There was an article from The Wall Street Journal making the rounds today that literally made me facepalm in response to its many oversimplifications and errs. Accordingly, I would like to summarize the points it alleged and what exactly it got wrong. The point the article alleged was that Republicans were starting to find a home in the ride-sharing app Uber, which also evidently moonlights as a startup taxi company. Sagacious followers of this site will be familiar with Uber, which (along with Lyft) is trying to enter the marketplace right now as the City grapples with possibly reforming taxi regulation laws. I, of course, have a fairly strong opinion on that underlying issue, but that does not belong in this piece. Simply put, the Journal article makes the straw-man argument that Uber is simply about regulation and free market reforms, with Republicans standing to possibly benefit from young people.
The big issue with this, of course, is that it makes the assumption that the frustratingly diametric and polarized political system of Washington DC translates into municipalities, which, of course, is where these Uber debates are being held. National Republicans do not really stand to gain much of anything from this issue, because there is little the Federal Government can do, as these rules governing taxis or otherwise transportation are mostly left to States and cities. In Texas, specifically, to the latter.
I will be the first to admit that I am not familiar with the complex nuances of the Uber debate in other cities throughout the country, but even the Journal article notes that Democrats are quite strongly pushing Uber in such cities as Columbus, Miami and Nashville. However, I want to speak for a little while on the specific circumstances of Houston.
Democrats, specifically a lot of yuppies (or “Ubertarians,” if you will), have been big proponents of Uber this far in Houston. Just off the top of my head, a likely candidate for Mayor expressed strong support for deregulation of the taxi industry and for Uber; a liberal Democrat candidate, for the record. Charles Kuffner, of Off the Kuff fame and accord, who I consider a pragmatic Democrat but many on the right accuse of being to the left of Lenin, is also a somewhat reliable supporter of Uber.
Perhaps more importantly, the conservatives at the municipal level have not been very enthusiastic supporters of Uber. Councilmember Oliver Pennington, a prominent conservative, recently penned a scathing op-ed in the Houston Chronicle against the proposed reforms. Other Republicans have also remained skeptical of the program.
Finally, and perhaps this is a point that goes without saying, but I cannot help but openly laugh at the suggestion that otherwise left-of-center young people will be drawn to vote for the Republican Party because of Uber. First off, Uber is a very low-profile niche issue. In current places of dispute on the matter, such as Houston, only the well-read, well-traveled and well-bequeathed will have heard of this app. The vast majority of young people have no idea, nor do they care about something that is openly advertised towards rich New York businessmen. The ones that do, simply put, probably have enough political convictions to not be swayed to ditch their other political convictions because of that issue alone.
At least, I would hope there are not any young Democrats who would support a national party openly anathema to their social values because of a car service. Crazier things have happened, I suppose.