Episode 52: Honk If You Loved 2020 

 

Aaron Naparstek: Okay, guys. For our sponsor, Cleverhood, let’s do a speed round. What are our favorite features of the Cleverhood rain cape? Go!

Sarah Goodyear: All right. For me, it’s the color. I got the pink—totally out of character for me. I usually get everything in black, but in the pink I feel—I feel beautiful. It’s an amazing thing.

Doug Gordon: My favorite feature, I can sum it up in one word: thumb loops. Which might be two words. But thumb loops. You stick your thumbs in these little loops under the cape, and when you’re riding your bike, when you’re walking, doesn’t matter if it’s windy, the cape stays in place. It’s great. Keeps you dry.

Aaron: I have the Electric Glen Rain Cape in olive green. And my favorite thing are the armholes. The fact that when needed, I can stick my arms outside of the cape, I can hold my bicycle handlebars, I can look at my phone, I can do whatever I want to do with arms either inside or outside of the cape. It is a very thoughtful design.

Doug: If you want to discover all the awesome features of Cleverhood rain gear, go to Cleverhood.com/waroncars and at checkout enter code “waroncars”—all one word, and you’ll get a 20 percent discount on your purchase.

Justin Schein: So Wednesday, the day after Election Day, I was asked to go to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, which is about two hours from Brooklyn where I live, to document this event, “Protect the Results.”

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Patrice Tisdale: Last night, before all the votes were counted, we heard the chilling words of the president of the United States declaring himself the winner of this election. That is not how democracy works.]

Justin Schein: And so I got there. It was a beautiful town. There were lots of people holding signs. Speakers started to speak about the importance of voting and, you know, free and fair elections.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Patrice Tisdale: In 1867, this country finally recognized the right of Black males to vote.]

Justin Schein: So I was filming this event, and all of a sudden there was this loud rumbling.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Patrice Tisdale: … in the US Congress. And they took over seats.]

Justin Schein: It sounded like, you know, somebody revving their engine. And at first you think that’s just a random thing. But it became clear that it was, you know, a group of people in their cars trying to disrupt the event, trying to drown out the voice of the speakers.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Patrice Tisdale: We have come too far as a country to give up now. Yes, we still have a long path to tread, but that path has been paid by the blood of our ancestors, the blood of Freedom Riders.]

Justin Schein: And it felt very threatening, particularly in the wake of both seeing lots of trucks over the course of the summer flying their Trump flags and Confederate flags. And then, you know, in 2017, there was this horrible situation in Charlottesville, Virginia, where the car drove through a protest and killed somebody and injured lots of people. And so you’ve got a feeling that this was a message, this was a weapon that was dangerous and scary.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Patrice Tisdale: We demand that every single vote be counted, because that is what democracy looks like.]

Doug: This is The War on Cars. I’m Doug Gordon, and I am joined remotely by my co-hosts Sarah Goodyear and Aaron Naparstek.

Aaron: Hey, what’s up?

Sarah: Hey, it’s good to be back together again, sort of.

Doug: Yes. This is our first episode with all three of us in quite some time. So it’s pretty good to be back together.

Aaron: Definitely.

Doug: On this episode, you can’t spell America without the letters C, A and R.

Sarah: I’ve really missed—I’ve really missed your dad jokes, Doug.

Doug: All right. I appreciate that. No, but seriously, on this episode, we are going to be talking about the oversized role cars played in America’s response to the pandemic, and the strange twists and turns of the presidential campaign. In fact, you might say that 2020 was the year of the car.

Aaron: Yeah, it was interesting because the car played a prominent role in many different ways in this presidential campaign, and continues to do so. That clip at the top was my friend Justin Schein, who’s a documentary filmmaker. And he was invited to film this event in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, in sort of rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The woman you heard speaking in that clip was Patrice Tisdale. She’s a leader of the NAACP Bucks County chapter. And, you know, they were at this event called Protect the Vote the day after the election. And, you know, there you have Patrice is talking about the blood spilled by Freedom Riders and John Lewis and others to achieve voting rights, while these guys were sort of ominously revving their engines loudly about 30 yards from the event on the outskirts of the courthouse green. You know, these fellows in, like, big Trump trucks with Trump flags. And it just kind of felt like a perfect little microcosm of the role that the personal motor vehicle was playing in this campaign, and is sort of playing in US democracy more broadly right now.

