Here’s the cold, alarming truth: neither of the two big-party candidates running for president cares about your car. Not the one with the emails or the anthropomorphic cheese log with a crush on Vladimir Putin. Neither has mentioned anything about the things gearheads care about, like import car laws or repealing the Chicken Tax. That’s why I have a plan. We need a Gearhead Party.
Unlike the Republicans and Democrats, or even the lesser parties and the weirdos who advocate for them, the Gearhead Party’s only focus is on issues that affect our love and appreciation for cars.
We’re not going to touch any of the big, trickier problems here: leave that crap to the other parties. Those issues have plenty of attention. What has very little attention are the desires and rights of patriotic citizens who reek of gas and oil; the great, dirty-fingernail’d mass of upright, moral citizens who just happen to love that most human, most noble product of human hands, the automobile.
It’s time our voices were heard.
While I don’t have some tedious, flowery manifesto (I’m still busy collecting blood and used motor oil to paint that on a Corvair trunk lid) I do have a platform: a dozen political goals I’d like to achieve. I also have a general statement of mission:
The Gearhead Party seeks to improve the lives of all Americans via the creation of a National Carscape and Automotive Culture that is more open, accepting, varied, and free, understanding that respect for the driver and owner and the trust in their responsible decisions will provide a safer, better, and more inspiring automotive life for every American.
Or, you know, something like that.
Here’s the Gearhead Party’s full platform, the V12 of the American Driver’s metaphorical supercar:
1. Lifting the 25-year import rule
Don’t believe anyone who tells you that the rules against importing non-U.S.-spec cars that are newer than 25 years old is about safety or emissions. If that was the issue, why would you be able to import an older car, which will absolutely be less clean and less safe?
This law was started by car companies and dealers, who want to protect not so much you, but the money that you could be giving them.
It’s a racket, and its time is over. Big carmakers aren’t going to go out of business because of a few GT-Rs, euro-spec BMWs, and some Kei cars making their way over here. And there won’t be any bloodbaths or toxic sludge monsters. Let’s get rid of this stupid rule, once and for all.
2. Repeal the Chicken Tax
Want to pick from a greater variety of trucks? Wondering why there’s no compact trucks available for sale in the U.S. anymore? Thank a bunch of fat, juicy postwar American chickens and a 1963 pissing match between America and West Germany.
In case you aren’t super into U.S. tariff law (unlikely, I know) the Chicken Tax is a 25 percent tariff on all trucks and cargo vehicles. It was instituted after World War II in response to America’s flooding the European market with cheap chickens. It was mostly targeted at Volkswagen’s Type II cargo vans and pickup trucks, which were becoming popular at the time.
That 25 percent markup is still with us to this day, long after anyone from either country remembers anything about chickens.
The Chicken Tax law has caused the U.S truck market to be artificially limited to the same few truck players without real competition. I want a small truck! Time to send cut off that chicken’s head.
3. Establishment of Safe Roadside Repair Zones
Ever had a breakdown on the highway? It can be a dangerous, harrowing experience, because many of our most congested highways don’t have shoulders that are safe enough to change a tire or even get out of your car.
I once changed a fan belt on the side of the 5 freeway in Los Angeles, and it was almost the death of my underpants. The Gearhead Party will advocate for a national program to add safe breakdown locations on highways, at intervals that make sense to pilot a crippled vehicle into.
Not every breakdown needs a tow, but they all need a safe space. The literal, not-get-hit-by-a-truck kind, not the everyone-has-the-same-ideas-as-me kind.
4. Elimination of stupid laws that give car dealers monopolies
You know all the shit Tesla gets for setting up their own car-retailing stores? Car dealers opposed this because it meant breaking their stranglehold on how cars are sold.
Car dealers have lobbied government agencies for years and years, getting laws that make things very favorable for them, and very difficult for any sort of competition. It’s a broken system, and in no way favors the consumer. It’s time the dealership monopolies get broken.
5. Raise/revisit national speed laws
Sure, there’s often very good reasons for speed limits, but there are situations and locations where things could be different. Modern cars can handle higher speeds, and there’s places in the country where these make sense. Let’s take a careful look and see what we can do.
Also, absurdly punitive speed laws, like the Virginia one that made our editor into a hardened criminal, need to be addressed, and some degree of rationality needs to be imposed.
