The two-party political system in the United States is like a single roadway on a four-lane highway. That metaphor sounded less convoluted when I initially came up with it. After consulting Wikipedia, I discovered that the nomenclature for roads is rather tortuous. Technically, I should use the term “expressway” or “controlled-access highway,” but in the Midwest we properly call them “highways.” Basically, this metaphor involves a highway with two lanes in either direction.
If you hail from Massachusetts, it may surprise you to learn that there are differences between these lanes. Trucks and slow moving cars (going the speed limit) use the rightmost lane. Faster, passing cars use the leftmost lane. Middle lanes fall between these two extremes but follow the pattern of faster on the left and slower on the right.
It is dangerous to pass on the right because that side has a larger blind-spot. If you do pass people on the right, you are a terrible driver and your license ought to be permanently revoked. Take some time to actually read road signs and you will notice that some states have signs that say, “LEFT LANE FOR PASSING ONLY” or “KEEP RIGHT EXCEPT TO PASS.”
Unfortunately, two lane roadways (four lane highways) have no place for sane drivers. They lack a middle ground, forcing drivers to choose between two extremes. If you choose the right lane, you will inevitably be trapped behind slow pokes, unable to pass as cars zip by you in the left lane. If you choose the left, someone will ride your ass and eventually attempt to pass you on the right if you fail to get over or drive 100 miles per hour. You have to pick your poison. Too fast or too slow.
The metaphor could just end there, but that would be boring. This conceit can be stretched much further. One would naturally assume that Republicans occupy the right lane while Democrats occupy the left. If only things could be so tidy.
On the right, Democrats function as our truck drivers, the elderly, the stoners, and the technically correct. The truck drivers go slow because they have to. They perform an actual job—albeit one other countries do much more efficiently with trains—that keeps our system functioning. There’s a bunch of red tape and regulations the truckers must adhere to, such as staying in the right hand land and not speeding excessively.
If the right lane only consisted of truckers things would work pretty well. They tend to go an appropriate speed and have a greater awareness of traffic safety than most. The truck drivers are the “it’s the economy, stupid,” Democrats. Not here for culture wars or high-minded theories of social or distributive justice, the truckers just happen to know that “supply-side” economics doesn’t work and neither does perpetual tax cuts or ￼deregulation. They’re in the right hand land because if they go to the left lane things will break down and chaos will ensue.
Unfortunately, they have to share the lane with some annoying characters. For example, the elderly. They represent, well, the elderly. The elderly tend to be in this lane because they are keenly aware that they may get themselves killed by switching lanes. Only one lane has medicare. Besides, they’ve been around enough to know that going fast in the left lane doesn’t actually get you places that much faster. It just uses more gas and wears out your car. Not all elderly drivers are annoying, but you don’t really notice the ones who just cruise along at a decent speed minding their own business in the right lane.
That’s not to say that the left lane is free of old people. Far from it. Old people who have lost their minds veer into the left lane all the time. They’re easy to spot because they still have their turn signal on and maintain a steady speed of twenty miles per hour under the speed limit. They will swerve about and terrify everyone on the road. These tiny hunched over hazards mutter about weird conspiracies and, if you honk at them or make some sort of gesture they actually notice, they’ll respond with some incoherent racist rejoinder.
Back to the right lane. Stoners are in the right lane but that’s just for obvious reasons that are not particularly interesting. It’s nice that they’re smart enough to stay out of the left lane but they drive too slow even for the right lane and tend to hold everyone else up.
Despite the annoyances caused by semi-trucks, old people, and stoners, the most hated occupants on the road are the obsessive law-abiders. Oftentimes they can be identified by their bumper stickers reminding you to “click it or ticket” or to “look for motorcycles.” These drivers will cruise control their vehicles at precisely the speed limit, seemingly unaware that speedometers aren’t accurate and err on the side of slow (that’s the real reason you never get pulled over going 10 over).
Obsessive law-abiders are so preoccupied with being right and rubbing everyone’s face in it that everyone just hates them on principle. No, you don’t need to turn on your hazard lights whenever rain exceeds a light drizzle. No, you don’t need to get over for that car on the shoulder that’s obviously abandoned. No, you don’t need to stay three car lengths away from the vehicle in front of you. They take every rule to an illogical extreme, imposing their correctness on everyone else on the road. These are the culture warriors of the left. They’re so obsessed with political correctness that they forgot that the purpose of highways is to get somewhere efficiently.
￼The obsessive law-abiders drive a lot of people to the left lane, but unfortunately the left lane is home to the outright dangerous drivers. Many are drivers who believe that the only appropriate speed is “faster than everyone else.” These Ricky Bobby characters are our libertarians. Despite what the law says, they’ll defend their right to drive as fast as their vehicle can go by just doing it. They also don’t really give a shit about what these lanes are for. They know the left is the passing lane and will generally stay there, but if you’re in their way they will quickly pass you on the right. When they do slow down, you know that their phone has alerted them to an upcoming speed trap. At this point they slam on their brakes and veer into the right lane, briefly pretending to be a sane driver until the cop disappears in their rear view mirror.
Even more dangerous than the libertarians are the “Jesus take the wheel” drivers. They usually hang out in the left lane just to avoid the undesirable right lane drivers, but this crowd has no consistency with their speed. Sometimes they go crazy fast. Sometimes they go slow. For these drivers, it’s all a matter of preference. After all, it’s God’s law, not man’s law, that really matters. They frequently don’t wear seat belts (or, in newer cars, have the belt bucked behind them) and do not care about traffic safety in the least bit. After all, if they die in a massive pileup that claims dozens of innocent lives, it’s all “God’s will.” It doesn’t matter if they’re being selfish because they believe in God and that’s all that matters. This is the only group of drivers I have mentioned who transcend the metaphor. These evangelical Christian drivers are literally our evangelical Christian voters.
The maximally dangerous terrors of the road are the drivers who are just plain stupid. They do not know that the left hand lane is for passing. They just sit in it and go slow. But if you go to pass one of these assholes, they will speed up. Not enough to actually justify being in the left lane, but enough that someone won’t be able to pass them on the right. It’s like they want you to be next to them or in their blind spot. There’s no logical reason for this. These drivers will widely modulate their speed, slowing down to text or tweet and then speeding up when they’re done. These are the MAGA crowd.
The MAGA crowd consists of individuals who barely passed their driving exam and probably shouldn’t have a license. Despite the crazy speeds of the libertarians, the MAGA drivers are the ones who cause the most accidents. They don’t know how to merge, they don’t use turn signals, and it has never occurred to them that rain and snow might cause them to lose traction. At times these drivers may appear to be drunk. Oftentimes, they are drunk. They have engaged with a system they fundamentally don’t understand and endanger everyone as a result.
Where does this leave sane drivers? Well, you have to sort of switch lanes all the time in an attempt to stay away from the worst offenders of the road. If you see a libertarian ￼blazing up behind you get over to the right and let them pass. If you see a obsessive law-abider just get over to the left and pass them and don’t let them annoy you too much. If you see a MAGA moron, your best bet is to turn into a temporary libertarian. Go as fast as you can to get around them and do whatever it takes.