Sarah: Yeah. And it wasn’t just that, which is super serious, there were also just some very weird random things that happened, like Trump’s weird COVID-infected limousine ride around Walter Reed Hospital, you know, with the MAGA hat–wearing fans cheering him on. And then also, you know, when he was driving around in another motorcade, and people were just lined up giving him the finger after Biden was declared the victor.

Doug: And there was also, of course, the lawsuit in Harris County, Texas, when it seemed like 100,000 ballots might be thrown out because of Republican objections at the last minute to drive-in voting. And, of course, we’ve all seen the images of cars backed up on highways or snaking through parking lots as people waited for food at food pantries, or tried to get tested for COVID.

Sarah: Yeah, that stuff at Dodger Stadium is really incredible. The footage of just, you know, miles of cars waiting for COVID testing.

Aaron: And I mean, the Democratic candidate’s campaign slogan was “Ridin’ with Biden.” I mean, he built his campaign slogan around, you know, being in a car with Joe.

Doug: So in this episode, and what’s a little bit of a departure for us, because we don’t normally address politics and the election head on, in fact, Aaron, our last episode, you said this was the podcast where we don’t talk about the election. So turn it off now if you don’t want to hear about politics. But the events of the last couple of weeks were just too big to ignore. So we’re going to talk about the role that cars played in the election, and what it means for the future of our country and democracy. But first, some business.

Sarah: If you want to support The War on Cars, please consider making a contribution via Patreon, because we really could not produce the podcast without your help. The way to do that is go to thewaroncars.org, you click “Become a Patreon Supporter,” and that’s it. You sign up. You can start at $2 a month. You’ll get stickers, access to premium episodes and handwritten thank-you notes from one of us. So it’s very simple, and it doesn’t require a huge commitment, and it makes it possible for us to bring you the podcast.

Doug: Okay, so I guess a really good place to start is sort of generally with the Trump trains that we saw take over highways and bridges in lots of different parts of the country. Here in New York, in the tri-state area, there was a big caravan that took over the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey. There were Trump trains that took over bridges near Tarrytown, New York. Some rolled right into Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. And they were all flying flags. And they were mostly these huge, huge pickup trucks and SUVs. And, you know, to be honest, I found that to be one of the more—one of the scarier developments of the 2020 campaign, something that just didn’t really exist before.

Aaron: Yeah. I mean, what was it about those Trump trains that were so sinister, right? Because I feel like that was a pretty universal reaction among Democrats and people living in cities to see these trucks flying flags rolling in. And I mean, the first thing that comes to mind for me, and it’s sort of obvious and a lot of people have commented on this, is just the comparison to Middle East politics, I guess would be the polite way to say it. Like, you know, what we saw a few years ago with caravans of ISIS trucks rolling through Syria, flying flags. You know, it’s a pretty old campaigning tactic or power projection tactic that Hezbollah has used for many years in Lebanon to sort of show that they’re in control and a political force. They will roll through Beirut in trucks with their yellow and green flags flying. I don’t recall any presidential campaign really using flags first of all, or using trucks in this way. It felt very different.

Sarah: Yeah. And what’s weird about the trucks is it’s sort of like it’s kind of weirdly, like, open carry, because it’s like the trucks are weapons that can be displayed, even if you’re in a state like New York where you’re not allowed to open carry. It’s like you’re brandishing a weapon. And it’s pretty clear, I think, that those trucks are—you know, that they are advertising their potential to be used as weapons. And that’s a real difference from how, you know, when Black Lives Matter protests shut down highways, they do it with people’s bodies, right?

