Politics and the bus

It’s a long and storied relationship between buses and politics.

Back in 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus to a white person and it kicked off a boycott that lasted more than a year. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled that segregation on the bus system was unconstitutional and the rest, as they say, is history.

Throwing people under the bus is a time-honored political metaphor and there is almost always some of that going on.

Anyway, what got me thinking about this is that I noticed that Congressman Sean Duffy’s “mobile office” has gone a bit more anonymous lately. When it was originally rolled out, it featured his name and a House of Representatives seal displayed prominently on the side. Here’s a picture.

Now, the name and the congressional seal are gone. Of course, it’s still got the fancy paint job, which was something that I found kind of odd when I first saw it. Government vehicles tend to be rather generic looking and exclusive of any kind of ornamentation. This one is festooned with a scene of the U.S. Capitol, red white and blue flaggy-type stuff, etc. Take a look at the nameless version.

I’m not sure how I feel about this kind of thing. Duffy is a Member of Congress and so there is no point in trying to hide it. He holds the office to represent the people. On the other hand, I’m not sure if the taxpayers should be footing the bill for a traveling billboard. It might be fine if the campaign was doing that – and maybe that’s what is happening.

Still, how does one allocate the “official business” part from the campaigning part? The rollout announcement made no bones about this being a constituent service effort. If there is a crossover between campaigning and official business, it seems like one function or the other has to be getting a free ride, at least part of the time. It also opens the door for a lot of ambiguity about role and function — not just for the vehicle, but for the people riding around in it (for which there seems to be a lot more capacity than would normally ever be necessary.) I’m not sure where the idea for this thing came from, but if you like the motif, here’s an Americans for Prosperity van — a right-wing Koch-sponsored group headed by former Duffy staffer Matt Seaholm. (Appropriately, it’s a Mercedes.)

For whatever it’s worth, Duffy’s bus still has a “Dealer” plate on it – not “U.S. Government.” We’ll see how that ends up.

Duffy’s spokesperson at the time of the rollout pointed out that the lease of $1,350 per month was less than the cost of establishing a permanent office somewhere. Beyond the fact that the lease is only part of the cost – a vehicle of this type gets 9 to11 miles per gallon, for example — was that really the choice? Ever wonder why we phased out bookmobiles? Does anyone think that a vehicle of this sort would have been chosen as the most efficient way to get the job done if the traveling murals were prohibited?

What makes sense is to skip the dedicated tour bus with its custom paint job (or screen printed wrapper.) Hold office hours at town halls, public libraries, county offices or wherever – neutral, public facilities that feature handy things like restrooms, broadband access, places for conversations about personal situations without evacuating your bus and climate control that you don’t have to idle your engine to make work. Drive between these stops in something that gets decent gas mileage. Choosing a least-cost option is consistent with being a deficit hawk and voting for stuff like Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan (or just being cost-conscious, in general.) In the meantime, this choice gives a whole new meaning to the “Roll with Sean” campaign slogan.

JR

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10 Responses to “Politics and the bus”

  1. Jim Jim Jim…

    Now is not the time for rational thinking…..

  2. Andy Bartlett Says:

    FYI, any intricate “paint job” you see on a vehicle that’s been done in the last 10yrs is a vinyl wrap. They print out the designs and stick them on like a sticker at the fraction of the cost of a real paint job. Also, the “decadent” M-B Sprinter you’re alluding to and have pictured is actually a very spartan, utilitarian cargo van very similar to the vans offered by Ford and Chevy. I suspect you already know these things though, but you just wanted to take some easy cheap shots.

    You know why AFP has a Sprinter? Because it has a diesel that gets better gas mileage than gas engines. You guys are all for that right? Global warming, no blood for oil, and all the rest of those bumper sticker chants. Well, I’m sure AFP would’ve bought a fuel efficient American made van if one existed, but they don’t because the Big 3 wont build them because of overbearing emission regulations. You leftys are real geniuses.