Especially now, because we can really only run that story once.
6. Better STEM education programs, especially for poor kids in urban/rural areas
If we’re going to be an American political party dedicated to protecting citizens who love cars, we’re going to need to keep America able to build amazing cars. And that means we need smart kids to figure out how to build them.
That’s why we need better science, technology, engineering and math education for our kids, especially the ones who otherwise wouldn’t get opportunities. I’d also like to make sure there was good arts education as well, because we want our future cars to look amazing, too.
Even if the kids, somehow, don’t end up wanting to build cars, this certainly can’t hurt.
7. More funding for NASA, with much more ambitious goals
Sure, it’s not cars, but I suspect that most gearheads would be down with a NASA that’s funded well enough to have really ambitious goals: deep space exploration, asteroid mining, lunar/Mars colonies, all sorts of stuff.
Plus, NASA technologies have a habit of becoming essential mainstream technologies. This is win/win all around.
8. Severe penalties and fines for people who hang out in the passing lane doing 55 or 60
At this point, the Gearhead Party does not support capital punishment for these drivers, but we do understand the desire. Repeat offenders will be put on the National Registry of People Who Need To Get The Fuck Out of the Passing Lane, which will cause them to not be eligible for Netflix membership.
9. Programs to encourage the establishment of more easily accessible tracks and drag strips to combat street racing and related issues
Street racing is a real problem, and it kills people, most tragically those who were not even involved in the race itself.
Street racers also give real Gearheads a terrible reputation, but we do understand the desire to drive fast and push your car to its limits. Fortunately, there’s places for that off public roads, and they’re called tracks.
The Gearhead party would seek to encourage and aid the establishment of easily accessible tracks for drivers to safely push themselves and their cars. This may include lobbying for Department of Transportion-run tracks in areas with high incidents of street racing, as an alternative to expanded, more expensive, and more aggressive police patrolling.
10. Real EPA exemptions for off-road/track-only race cars
I want to be clear that the Gearhead Party is not inherently anti-EPA: we all want clean water and air, and, in some ways, the EPA has proven itself to be a positive force in the development of cars.
But we do want to avoid possible EPA bans on racecars, off-roaders, and other non-street-legal vehicles. These hobbyist and enthusiast vehicles should be exempt from EPA regulations, and the Gearhead Party will fight for your right to run your shitbox LeMons racer with straight pipes.
11. Protections for human drivers in the upcoming Age of Autonomy
It’s no secret that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, autonomous cars will become common. And, they very likely will be considered to be much safer than human-driven cars. The Gearhead Party wants to protect a citizen’s driving privileges, even when surrounded by robots.
The Gearhead Party will also seek to protect drivers from possible predatory human-driver insurance premiums, human-driving road bans, and any other ghoulish, Orwellian bullshit that may come in the wake of autonomous vehicles.
We accept that autonomous vehicles are coming; we do not accept that human driving is leaving.
12. Protections for gearheads and their rights to keep cars on their property, and work on them.
We’ve seen recently how there’s laws that prevent people from keeping collector cars in their driveways. There’s a number of similar laws to this, and while we want all Gearheads to be good neighbors and not turn communities into junkyards, people should have the right to have cars (and other vehicles) they enjoy on their property, and work on them, within reasonable limits.
The Gearhead Party will defend the right to tinker in your own home, driveway, or garage.
BONUS ONE I JUST THOUGHT OF: Open NEA grant process to include people building cars
Cars have a place in art, and I think independent automotive artists and builders should start to get respect for their work. The Gearhead Party would like to see the National Endowment for the Arts establish programs that were focused on artists using cars as a medium or inspiration.
Why not, right?
The platform can grow or change, of course, but this seems a good place to start. I think Gearhead Party affiliation can co-exist with membership in mainstream parties, since we don’t deal with trivialities like human rights issues or religion or the Constitution or any of that stuff that doesn’t have to do with cars. If you love cars, in pretty much any way, there’s a place for you here.
I’m afraid we may have to sit out this current election, since we don’t seem to have any candidates or endorsements, or, really, anything other than some ideas so far.
But who knows, maybe that’ll change? I mean, this election is shaping up to be a weird one already, right?