Doug: Well, the other interesting thing is that when Black Lives Matter protesters take over streets and highways, they are very quickly brutalized and arrested by the police who clear them off the roadway. But in the case of the Garden State Parkway example, these guys shut down the highway for quite some time. And, you know, the cops did not clear them out immediately. And I don’t know if anyone was arrested or not, but there certainly wasn’t a massive display of police force greeting these people when they drove down the street and stopped their cars.

Aaron: Well, and that might have something to do with the fact that these guys are flying their Blue Lives Matter, their Thin Blue Line flags, right? And that’s something I’ve kind of been fixated on the flags, and the idea that, you know, when you’re flying a flag, like, a flag is the symbol of a nation. And I just kept being struck by the fact that these trucks were flying a flag that was not the American flag. It was not the Stars and Stripes. It was not red, white and blue. Like, they’re in a way saying, like, “Hey, we’re an armored column of trucks rolling into your city, and we’re flying a flag of another nation.”

Sarah: Yeah. And that nation was very, very explicitly rallied by the president himself, and he flew that flag late in the campaign. He had the Thin Blue Line flag up behind him without an American flag. It just was a huge Thin Blue Line flag.

Doug: You know, I think the thing that is pretty disturbing to me is that, you know, at least my sympathies are with the Black Lives Matter protests, I’ve marched with them. And Black Lives Matter supporters and the movement has a very clear list of demands, you know, defund the police, move things to social services, to education, get the police out of mental health services, things like that. But the Trump trains really are just demonstrating for the status quo as a display of power. Basically, we support Trump, we support the police, we support the existing power structure as it is. And we are just kind of here maybe to terrorize you and show our strength. And that’s about it. And that really struck me as a new and more overt demonstration of white political power than we have seen, you know, outside of the Klan and the South in quite some time.

Aaron: Yeah. I mean, there’s an interesting aspect to it, right? Where, like, a lot of these Trump trains were coming from exurban places, right? They’re coming from, like, red state, rural and suburban places, and they’re rolling through the city. So they’re not really demonstrating or rallying in their own town green. They’re coming from where they live and they’re sort of putting their demonstration right in your front yard. I feel like that was different, right? Like, that’s not something we’ve seen in other presidential campaigns so much, where people are kind of coming from their community into someone else’s to demonstrate their support for their candidate.

Sarah: Yeah. And in a terrorizing, threatening kind of way. And then also, you know, in Texas, there was this very disturbing incident that happened on the freeway where one of these convoys was surrounding and threatening a Biden campaign bus. And, you know, that’s like taking this sort of neutral ground of the freeway which is sort of a common space, and making that a really unsafe place. Just to drive from one campaign stop to another became so dangerous that the Biden campaign called off some of its appearances.

Doug: And I think the really interesting thing here is that, you know, two days before this incident, which happened on I-35 in central Texas, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son posted a video online in which he egged on people to do this. He told people, “get out there and do this.”

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Donald Trump, Jr.: Hey, Laredo, Don Junior here. I heard you had an awesome turnout for the Trump train. It’d be great if you guys would all get together, head down to McAllen and give Kamala Harris a nice Trump train welcome. Get out there, have some fun. Enjoy it. Don’t forget to vote and to bring all of your friends. Let’s show them how strong Texas still is as Trump Country. Get out there, guys. Thank you.]

Aaron: I’ll just note that Don Jr. does not look sweaty and coke-addled in that clip, and that’s a good look for him. He sounds kind of relaxed. It’s like pre-coke. Pre-coke snorting for him.

Sarah: Yeah, but he’s still out there telling people basically to have fun and enjoy it, about violently intimidating other people.

Aaron: Yeah. He’s, like, pretending—he’s, like, clearly inciting violence while pretending it’s just sort of a friendly little, you know, like, Trump train welcome.

