Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger got the stink-eye from environmentalists for promoting GM’s gas-guzzling Hummer back in the day, but my how things have changed. GM is electrifying the Hummer and everything else in its fleet, and Schwarzenegger has been focusing his media firepower on climate action. His advocacy has taken on new significance this week, in the aftermath of the attempted takeover of the US government by armed insurrectionists.
Climate Hawk Aims Arrow Of Democracy At Trump Enablers
Everyone is buzzing about a new video that Schwarzenegger circulated on Sunday, in which he excoriates Trump and his enablers in Congress, but to put that into perspective first let’s go back to January 5, one day before Trump actively incited a riot that enabled heavily armed, trained, and prepared men to storm through the Capitol Building with murderous intent.
On January 5, Schwarzenegger — who is a lifelong Republican — published an op-ed that slammed Trump for lying about the results of the 2020 General Election.
Drawing on his own experiences as child in Austria in the years following World War II, Schwarzenegger wrote that “we should remember the dire consequences that choosing selfishness and cynicism over service and hope can have.”
“President Donald Trump’s actions to destroy faith in our elections and throw centuries of American principles out the window must be met with universal condemnation from all political leaders, regardless of party,” he emphasized.
More to the point, Schwarzenegger did not let Trump’s enablers off the hook. Far from it. He placed full responsibility on his fellow Republicans to push back against Trump’s lies.
That was quite a heavy lift. On top of all the other enabling that went on before and after Election Day, more than 140 Republican Senators and House members had pledged themselves to support Trump’s efforts to throw a monkey wrench into the proceedings of January 6, when the Vice President and all of Congress would gather to certify the Electoral College vote.
In his op-ed, Schwarzenegger called them all to account. He warned that “our grandchildren will know your names only as the villains who fought against the great American experiment and the will of the voters. You will live in infamy.”
Referencing John F. Kennedy’s book Profiles in Courage, Schwarzenegger re-emphasized the complicity of Trump enablers in Congress.
“If our politicians go down this road and ignore the voters, we will need a sequel to that book called ‘Profiles in Cowardice,’ about the leaders who chose party over country, conspiracy over democracy, and one man over 81m voters.”
Know Their Names “Only As The Villains”
To nobody’s surprise, the op-ed had no effect. After the insurrection was quelled, the Electoral College vote finally resumed on the night of January 6, and almost all of the Republican Senators and House members followed through on their pledge. As a group, they barely acknowledging that the entire US Congress avoided a massacre just hours before (no, really — an actual massacre).
What it amounts to is this: on the night of January 6, 140-odd Republicans objected to the results of a free and fair democratic election in the immediate wake of a failed insurrection to overturn those very same results, an act of violence that cost five people their lives and could have easily cost many more.
Climate Hawk Takes Aim At Congressional Insurrectionists
Now that the full implications of January 6 have resolved into sharp focus, Republicans in Congress are eager to put the whole thing behind them. They have spent the last several days scrambling to push a “unity” message on the American public.
Aside from papering over their own role in the failed insurrection, the togetherness blitz is aimed at avoiding another impeachment on Trump’s record, which would make them members of the party behind the first and only President in US history to be impeached twice.
Well, Schwarzenegger is having none of it. And they can’t say they weren’t warned.
On Sunday morning, Schwarzenegger deployed his media firepower to circulate an intense, seven-minute video message in which he identified the insurrectionists and their supporters in Congress with the Nazi takeover of Germany. He specifically referenced the infamous Kristallnacht wave of coordinated violence against Jews on November 9, 1938. The date is widely seen as a turning point that concentrated and formalized government policy into a genocidal killing machine.
Schwarzenegger’s most famous quote from the video will probably be this one:
“President Trump is a failed leader. He will go down in history as the worst president ever.”
However, the most important lines, and the ones of greatest consequence to the scores of Republicans in Congress who objected to the Electoral College vote, occur in a passage in which he again refers to the book Profiles in Courage:
“A number of members of my own party, because of their own spinelessness, would never see their names on such a book. I guarantee you. They are complicit with those who carried the flag of self-righteous insurrection into the Capitol.”
Later in the video he emphasizes the need for action to prevent any such occurrence in the future, and one of those actions involves accountability.
“We need to hold accountable the people that brought us to this unforgivable point … and put our democracy first,” he says.
Sure looks like one prominent Republican is not ready to move on.
Climate Action & The Sword Of Conan
As of this writing, the Democratic-controlled House is on track to issue articles of impeachment within days if not hours, and Democrats are pushing back vigorously against any notion that anyone should be let off the hook for fostering an insurrection.
The Republican Party is now in a lose-lose situation, with some registered members leaving due to the extremism on display on January 6, while extremists are leaving because the Republican Party “withered at the moment of victory.”
That leaves the field open for President-elect Joe Biden to move forward on his climate action plan.
In that regard, Schwarzenegger may be the gift that keeps on giving. CleanTechnica has been following his advocacy for climate action over the past several years. One significant development occurred in 2019 when he partnered in the launch of the climate initiative “World War Zero,” described as “an all-out communications blitz to neutralize disinformation and redefine the narrative to be about job growth, national security, and eliminating pollution.”
World War Zero is in a perfect position to promote the climate action goals of the Biden administration, including an emphasis on climate justice. Not coincidentally, the Biden team has announced the nomination of Michael S. Regan, a North Carolina regulator who focused on cleaning up pollution in low-income and minority communities, to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
The bigger picture is that the Republican Party has effectively slammed the window shut on its own fingers where the warm pie of climate action is concerned. For that matter, even during the Trump administration, there was important progress in key areas including energy storage, offshore wind, and universal access to affordable solar power in addition to emerging momentum in newer fields like green hydrogen and green ammonia.
In closing his video message, Schwarzenegger displayed the sword he used as Conan the Barbarian to illustrate a point about the resiliency of democracy. The same point applies to climate action. Despite the efforts of Trump and his enablers to revive dark periods in human history, the years ahead will prove that past can be prelude to progress.
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Image (screenshot) via @Schwarzenegger, Twitter.