks up and steps in front of them, they can’t help asking why that family has been permitted the privilege of perpetrating what looks like an obvious injustice. And then you have to explain not just that they paid for it but that you haven’t paid enough — that the $100 or so that you’ve ponied up was just enough to teach your children that they are second- or third-class citizens.
It wouldn’t be so bad, if the line still moved. But it doesn’t. It stops, every time a group of people with Flash Passes cut to the front. You used to be able to go on, say, three or four rides an hour, even on the most crowded days. Now you go on one or two. After four hours at Whitewater the other day, my daughter and I had gone on five. And so it’s not just that some people can afford to pay for an enhanced experience. It’s that your experience — what you’ve paid full price for — has been devalued. The experience of the line becomes an infernal humiliation; and the experience of avoiding the line becomes the only way to enjoy the water park. You used to pay for equal access; now you have to pay for access that’s more equal than the access afforded others. The commonality of experience is lost, and the lines are striated not simply by who can pay for a Flash Pass and who can’t; they’re also striated by race and class. The people sporting the Flash Passes are almost exclusively white, and they tend to be in better shape than those stuck on line. They tend to have fewer tattoos, and to look less, well, pagan. And by the end of the day, they start cutting lines where Flash Passes don’t even apply — because they feel entitled to — and none of them, not even their kids, will so much as look at you.
Read the whole thing. It explains to me why I, even though I’m a registered independent and quite alienated from the GOP, still feel more at home with Republicans than Democrats. It has nothing to do with the FlashPass and what it symbolizes — but it does have to do with a fundamental cultural identification.
I was raised in a working-class family (my folks are still registered Democrats) where the idea of FlashPasses are repugnant. Yet we saw, and do see, liberal elites granting FlashPasses to their favored groups. To them, my people — white working class people, and middle-class, or barely middle class people — are an undifferentiated mass of Privilege. We look like the FlashPass people do to Tom Junod.
Similarly, even though the GOP drives me crazy, I find it easier to be among a Republican crowd than among a Democratic crowd. My views on the environment, on nationalism, on foreign policy, and on the economy may not be entirely consonant with their views, but they are church people and cultural conservatives, and so am I. I have found that in general, Democrats don’t care if you sympathize more with them on economic and foreign policy issues; if you are a religious or social conservative, you are the Enemy.
I suppose you would call me a Christian Democrat, in the European sense. And that makes me by default a Republican, even if I no longer officially am.
Anyway, I agree with Junod that FlashPass America is a bad thing. I do not agree with him that the Democrats are against FlashPass-ism in principle.