Doug: Well, he’s sort of exploiting something that we talk about a lot on the podcast and just in general is that, you know, cars are not weapons until they are. And the moment at which they become weapons is often unclear. And drivers can and do exploit that. And that’s clearly what Don Jr. is exploiting here. Like, if he posted a video saying, “Hey, everybody. Grab your AR-15s and go surround the Biden bus when it comes and stops in a parking lot,” there’s no question that people across the political spectrum would have to denounce that. Now, you know, obviously there are people who wouldn’t, but for the most part, we would see that as a gross violation of political norms and beyond what’s acceptable in politics. But sort of saying, like, “Hey, everybody. Get in your truck and go have some fun,” he has plausible deniability. He’s not explicitly telling them, “Hey, everybody. Go ram the bus off the road.” He’s just saying, “Go have some fun. Give them a good Trump train welcome.” And if something were to happen, he could just say, like, “Oh, no, I didn’t tell them to do that. That was them taking things into their own hands.” So it’s really devious and very disturbing in my view.

Aaron: And that’s kind of their whole tactic, right? I mean, like, throughout the last four years, it’s been this sort of squishy line between we’re just joking or we’re just actually being, you know, totalitarians. But there are countless incidents during this campaign of political intimidation, violence using vehicles. Sarah, you spoke to someone who had a kind of a frightening experience, right?

Sarah: Yeah. This is a friend of mine who is a student at UC-Berkeley, and had a really terrifying experience earlier this year driving in California. I’ll let them tell the story.

Jack: So in early June, a few friends and I made some signs when we were going to a protest. One said “Defund the police,” the other said “Black Lives Matter.” And we taped them to the trunk of my car. Then a couple of weeks later, my partner Gaby and I were driving to Sacramento, and on our way back, we’re driving—you know, we’re on the freeway. And I notice there’s a car behind me that’s trailing me at a very close distance. And suddenly he cuts around me, accelerates, goes into my lane and then starts slowing down. So I freak out, and I kind of wildly swerve to the other lane. But right as I’m swerving into the other lane, he speeds up and swerves with me too and then slows down again, trying to get me to run off the freeway. And I keep switching lanes two or three more times. And every time he switches with me, kind of shakes his wheel a little bit in a taunting way, gives me the finger. And eventually, I just see an exit, and I just remember swerving really hard and cutting into the exit at the last moment so that he couldn’t possibly follow me, and pulling off to the side of the road. And my whole body was shaking, my hands were shaking. It was a terrifying experience.

Aaron: The experience with your friend Jack there, it really makes me think a lot about what the car does to our relationship to each other as citizens, and how the highway has become essentially the one public space that we have for a lot of Americans—particularly for people who don’t live in cities. If you live out in automobile sprawl, there’s a good chance that you have no town green, you have no marketplace. You have strip malls and roads, and these are your public spaces. And you’re in cars a lot. And when we’re in cars, you know, we’re in competition with each other. We can only communicate with each other in, like, monosyllabic horn honks. We are, you know, encased in a shell of metal and plastic and rolling with three tons of steel and glass down the road.

Aaron: We’re all in the same direction, And it just feels to me like we’ve reached this point now, that the Trump train stuff is a kind of manifestation of the way in which automobile sprawl has just decimated, not just our public spaces and our town squares, but it’s decimated our ability to communicate and interact with each other and see each other and be together as citizens. Like, we’re all just drivers now. We’re all, like, in cars honking at each other. And politics has almost become a kind of like road rage. I mean, literally, like, that’s what this felt like this year.

Doug: You know, for a long time, I’ve compared cars to the Internet comment section of the real world that basically, you know, you become anonymous, you behave in ways that you would never behave if you were speaking to a person face to face, you know? And that sometimes manifests itself literally. We put, like, pithy, even sometimes mean bumper stickers on the back of our car just to, like, tell off other drivers, or project an image of what we want them to think we believe. And like I said, yeah, we behave in ways we never would if we were face to face. And so yeah, I think your comparison to sort of like politics is now all road rage is spot on.

