One reason many Americans distrust politicians, is because we believe they are paid off, perhaps by lobbyists for corporations. Some politicians think of really creative ways to make money. For example President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary had siblings who phoned people offering them presidential pardons – for money! There’s a whole book on this titled Pardongate: How Bill & Hillary Clinton and Their Brothers Profited from Pardons. However, dishonesty in politics can appear in other ways – the activists and idealists who protest in favor of a particular cause may not be really interested in that cause. How can this be?
Take the Green New Deal, a proposal to convert America to run on renewable energy rather than carbon containing fuels. The proponents must believe in an existential crisis of man made global warming, correct?
Its not so simple: (from the Washington Post )
On a Wednesday morning in late May, emissaries of two of the strongest political voices on climate change convened at a coffee shop a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. Saikat Chakrabarti, chief of staff to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), was there to meet Sam Ricketts, climate director for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who is running for president almost exclusively on a platform of combating global warming. A newly released plank of Inslee’s climate change agenda had caught the attention of Chakrabarti and his boss, who had tweeted that Inslee’s “climate plan is the most serious + comprehensive one to address our crisis in the 2020 field.” Pleased by the positive reception from the demanding Green New Deal wing of the climate struggle, Ricketts had set up this meeting with Chakrabarti to establish a personal connection and share approaches to climate advocacy.
“Congrats on the rollout,” Chakrabarti told him as they sat down. “That was pretty great.”
“Thank you again for the kudos you guys offered,” said Ricketts. “We wanted to be pace-setting for the field, and I think we’re there now. … I want to ask you for input … in addition to hearing what you guys are working on.”
Chakrabarti had an unexpected disclosure. “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal,” he said, “is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.” Ricketts greeted this startling notion with an attentive poker face. “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti continued. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”
So which is it – saving the planet from CO2, or changing the economic system? It could be both of course, but which of the two is more important?
Consider the words of Christine Stewart – Canadian Environment Minister: “No matter if the science is all phony, there are still collateral environmental benefits…Climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.”
Yes, but then why not argue for justice directly?
I remember reading in some environmental journal about the environmental campaign to save the spotted owl. It became clear that the author regarded the owl as a tool to preserve large tracts of forest. The owl itself was incidental. Again, there is a component of dishonesty here.
And we see this odd phenomenon. in other causes – Western feminists who say nothing about the second-class status of women under Sharia, for instance. Surely if you care about women, you care about all women?
In his book “Radical In Chief”, Stanley Kurtz writes about the formation of the Citizen/Labor Energy Coalition. it was formed in 1978, 43 years ago. It was supposedly formed to fight for lower gas and oil prices. But there were broader goals. It was an initial attempt to build a nationwide populist movement, quietly directed by socialists, and designed to unify a fragmented American left. C/LEC called for creation of a publically owned energy company to compete with private ones. It crafted a regulatory regime for the energy industry that would effectively have put it under government control. And as with today’s energy battle, in public C/LEC emphasized solar energy and what we now call “green jobs”. Yet this seems to have been something of a cover for C/LEC’s top priorities: price controls and higher energy taxes.
So again, this is an example of a public image of a political group that claims it is for particular goals, when those goals are not the overriding ones.
Before she entered politics, Alexandra Ocasio Cortez was present at the protest against the Dakota access oil pipeline. According to LegalInsurrection.com:
The people who claimed they were protesting the Dakota Pipeline to save the environment have a funny way of showing it. They left behind so much garbage that the site has become a potential environmental disaster.
and from Breitbart:
Officials estimated that the price of cleaning up the protesters’ mess would cost the taxpayers one million dollars.
The protests often became violent as protesters repeatedly resorted to extreme behavior to stop the building of the oil pipeline.
I’m sure protestors thought they were helping the environment, (though some might have seen the protest as just another way of radicalizing people against the Capitalist system), but in practice, if you can’t clean up after yourself, maybe you should not be protesting against pollution.
The basic point I’m trying to make in this post, and a point that Stanley Kurtz demonstrates often in his book, is that people with dramatic new visions for how our society may be structured can latch on to specific causes that are not really what they are about.