There is so much noise in politics. Some politicians — and perhaps even some political parties — live on that noise. The United States has a horrible voter turnout rate.
Only about 57% of eligible voters voted in the 2016 election. That serves some candidates, and seemingly the Republican Party as a whole, because if all of the remaining 43% voted, they would have swung some elections the other way. Indeed, the whole negative, drag-people-down campaigning style many politicians and parties use is specifically aimed at keeping voters away from the polls. Additionally, the Republican Party has demonstrated in numerous cases that it is extremely eager to limit voting and make it harder.
Among the 57% of eligible voters who voted in 2016, many were of course only moderately informed. Ask voters about details on any particular matter and you are likely to get blank stares or bull shitting. This is why being friendly, funny, warm, and entertaining is so important in campaigning — because that’s what a bunch of people vote on, especially swing voters.
One “interesting” thing about US politics is there are many issues in which the American people are clearly on one side — renewable energy, specific gun control laws, electric vehicles, and more — yet Congress won’t act on. In particular, the Republican Party blocks action on all of those issues. People who don’t understand politics are right o be confused about that. If 80% of the population supports something, why can’t Congress vote it into law? But one of the things that matters most in US politics is money — in particular, political donations. While the US public would love support for more clean energy, more zero-emission electric cars, cleaner air, and protection of our shared natural resources, fossil fuel industries are not on the same page. Importantly, fossil fuel industries almost completely support Republican candidates.
The following two charts from Open Secrets show how much oil, gas, and coal companies supported Republican candidates and conservative groups (red bars) versus Democratic candidates and progressive groups (blue bars, if you can find them) in 2015–2016.
When your party so heavily benefits from a certain dirty industry, and especially in such a lopsided way (it’s actually hard or perhaps even impossible to find industries as lopsided as this), it’s clear what your political party’s mission is when it comes to energy — support polluting fossil fuels as much as possible.
The Green New Deal — which of course isn’t a specific policy proposal, simply a broad vision of how the US should live up to its duties on a topic that threatens the future of human society — actually has broad support of Americans. If you explain it to them, it’s completely logical and easy to get behind.
That’s why it gets attacked so vociferously by the political right wing. It is a threat to polluting energy sources and people like it — people like the idea of clean energy, clean air, clean water, and a more pleasant and livable future with a higher quality of life.
Democrats largely know (finally!) that this topic is a good wedge issue. It’s not something to hide, because people support it — across the aisle. Republican political and media leaders want to change that.
Republican leaders are working day and night to smear the Green New Deal, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), because they know that if they don’t do so it will be very popular — and it will make their fossil energy donors very upset.
The sad thing is that many people in the United States just take at face value that if “their people” are attacking something, it’s for good reason. In actuality, “their people” might be attacking something for very bad reasons.
Now, there is one more matter. There is genuinely a theoretical debate about how best to green the country, which policies would be most effective and most beneficial for the country in a broad spectrum of ways. Some ideas focus on more of a top-down, heavy-government approach and some ideas focus more on a market-driven, capitalistic approach. That’s not what this matter is about.
The fight as it is today is simply about fighting progress versus fighting for our future. Again, there is no specific policy up for debate here, just a vision for a better country and world.
The Democratic Party actually moved all the way to the right on environmental/climate matters over the years. It started adopting and proposing more market-based policies. It adopted and proposed grand policies that were originally thought up and proposed by Republicans! That’s when the reality hit many people in the face. It’s not the solutions to the problem that upset powerful Republican politicians and donors — it’s that they don’t want to see the problem solved at all.
Once Democrats moved to the right and adopted Republicans policies as solutions to our climate crisis, Republicans bought by fossil fuel industries had nowhere smart to go. The only thing they could do was start spreading misinformation and lies in order to scare their voters away from the truth of the core solutions — or at least make them so confused that they stayed away from the topic as much as possible. These pollution-bought politicians and talking heads complicate the matter in order to stop the country from acting.
Unfortunately, the base matters are super simple:
- Pollution costs the United States hundreds of billions of dollars a year, including countless premature deaths and horrible illnesses and suffering.
- Fossil fuels aren’t even cost-competitive any longer in much of the market.
- Fossil fuels continue to get ginormous subsidies from the US government — the epitome of harmful, stifling, costly government subsidies.
- We are heating up the Earth’s climate so quickly that we may not be able to stop the runaway heating and society-collapsing consequences in a few short years (12 years by some counts).
- There are ways to quicken our inevitable transition to clean technology (solar energy, wind energy, and electric vehicles). But Republican politicians are blocking those solutions.
I wish we could have a real debate about policy options in which the Republican Party was earnestly at the table trying to solve a critical problem. Unfortunately, the Republican Party is owned by polluting fossil fuel industries on essentially all energy matters.
If you like video, and if you want to see what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is really like in a detailed discussion of these topics, below are a handful of videos from a Green New Deal town hall hosted by MSNBC and Chris Hayes. Enjoy.
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