Sarah: And it seems to me that COVID has only exacerbated that, right? Because we’re increasingly unable to be in any other part of the public realm except for the car realm. And even things that we used to do, you know, it’s become curbside pickup instead of getting out of your car in the parking lot and walking into the Target, which is already not great maybe, but you at least see people in the Target.

Doug: Right. That was, like, your chance, to see other citizens, right?

Sarah: Right, right. And, you know, and there might be, like, a table for somebody collecting signatures for something outside of the supermarket in your strip mall. But now it’s just everything is encased in the car.

Aaron: I felt like also that was partly maybe why the Trump trains felt the need to roll through our urban neighborhoods because—and this might be presumptuous or even patronizing a little bit but, like, maybe these folks don’t really have functional public squares where they live, like, out in the burbs, out in the rural areas. And so even if they did a demonstration out in, you know, some suburban place, like, nobody would pay attention to it. There’s no place to gather. There’s no media there, really. So the only way these guys had to express themselves politically was to roll through the urban environment where, you know, there’s density of people and where there’s media and where there’s folks who—I don’t know, in their view have, like, cultural and political power, even though they have plenty of cultural and political power too.

Doug: Aaron, I think sort of what you’re talking about is essentially like cars as a vehicle—literally and figuratively—for white supremacy, which is basically like power beyond the numbers of representation, right? So these Trump trains roll through a highway or through an urban area, and maybe there’s 50, 75, 100 of them, and if we’re being generous two people in every car, so we’re talking tops 150 to 200 people. If 200 people bearing Trump flags were walking down Fifth Avenue or gathered in Times Square, we wouldn’t really think that that is an impressive show of force.

Aaron: Right.

Doug: Because the Black Lives Matter protests had thousands of people. The ones that I went to were 3,000-4,000 people. Some of the biggest had much more than that. And, you know, so basically people get in these cars and they can command so much attention. And I saw journalists basically saying, you know, a huge number of Trump supporters shut down the highway in New Jersey. And it’s like, well, you know, actually a dozen people could do that if you just blocked enough lanes. It’s not that hard to do in a truck. So I think there’s something about, like, this white fragility and this display of power using something bigger than yourself. And that also, I think, brings it back to guns in some ways, of just like it gives people power beyond their numbers.

Aaron: Doug, I think that’s right on what you just said, and it also makes me feel like the automobile has become another tool of minority rule in the American political system, right? So, like, we’re familiar with most of the tools, like the Electoral College, the US Senate, the Supreme Court, you know, voter suppression. There’s all these techniques we have to enforce minority rule in the US political system now. The automobile is also, in a way, a way for a minority, for a relatively small number of people to take up more space in the public square, to make themselves louder, to give themselves more horsepower, you know, in lieu of not having all that many people.

Sarah: I think it’s important not to ignore the fact that the Biden campaign has used vehicles also to advance its agenda and its narrative. I mean, vehicles have been a huge part of the Biden campaign and of the Biden victory.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: [singing] I’m ridin’ with Biden, Biden all the way. I’m ridin’ with Biden for president of the USA.]

Aaron: Yeah. I mean, literally, the Democratic candidate’s campaign slogan was “Ridin’ with Biden,” you know, in a little Corvette with Joe. And Democrats also did their own ridin’ with Biden, you know, car parades all over the place, too. So yeah, both sides.

Doug: We’re gonna both sides cars now. Exactly. I thought the most interesting thing was that on Saturday night, on November 7, when the election had been called for the Biden team, Biden gives his victory speech. Kamala Harris speaks too, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware. And, you know, because of COVID, people were in cars. They were socially distancing themselves in cars in the parking lot. And instead of applause, or in addition to applause, you just heard this steady stream of honking at all of what would have been the regular applause lines. So instead of applause lines, we had honking lines.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Joe Biden: So remember, as my grandpappy said when I walked out of his home when I was a kid up in Scranton, he said, “Joey, keep the faith.” And our grandmother when she was alive, she’d yell, “No, Joey. Spread it. Spread the faith.” [cars honking] God love you all! May God bless America, and may God protect our troops. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.]