  3. Thanks for the input. I don’t believe I used the word “decadent,” so I’m not sure why you put it in quotes. This piece really isn’t about paint jobs (or wrappers) as much as it is about image, using government resources cost-effectively and having an adequate firewall between campaign activities and official business for people who hold elected office. As for “you guys” and ‘lefty’ generalizations, I’ll pass on that.

  4. Andy Bartlett Says:

    OK, then maybe you can elaborate on the meaning of “(Appropriately, it’s a Mercedes.)”?

  5. Andy Bartlett Says:

    Fine, hide out if you choose.

    You’re main topic of debate had validity, but as is the current fad with lefty blogs you veer off course and take cheap shots.

    Duffy’s bus, if that’s what was pictured, is at least 10yrs old. That style of Chevy/GMC hasn’t been produced since 2001, evidenced by the front end styling. Leasing that type of vehicle is consistent with Duffy’s desire to cut spending. Obviously, 10ry old vehicles are rather cheap.

    As far as the line between constituent services and a campaigning asset- I don’t know all the details surrounding the bus and how it’s operated. One thing’s for sure, without a doubt, office space in the beltway far exceeds $1400 per month, even if you add gas and insurance to the tab.

    So, you watered down your main point with cheap shots- just admit it. You questioned whether taxpayer money is being wasted and mentioned paint jobs four times in your piece as means to back up your claim. You also threw in an unwarranted dig at AFP to appeal to the sheep in the lefty base you hope to attract. What did AFP’s Sprinter have to do with the point you were trying to make?

    I’m going to be calling out these blatant twistings of reality, and inaccurate insinuations of soaring proportions from here on out. The twisting and potshots from the left need to be exposed.

  6. We’re not talking about office space in the beltway. We’re talking about arguably unnecessary “office space” here, in central and northern Wisconsin. The age of the vehicle and the cost of the exterior treatment are all but immaterial because we know the monthly cost of the lease (and I would presume that includes the paint, plastic wrapping, or whatever.) If it’s at least 10 years old, as you say, others may know if that’s a fair lease rate. We also know that there are additional operating costs.

    The point is whether or not it is primarily about having taxpayers sponsor a mobile billboard — (if that is what’s happening) — and if that is legitimate (if that is what’s happening.) I also note that the identifying information — the Congressman’s name, etc., have now been removed. Since somebody just recently applied and then removed them, there must be a reason. (I make no claim of knowing what it is.) Specs for most federal vehicles tend to be rather specific and rather bland. Some of that is because they are often pooled — an option that is certainly diminished or ruled out by personalized exterior treatments.

    I’m happy to point out the similarity in the style of the exterior treatment with the Americans for Prosperity vehicle and the fact that a former staff member of Congressman Duffy’s is now state director of AFP. I think that connection is worth noting (whether or not it has anything to do with the “mobile office” exterior treatment or not — and let’s just say, for laughs, that it doesn’t.)

    Twisted reality? You don’t seem to even be able to accept actual photographs (“if that’s what’s pictured.”) So go ahead and slay those lefty dragons, but I’m thinking that at least on this blog, you might enjoy the occasional recipes. 🙂

  7. Andy Bartlett Says:

    Sorry, didn’t know the bus was in his district. Questionable use, I agree. I think it’s appropriate he took his name and lettering off for sake of seperation between campaign/service use. Good thing it was low cost stickers. Clearly it’s a debateable issue. Whats not is your cheap shots. Are you finally going to quit dodging the question and elaborate on what “(appropriately it’s a Mercedes)” means?

  8. No, I’m not. I think most people probably get the joke. 😉

  9. Roy Meyer Says:

    Perhaps the next time Paul Ryan is in Duffy’s area he can pop for a $350.00 bottle of wine when they meet in the “mobile office”…or does he only indulge in such fashion in Washington? And no,this is definitely not a “cheap shot”…that’s what working stiffs in Wisconsin get at the bars.

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    on a daily basis. It’s always exciting to read through articles from other writers and practice something from
    their sites.

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