One year ago, I worked with a group of Australian environmental activists, discussing their diverse projects in regenerative agriculture, as well as other pilot projects. One involved turning Canberra into the first green-energy city. Now, 12 months later, Canberra is in flames. One of my colleagues has lost his home. He posts about what it’s like to live with the heat, dust and risk of fires spreading. At this writing, his city is on alert for out-of-control blazes and possible evacuation orders.
For me, this is a stark reminder that the outcome of the Democratic primary, which begins today, will affect not only our country, but the world. The next U.S. president will determine the outcome of two things: the viability of global democracies, and the future habitability of the earth.
Yet the lens through which many people view our society and political options is myopic.
For example, many people say that they “love” climate activist Greta Thunberg. They are thrilled that she gained entrée to the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and talk tough to the world’s biggest perpetrators of climate destruction. But many of these same admirers turn around and vote to empower politicians who compromise with fossil fuel companies, thus perpetuating the abusive system Thunberg decries.
People are able to do this without much reflection because the red-blue terminology and parties (1) don’t acknowledge that all of us participate in the harmful system, and (2) actively deter us from crucially needed climate action by pushing other priorities — some overt, such as defeating Donald Trump, and some covert, such as maintaining their own status above all else.
Thunberg, the Australian crisis, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Sunrise Movement and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change all tell us that compromise on climate is no longer feasible.
Yet American politicians place voters in a classic double bind. The false choice is that we either vote for climate or against Trump.
This sleight of hand begins with attempting to exclude Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the one candidate who could defeat Trump while championing climate. Exclude Sanders, and there is no other candidate who delivers on both goals. A perusal of the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund’s Environmental Voter Guide shows that the other candidates either are problematic on climate or their ability to win the election is uncertain.
Candidates whose climate plan is inadequate include Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigeig and Andrew Yang.
Candidates whose climate plan is unknown or uncertain include Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg.
Candidates who are borderline or lower in winning percentages against Trump include Biden, Klobuchar, Buttigeig, Yang, Bloomberg, Warren and Tom Steyer.
Poll after poll shows Sanders defeating Trump by the highest margins. Yet despite the horrors Trump has perpetrated, news reporting ignores this obvious fact. Democrats tie themselves (and us) into knots, pretending we have a problem. The only problem we have is how they tell their funders that democracy must prevail.
Democrats are likely to continue to blame their inevitable loss to Trump on young voters, the oppressed and activists. If they run a centrist, their loss is a near certainty, because independent voters (45% of the population) see what compromisers can’t — that the double bind is a fraud. That is why a segment of that population is likely to vote for Sanders — unless the Democratic colluders conspire to make that impossible.
The uncertain climate plans of Bloomberg and Warren bear close scrutiny.
That Bloomberg is allowed to enter the race, evade the primaries and use his money to appeal to voters via direct ads in key states is a top-down bypass of democracy that unmasks the Democrats’ debate-primary process as a sham. While entrapped within the red-blue mentality, it’s hard for people to see this as an abuse of democracy, even as Bloomberg uses paid media to recruit vulnerable members of society, without any transparency about his plans for the environment. This is supposedly justified by the need to oppose Trump. But replacing one guy who plays only by his own rules with another who is above democracy perpetuates the abusive system. It’s a classic mistake for victims to send a predator to protect them from another predator.
In an increasingly authoritarian society, some people embrace authoritarianism, some compromise with it and some vigorously oppose it and seek to change our system. It’s vital to consider where the people we vote for — and where we ourselves — stand.
All politicians represent the power axis with whom they’re allied. “With whom is Elizabeth Warren now allied?” is the unspoken question raised by the Jan. 14th debate. Climate concerns dictate that we ask it.
In families hurt by abuse, there are always secrets, things no one is allowed to talk about and questions no one can ask. The same is true in abusive societies.
In the aftermath of the Jan. 14 debate, voters may have shelved their questions, hoping that Sanders and Warren would maintain their one-time progressive alliance. Perhaps that will happen. But with the future of the earth at stake, voters can’t afford to act as children who naively hope that their divorcing parents will stay together. Apart from taking Sanders’ arm at the photo-op march on Martin Luther King Day, Warren has not clarified her position.
Her low to moderate polling numbers make it unlikely she will be the nominee on her own. She will likely have to team up with either the leading progressive or a Wall Street-backed corporatist.
For progressives, winning the nomination on the first ballot to avoid a brokered convention is a must. If the superdelegates and the Democratic National Committee players (named to key committees by DNC Chair Tom Perez) were to take over in later ballots, they would likely anoint one of the many centrist climate temporizers as the nominee.
It is vital, therefore, for primary voters to know whether Warren is still allied with progressives. Remember: It’s one thing to call oneself a progressive and it’s another to ally with fellow progressive candidates, including the undisputed front-runner.
At the Jan. 14 debate, rather than raise questions about Biden’s record, Warren chose to confront the progressive candidate, not the corporatist. It’s certainly her right to do that, and even to change her alliances if she chooses.
But voters have the right to know where she stands: with progressives or corporatists? It’s (perhaps unintentionally) duplicitous not to reveal a shift toward the corporate wing prior to a convention controlled by that wing.
Warren speaks a lot about her plans. What is her plan for the convention?
Most importantly, what will be her stance on climate change if she allies with centrists?
Warren’s die-hard supporters may wrongly assume that their values will be carried forward in all circumstances, and the question becomes most germane around climate. The Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund’s Environmental Voter Guide gives Sanders’ climate plan an A+ and Warren’s an A-.
According to the guide, Sanders’ backing of the Green New Deal “remains the gold standard for addressing climate change.”
In contrast, Warren plans to “end all new federal fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters,” with no phase-out of fossil fuel production. What part of that commitment will hold if, for example, a brokered convention results in Warren joining a ticket with Biden (who gets a C- rating on climate) or Klobuchar (who rates a D+) in the top seat?
Even if Warren were to be offered the top seat in a later ballot at a brokered convention, what backstage compromises on her climate plan might that entail?
Without transparency, we are supposed to trust a personality, act as though nothing has changed, and provide our vote. After months of debates and campaign events, voters are still in the dark.
AOC, Thunberg and the Sunrise Movement are there to remind us not to gamble our future on false hopes that compromisers will save us. Beginning today, Americans have a choice. It’s LemmingsRUs or NotMeUs. Which will it be?Print