Aaron: Yeah. And in addition to all the honking, the victory honking and honking to keep the faith, I was really struck when I saw this on TV that it looked like Joe Biden was doing his acceptance speech in an automobile dealership lot. There were these red, white and blue SUVs, very shiny and new looking, all sort of strategically placed around the front of the stage. And, you know, my first thought was like, “Oh, is this some kind of weird product placement at a presidential campaign acceptance speech?”

Sarah: Yeah. What was with that? Do we know?

Doug: So yeah, I have the answer to this. BuzzFeed and a couple other places reported that basically these were Jeep Gladiators, Jeep Wranglers, some Ford Rangers and Chevy Silverados. They were red, white and blue. They had open backs and sunroofs, and they had Biden-Harris stickers and decals on them. And they were reserved for family and friends who were there for this, like, socially distanced drive-in. So, you know, normally family and top supporters would get, like, the luxury box at the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the convention or whatever. This time they got cars to themselves.

Sarah: Wow.

Aaron: That’s incredible.

Sarah: That’s amazing. But, you know, I have to confess something, you guys, that the Saturday that they called the election for Biden was probably the only time in my life that I have genuinely enjoyed hearing honking. And I actually found out, I was on a long walk in a very remote industrial section of Red Hook, and far away from other people. And it was when I heard some honking in the distance that I realized what had happened, or I thought—you know, I realized that something had happened. And I checked my phone and I saw what it was. And then for the whole rest of the day, all over New York City, people were driving around honking and displaying flags from their cars. They were displaying the American flag, which was very interesting. I feel like that was a day when people kind of took back the American flag. But they were …

Aaron: Yeah, that was nice.

Sarah: Yeah, that was really nice. And they were driving around and honking. And I actually was, like, “Woo hoo! Honking!” for the first time ever, and probably the last time ever. So I just have to come clean on that.

Aaron: Pro honking for a day.

Sarah: Yeah.

Doug: Yeah. Honking is good now. Just for a moment.

Sarah: But much better than the honking was, at one point near my house in Brooklyn, this fleet of about 20-25 delivery bike riders on e-bikes came streaming past ringing their bells. And that was really beautiful.

Aaron: I enjoyed—there was a guy who came biking down the avenue in my neighborhood, which at the time was car free, so it was sort of a car-free street situation. And he had a pot, he just had, like, a cooking pot sort of like strapped to his handlebars and, like, a wooden spoon or something. And he was just biking down the street, banging on this pot. You know, it was sort of the bike version of honking, I guess.

Doug: You know, where I live—we’re kind of talking about the intersection of COVID and politics and the presidential election—I’m right near one of the open streets that New York has set up. And as soon as the election was called, we heard people cheering, and we all gravitated towards this open street.

Aaron: I like it, Doug, that you’re, like, five blocks away from me, but you feel like, you know, in very New York fashion that you live in a different place.

Doug: It’s kind of funny how that can happen. You can be, like, three blocks away from each other and, like, have no idea what’s happening somewhere else.

Sarah: But that’s a direct effect of living in a part of the country where we actually walk to get places instead of driving, because that’s—you know, it is a different place three blocks away, because we have a much more granular streetscape.

Doug: Yeah, it was just so interesting to me that, like, this place that was set up so that people could socially distance, you know, and so that restaurants could set up shop and hopefully survive this crisis just became, like, Aaron, you were saying, the places that don’t have the public squares, like, we have them in spades all over New York. And I felt very fortunate to live in a city while this was happening.

Aaron: Yeah, I was in the park. I was in Prospect Park getting ready for a flag football game, my son’s game, I coach the team. And we were just sort of biking to our game when all this cheering erupted in the park. And you could sort of hear honking on the outskirts of the park, but it was mostly just like all throughout Prospect Park, which has been pretty crowded lately, and it was a beautiful day. You know, you just heard, like, spontaneous cheering. And my first thought was like, “Oh, somebody just made an awesome play in a flag football game.” And then I was like, “No, that’s too much cheering for that.” What’s going …

Doug: It was one really psyched 11-year-old, probably. Yeah.

