What is a “Tesla Liberal”?
How can you spot them?
Remember the old “limousine liberals”?
The slur was coined not by a Republican, but a 1969 New York City Democratic mayoral primary candidate from the Bronx, Mario Procaccino, to insult his Liberal Party opponent, John Lindsey.
Procaccino characterized “what he and his largely white ethnic following from the ‘outer boroughs’ considered the repellent hypocrisy of elitists like Lindsay: well-heeled types who championed the cause of the poor, especially the black poor, but who had no intention of bearing the costs of doing anything about their plight,” as Time magazine once described.
Moreover, “They were … insulated from any real contact with poverty, crime, and the everyday struggle to get by, living in their exclusive neighborhoods, sending their children to private prep schools, sheltering their capital gains and dividends from the tax man, and getting around town in limousines, not subway cars.”
That was a long time ago.
Today, elitist, well-heeled liberal types only take gas-guzzling, climate-destroying, greedy capitalist limousines to the Oscars. Or to their private equity, venture capital, or political consulting firms, or private airports to Gulfstream to their far-flung luxury vacation homes.
But being climate “woke,” these wealthy liberals who are sensitive to hypocrisy at least perform shame, like Bill Maher admitting he needs to travel by climate-denial private jet for the important business of comedy gigs.
In any case, the species limousine liberales is becoming extinct, replaced by tesla liberales, or “Tesla Liberals.”
While Tesla Liberals are far less common than their chief predators, superbe contemni faciens American magna adhuc, or Proudly Despicable MAGAs, they’re also easy to spot:
- They love ethnically diverse cities, but mostly live in the largely White wards. Some live in the non-White wards they’re gentrifying. Many, after having children, will move to the horrible ‘burbs for a bigger home for less money and taxes and better public schools. Like Republicans.
- Speaking of schools, Tesla Liberals love the idea of public education, and hate the Republican idea of publicly funded school choice. Yet leverage every connection to get their kids into costly elite urban private schools (~$200,000+ for high school). Even the amazing public schools they support in their White wards aren’t good enough for their amazing children.
- Answering the Tesla Liberal demands, the costly elite urban private schools brand as the most climate-woke on the planet. They teach kids how to be like Greta Thunberg and leverage the awesome power of youth to fight the climate apocalypse. Even though relatively few youth actually vote when they can (typically 20% v. 40–50–60% like their parents and grandparents). Meanwhile, their costly elite climate-woke private-school parents line up in giant gas-guzzling Republican-esque Range Rovers and other $100,000+ luxury SUVs to drop them off and pick them up, in spite of the traffic and climate impact and plenty of public transit, bike lanes, carpool opportunities and — gasp! — sidewalks.
- Tesla Liberals hate capitalism. Yet only thanks to capitalism (legacy and/or otherwise) can they afford to live in their costly White urban wards that have vastly more education, income, and wealth than America at large. And while they don’t live at all like America at large, they get to wonk policy for America at large.
- Tesla Liberals are easy to spot when driving a Tesla, which says: a) you’re a successful yet conscientious capitalist; b) you’re not wealth- and virtue-preening, how dare you infer; c) you’re morally superior to the liberal capitalist school parents in their Range Rovers; and, d) your Tesla balances off the climate impact of your giant home and also children.
- Not all Tesla drivers are Tesla Liberals, however. Just slightly more Democrats than Republicans (22% v. 17%) are considering one, a recent Morning Consult poll cited by CNN Business found. Perhaps it’s the Musk Twitter Factor: Democrats now hate him and Republicans now love him.
- Tesla Liberals hate racism. They put up BLM signs. They’re DEI, CSR, and ESG-trained, certified, and committed to equity and equality for their mission, vision and values. So of course they oppose racial exclusion, like the old redlining zoning laws that kept Black people out to “preserve the character of the community.” Yet the Tesla Liberals bitterly fight, nitpick, pound their facts, law and the table, and pull every process lever to squelch a Black city mayor’s affordable housing plan that would bring a few new apartment buildings into their White “village in the city.” Why? To “preserve the character of the community.”
Tesla Liberalism says you really can have it all — being rich and righteous — by turning the selfish into selfless, sharing how you care more about children, climate, communities, and humanity than those rapacious greedy Range Rover Republicans.
But before sneering at conservative suburban Whites, my fellow Tesla Libs, let’s consider coming clean: We all just want to protect what’s ours.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.