Bernie Sanders, despite no Big Money backing and essentially no backing from establishment politicians in Democratic leadership positions, gave Hillary Clinton a serious run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. The grassroots support for Bernie across the nation was record-shattering and a shocker for many people in and outside of establishment politics.
Naturally, despite the eventual loss, Bernie Sanders and his yuge number of supporters expect better representation in the Democratic Platform after this surprising success. One step toward that was that Bernie got to select 5 delegates to help craft the new Platform, while 6 came from Hillary and the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, selected another 4.
The Democratic Platform is a comprehensive document that is supposed to guide the Democratic Party’s policy focus. While Bernie’s delegates don’t represent a majority (which is obviously reasonable) and can’t push through anything they want (which is reasonable), they do represent 1/3 of the group crafting the Platform and are very important to its creation. Bernie’s delegates have already “won” a number of progressive inclusions, relating to minimum wage, the earned income tax credit, breaking up the banks Glass-Steagall style, social security, immigration, and criminal justice reform.
As you surely noticed, there is nothing in there about climate and energy. Did Bernie not appoint a cleantech champion as a delegate? Of course he did. He actually appointed Bill McKibben, the well known journalist-turned-activist who initiated 350.org. Bill, apparently, isn’t very happy with how the discussions have been going, and he published an article this week on POLITICO that goes into some of the details. From that:
We spent two weeks listening to powerful testimony from citizens around the country, and then on Friday in St. Louis we started taking votes.
And it was there that the essential dynamic quickly emerged. The Clinton campaign was ready to acknowledge serious problems: We need fair trade policy, inequality is a horrible problem, and unchecked climate change will wreck the planet. But when it came to specific policy changes, they often balked. Amendments against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and backing Medicare for all failed, with all the Clinton delegates voting against.
At which point we got (about 11 p.m., in a half-deserted hotel ballroom) to the climate section of the platform, and that’s where things got particularly obvious. We all agreed that America should be operating on 100 percent clean energy by 2050, but then I proposed, in one amendment after another, a series of ways we might actually get there. A carbon tax? Voted down 7-6 (one of the DNC delegates voted with each side). A ban on fracking? Voted down 7-6. An effort to keep fossils in the ground, at least on federal land? Voted down 7-6. A measure to mandate that federal agencies weigh the climate impact of their decisions? Voted down 7-6. Even a plan to keep fossil fuel companies from taking private land by eminent domain, voted down 7-6. (We did, however, reach unanimous consent on more bike paths!)
Bernie himself highlighted the votes against a carbon tax and a ban on fracking in a press release published a day before Bill’s article.
While I love the idea of more bike paths (my master’s degree thesis called for precisely that — particularly, aesthetically pleasant and well designed ones), that’s a rather easy thing to support. And the point Bill is making is that the Democratic establishment is happy to support vague, feelgood targets that we are supposed to achieve over the course of decades, but is not willing to do the hard work that connects the dots and make those targets a reality.
I’m sure there will be debate on this — and, yes, I would have preferred that the delegates push for a carbon fee & dividend, and carbon pricing isn’t an absolute solution — but some of those policy suggestions are downright obvious things the Democratic Party (and Republican Party) should support. The idea that we can’t stop the raping of our world via fossil fuel extraction and burning, the idea that we have to pursue an “all of the above” energy strategy, the idea that we will somehow make more progress by going against the wishes of the majority of the population isn’t just wrong — it paves the highway that would lead to runaway global warming and society-demolishing climate change.
Democratic voters are a bit tired of the weak approach to energy topics that basically involves trying to get a few morsels of bread to survive on while we hope that fossil fuel and related industries crush themselves. It is not a political strategy I support, and I think it is one the Democratic Party should have evolved beyond a couple of decades ago.
How does the Democratic Party intend to do its part to keep global warming below 2°C (while praying that is adequate to stop runaway global warming and society-demolishing climate change)? Why can the party leadership not agree that fossil fuels shouldn’t be taken from public lands? Why can it not agree that federal agencies should consider the climate impacts of their own decisions and policies? Why can it not agree to the obvious — that we need to put a price on carbon?
I don’t think it is entirely corruption. I think that’s a small portion of the problem on the Democratic side — I mean, just look at where fossil fuel bribes (er, political donations) are funneled:
No, I think the issue is primarily weakness and faulty logic. I think the Democratic establishment is concerned that strong statements about global warming, for clean energy, and against pollution will scare away centrist voters. It’s an absurd idea, in my opinion, since poll after poll shows that the majority is eager for the government to provide cleantech support, and Democrats who have run campaigns with strong climate- and energy-related stances have overwhelmingly won their races.
The Tea Party didn’t grow to become such an influential hand on Republican and overall American policies by being weak and waiting for the other side to just come over to their table. Franklin Delano Roosevelt isn’t remembered as one of the strongest and best presidents in US history because of a “let’s hold hands and ‘run in all directions’ policy agendas,” nor is Abraham Lincoln.
On the plus side, President Obama has been making stronger and stronger statements and commitments regarding the climate and cleantech. But we need a lot more than that. We need Hillary Clinton’s delegates, supporters, allies, and White House administration to put in a serious effort to transition us quickly to clean energy and clean transportation.
Push on your representatives and national leaders to fight for civilization rather than a lemming parade off a dinosaur-age cliff.