If you follow this policy topic, by no doubt you’ve already heard or read somewhere that elected Democrats have decided not to even try to put together a climate and energy bill in 2010. I don’t know when they think they’ll take it up. I don’t think they know when they’ll take it up. What I do know right now is outside of Nancy Pelosi, a number of Democratic “leaders” have done anything but lead and should be voted out of office (or positions of responsibility) as soon as possible. Sen. Reid. Sen. Schumer and Sen. Durbin are on that list. President Obama very well could be.
The “leadership” has bungled issue after issue in my opinion, allowing extremist elements of the opposing party to dictate the rate of progress and what gets done and what doesn’t get done. Senate rules were not changed back in January 2009, despite assurances from the Cons after the 2008 election that they would not help Democrats at all on any issue whatsoever. The Cons delivered on their promises. The Democrats did not. The quest for the mythical “bipartisanship chalice” has continued and was even intensified by Barack Obama, who still hasn’t figured out that all the opposition party wants to do is delegitimize his Presidency. Incrementalism was the methodology pursued by these “leaders”. It remains an open question whether such a timid strategy keeps the base motivated to keep turning out for the party come election time. Americans aren’t upset that Democrats haven’t tried to work enough with Cons on issues. Americans are upset that the Democrats keep refusing to aggressively bring issues up and force the Cons to take whatever ridiculous stand they want. Americans want to know that the people they elected to push their agenda for them will do just that. Without that push, Americans are wondering why they put those Dems in office.
I have spent the past 18 months helping fellow Democrats push on our elected members to enact mainstream legislation on a number of issues, despite the fact that my #1 issue kept getting pushed aside. At times I wondered if I felt the setbacks and defeats more than my fellows did because as they occurred, I grew anxious that the same failed strategies would be applied to my primary issue and I wouldn’t get as much done on it as I wanted and as the world needed. The issues mounted; the same strategies kept failing; weeks slipped by, then the House passed a climate and energy bill. It wasn’t all that I wanted, but it was cited by other climate activists as a good step in the right direction. I didn’t think so at the time, but mainly kept my opinion to myself.
Then months started slipping by. Meanwhile, extreme events and increasingly dire climate research results occurred steadily. The climate wasn’t waiting to see how Congressional Dems would put legislation together. It wasn’t waiting for a President to decide whether he would help convince Americans to convince their Senators to act sooner rather than later. It wasn’t waiting while aides, staff and handlers decided that other issues were more important or that they weren’t confident they could fight back against the Cons’ pathetic “cap-and-tax” language. The climate was continuing to respond to the greenhouse forcing of past decades. That response continues to surprise even climate experts in its speed and magnitude. Climate changes are taking effect faster and in more complex ways than was thought just a few short years ago.
As the rapidity and breadth of those changes have appeared, I have become increasingly convinced that action must be taken today. Climate change is very different from health care or Wall St. or immigration in that, if we want a society and a civilization in which health care and immigration even matter, it needs immediate attention. If a society’s (civilization’s) agriculture system collapses because there is a decade of 100F summers with no rain across the land, how much will it matter if single-payer is enacted in this Congress or the next? As the oceans acidify enough to kill innumerable species and trigger the collapse of global ecosystems, how much will people notice whether an oversight group is set up within or outside of a federal agency? I don’t think other issues are trivial; I only think most people’s attention is focused on things they think are closer to their daily lives. As rapid as the climate is changing, it is in many ways too slow to trigger a sense of anxiety or controlled panic in enough of our populace to matter, it seems.
So here we are. It’s late July 2010 and Democrats have announced that the required aggressive climate and energy bill won’t be considered in the Senate this year. Instead, they might consider the following:
It [a much smaller bill] will deal with BP and oil spill liability, invest in the manufacturing of natural gas vehicles, create a jobs program — formerly called Cash for Caulkers, now called Home Star — aimed at increasing home efficiency, and put money back in the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
BP and oil disaster liability should be considered by itself. Let the Cons and CorporateDems fight against it – see what kind of response they get at the ballot box in November. Natural gas vehicles? How incredibly insulting is that?! It will take decades to fully deploy natural gas vehicles and the infrastructure necessary to support them; decades that the climate will continue to refuse to wait for us. And how exciting is a jobs program? Not so much when you learn that China is considering putting $738 billion of additional spending towards clean energy projects. All of a sudden, the Senate Democrats’ scale of timidity is more visible. Finally, money back in the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Whoopty-doo. House Democrats actually voted on a bill last year. For that, some of them are facing aggressive campaigns by Cons eager to keep us addicted to dirty energy while the climate system spirals out of control. How many Senators will ensure those threatened House Democrats keep their seats so another bill can be considered in the next session?
The largest problem progressive activists face isn’t immoral Cons in the Senate. It isn’t the Cons’ propaganda outlet Fox or any of the white noise right-wing radio shows. It isn’t cowardly and bought-off ConservaDems in Congress. It isn’t the Corporate hacks acting as Obama’s advisors. No, the largest problem we face is the status quo. It isn’t about how hard it is to turn a moving ship; it’s about the will-power to turn that ship in the first place. I will not support the status quo. Continually picking the lesser of two evils is going to destroy our society, our civilization and the climate our species grew up with. “Vote for a Democrat, because they’re better than the alternative” is a hollow argument. It might represent some kind of political reality, but it completely ignores physical reality. That physical reality can only be ignored for so long before it forces everybody to pay attention. I think we’ve used up what little time we had.
Some folks are convinced that EPA regulations will solve a bunch of problems. Some folks think the Congress will have to act next year in the face of those EPA rules. I have to admit I view such attitudes as naive. The current group of Cons will not play nicely. They will not agree to legislation next year when there is more of them in both Congressional chambers. They will continue to delegitimize the climate crisis and the EPA. Federal action on this issue is what is needed. If it couldn’t get done with a Democratic White House and Congress after 8 years of the Bush Regime, I’m not sure what will get it done.
I will have more in the future on the scale of the problem we face and discuss why the status quo isn’t acceptable; why incrementalism isn’t acceptable; and what I think is required to act on this largest of crises.
Cross-posted at SquareState.