Sacramento Bee Slams Valley Republican HSR Opposition
By Robert Cruickshank
Central Valley Republicans Kevin McCarthy and Jeff Denham have been leading a renewed attack in Congress on the California high speed rail project in recent weeks. McCarthy's hometown paper, the Bakersfield Californian, has already editorialized that electeds should support HSR. Now they're joined by the Sacramento Bee:
No place in California stands to reap the rewards of high-speed rail more than the San Joaquin Valley.
That is why the opposition of U.S. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, is so puzzling.
As the site of the state's only major north-south highways (Interstate 5 and Highway 99), some of the worst air quality in the nation, poverty and rapid loss of farmland to sprawling urban development, high-speed rail can improve quality of life in a number of ways.
Relieving traffic congestion on roads and at airports. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions - including net zero emissions during construction. Providing better connections with the coastal economies. Focusing development around rail stations and existing communities, rather than sprawling into farmland.
McCarthy and Denham should stop Republicans in the nation's capital from treating the San Joaquin Valley as "nowheresville" - though its eight counties are home to 4 million people, a population larger than half of the states in the nation.
Perhaps McCarthy and Denham believe that their seats are so safe that they need not fear voter backlash for their efforts to keep Valley unemployment high and deny their constituents a much needed major infrastructure project that can provide the basis for economic growth many decades into the future. Or maybe they just don't care about the economic prospects for their constituents.
Either way, McCarthy and Denham are risking a backlash. In today's California, Republicans are vulnerable in places they never expected to have to defend. McCarthy and Denham have sold out their constituents' needs to the national far-right. That opens them up to a challenge, either from a Democrat or a more moderate Republican. For example, Fresno is full of Republicans who support high speed rail. Such Republicans exist elsewhere in the Valley as well, and a strong challenge from the center to McCarthy or Denham's extremism could weaken either member of Congress.
It is significant that key institutions in the Central Valley are turning away from and rejecting McCarthy and Denham's destructive approach to representing them in Congress.
Robert Cruickshank writes on California politics at Calitics and California High Speed Rail Blog. This article was originally published at California High Speed Rail Blog.