Aaron: Right. Yeah. It’s like, no, so that was really cool to be in this place where it was just, like, human voices erupting in cheers, like, all over you, around you. It was really cool.

Doug: Okay, so speaking of parks and high-quality public green space, I think we would be remiss if we did not comment on Four Seasons Total Landscaping. And I’m gonna tell you that there is a car angle to this story. So everybody knows what happened, right? You know, Rudy Giuliani and company hold this press conference. They announce it’s gonna be at the Four Seasons. And slowly, journalists start to realize, oh, no, no, not the high-end hotel in downtown Philadelphia, but Four Seasons Total Landscaping on, like, some industrial part of Philly near, like, the I-95 off-ramp somewhere on the outskirts. So it’s not the hotel, but Four Seasons Total Landscaping. We’ve heard this, right?

Aaron: Oh, God, yes.

Sarah: I’m so glad we have a Four Seasons Total Landscaping angle. That just gives me great joy.

Aaron: I can’t get enough Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

Doug: It’s like something straight out of Arrested Development or just—it’s unbelievable. So here’s the parking angle, because in every news story about conflict there is always a parking angle.

Aaron: It’s parking all the way down.

Doug: It’s parking all the way down. So Four Seasons Total Landscaping was located next to a crematorium on one side and an adult bookstore and novelty shop called Fantasy Island. And I read this account from Dan McQuade at Defector.com, and here’s what he wrote. “Worst of all, though, was the parking. Several cars, people who were not intending to purchase any porn were taking up spaces in the store’s lot. The man working the front desk said he called to have two cars towed away. They were almost immediately replaced by new cars. So basically, the Trump campaign’s last act was to interfere with a small business.” There was also an interview with Bernie D’Angelo, who is the owner of Fantasy Island, and he was actually pretty miffed that all this foreign press had descended on his store essentially, and taken over all the parking. And he basically said that his customers, the people who actually wanted to come to buy, you know, dildos and porn tapes or whatever, they had to sneak through a Sunoco gas station to access his store. So, yes, yes, there is always a parking angle in these stories. I just love this.

Sarah: Yeah. And especially, like, with, you know, some shutdowns and increased quarantine looming, you know, people have to stock up. It’s important as we’re going to be indoors for a long time.

Aaron: Oh God!

Doug: I also just want to point out, like, the perfect poetry that Rudy Giuliani, the man, the mayor of New York City, who famously cleaned up Times Square and got rid of all of the porno shops and replaced them with, like, the Disney store, ends up in maybe the final act of his career, giving a press conference next door to a pornographic adult video and novelty store. It’s just too perfect.

Aaron: I think my favorite thing about the whole Total Landscaping deal is that, like, you know, the idea that, like, 20 years from now, it’ll be in the history books, you know? And it’ll either be like “US democracy ended in the coup. The coup to overthrow US democracy began at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, next to a crematorium and a dildo shop.” Or, you know, “US nascent fascism and the Trump presidency ended at Total Landscaping.” You know, it could go either way, but this thing might actually be in the history books. And I kind of enjoy thinking about that.

Doug: Okay, so we’re having a good laugh here, but we have been talking about some pretty serious stuff. And I guess the question we should probably ask is, you know, what does it all mean? You know, automobiles have been around for over a century and they are everywhere, but for some reason, you know, especially despite all the progress that we have talked about on this podcast of making more car-free spaces, of moving people away from cars, 2020 seemed like the year that cars got locked in as a permanent feature of politics and public health. And what are we supposed to do with that?

Aaron: Yeah, that’s interesting, right?

Sarah: Yeah. I mean, it’s very—like, to me the idea, you know, I said this months ago that the idea that cars would become PPE is really frightening. And, you know, I do think that this election, especially with the drive-in voting, the drive-through voting, you know, we’re starting to see even more and more of that. Like, that cars are just sort of like a physical accessory, a shell that you need to have around you as you move about in a society.

Aaron: I don’t have much good news to add to it. I do feel like there is a sense of, from this campaign, like, if there’s one thing that all Americans across the political spectrum can agree on, it’s that we’re all, you know, in our cars. And maybe Democrats like electric cars a little bit more and Republicans like big pickup trucks a little bit more, but like, we all—it’s all about the cars. And it feels like, in a certain way, that the rules of the road, the way that we are in our motor vehicles with each other, is also becoming the way we do political discourse with each other. And that is kind of impersonal and rage-filled and violent sort of relationship that we have to each other. And it just—yeah, it just really felt like cars are infusing our politics now in a way that might be hard to roll back.

Sarah: So but hold up, guys. Let’s not get too dark here, because as well as driving around in a Corvette, Joe Biden also was the first candidate in forever to do whistle stops and to do, you know, train appearances. And he loves trains. He gets distracted by trains. He’s Amtrak Joe. And, you know, I think his policy goals include some really great stuff on transportation.

Doug: And one of his big policies—and I’m reading here—is to provide every American city with 100,000 or more residents with high-quality, zero emissions public transportation options through flexible federal investments, with strong labor protections that create good union jobs and meet the needs of these cities. And then it goes on to basically say that would range from light rail to improving existing transit and bus lines. And here’s what’s probably really important for a lot of our listeners, installing infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists. So I think that’s huge. You don’t normally see that, like, right out of the gate on a transition website.

Aaron: I mean, it’s clearly much better. A Biden presidency is vastly better for transit, for cities, for walking, for biking, for all that stuff, than what we have had for the last four years.

Doug: And I think it speaks to the power of progressive organizing, because this is not stuff probably that came naturally to him or some members of his team, but through the organizing of people behind the Green New Deal, from the Elizabeth Warren team, from the Bernie Sanders team, a lot of this stuff is now going to make it into the transition team, into hopefully a real set of policies that will see some success if we can keep organizing.

Sarah: That’s it for this episode of The War on Cars. If you like what you’ve heard, please pitch in a couple of dollars via Patreon. You can go to thewaroncars.org and click on “Become a Patreon Supporter.” Help fund the war effort, and we will send you stickers and T-shirts, and you will have access to bonus episode content available nowhere else.

Aaron: And special thanks to our top Patreon sponsors: Charlie Gee of Human Powered Law in Portland, Oregon, the law Office of Vaccaro and White in New York, Drew Raines and Virginia Baker.

Doug: Please rate and review The War on Cars on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. It really helps people find us. You can also buy an official War on Cars t-shirt at Cotton Bureau. And please check out our bookshop.org store at Bookshop.org/shop/thewaroncars. You can find titles by all the authors we have featured on previous episodes of the podcast.

Sarah: We love hearing from our listeners. You can email us at thewaroncars@gmail.com. You can also find us on Twitter and on Instagram @thewaroncars.

Aaron: And don’t forget, you can also get 20 percent off on the purchase of stylish Cleverhood rain gear. It is the best rain gear for walking and biking. Just go to Cleverhood.com/waroncars, enter code “waroncars” at checkout, and you will get your 20 percent discount on everything in the Cleverhood store.

Doug: This episode was edited by Ali Lemer. Our theme music is by Nathaniel Goodyear. Our logo is by Dani Finkel of Crucial D. Designs. I’m Doug Gordon.

Aaron: I’m Aaron Naparstek.

Sarah: I’m Sarah Goodyear, and this is The War on Cars.

[ARCHIVE CLIP: You guys, I know it’s been a long day, but I really don’t like that we’re breezing over the fact that yesterday Trump said they were holding a huge press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel, and then they accidentally [laughs] booked it at a place called Four Seasons Total Landscaping. And Rudy Giuliani … [laughs]]