Sunday, May 19, 2019

Climate Judases: Three ways Democrats betray humanity

The Democratic Party remains as perversely bad on climate action itself as on the non-climate issues required to foster it.

NOTE TO READERS: This is Part 2 of my two-part series “Fighting the McResistance – for Climate’s Sake,” in which I argue that leaving Democrats’ astroturf “McResistance” in charge of the anti-Trump resistance movement will be a CATASTROPHE for our climate. While Part 2 is written to be understood on its own, readers will grasp it even better if acquainted with the “Good Cop as Judas” argument I made in Part 1.

“A McResistance summer is climate’s ultimate bummer”

To be sure, even hard-core Clinton neoliberals may realize that Democrats’ current shtick of serving corporate and plutocrats donors while betraying and stonewalling the party’s voter base is doomed. That explains why they’ve put popular progressive independent Bernie Sanders – hoping he’ll play progressive-herding “sheepdog” – in charge of party messaging.

But, whatever Sanders says or does, leading Democrats have clearly made an amazingly hard-core commitment to postponing the party’s day of reckoning and reform as long as possible. Obviously, suckling at corporate oligarchs’ teats is sweet for leading Democrats – to the extent even political suicide seems worth the risk. Nothing could be more politically suicidal than the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC’s) claimed legal right to rig primaries and deceive its voter base and small donors about the fact. Provided, of course, real progressives find a way to overcome mainstream media’s blackout and publicize the DNC fraud lawsuit – an action campaign advocated in this article’s closing section.

While the “Clintocrat” neoliberals now strangling Democratic Party reform sense no pressing political timetable for their party’s reformist day of reckoning, a human race facing climate apocalypse has a vastly more urgent scientific one. Clearly, the “McResistance” agenda – promoting corrupt Democrats’ return to power, despite their own stiff-necked rejection of reform, by focusing attention on Trump’s sheer badness – is repulsive enough in itself. But what makes it especially dangerous – making a McResistance Summer “climate’s ultimate bummer” – is the three ways Democrats already betray humanity by their climate policy and obviously will continue to without major reforms. Before Trump and his fellow “climate Visigoths” got a hold of climate policy, Democrats’ climate betrayals were bad enough; after Trump’s massive destruction, unreformed Democrats’ continued climate betrayals will almost surely spell Armageddon.

Two of Democrats’ climate betrayals are related to their own policy, one to their climate-specific policy and the other their policy on non-climate issues. The other is intimately tied to the inability of their betraying party – their Judas party – to consistently beat “climate Visigoth” Republicans.

Betrayal #1: Democrats’ climate policy is “just plain silly”

When speaking publicly on humanity’s climate emergency, world-renowned climatologist James Hansen is not a man to pull punches. With science, not partisanship, determining his choice of words, Hansen is almost unique among climate activists in calling out the climate irresponsibility of Democrats (not just Republicans) in the choicest of words. Thus, speaking with no false, politically correct reverence for Barack Obama, Hansen fiercely lambasted the talks culminating in Obama’s supposedly signature climate achievement – the Paris Climate Agreement – as “bullshit,” “worthless words,” and “a fraud.” Equally unsparing of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, then Obama’s presumptive successor, Hansen ridiculed her expected climate policies as “just plain silly.”

As evidence backing Hansen’s claims – beyond what he himself offers in the links just cited – readers should peruse Carol Dansereau’s fine CounterPunch article, contrasting Democrats’ latest “climate fix” legislation (“boldly” offered, of course, at a time when it has zero prospects of passage) with one model of what effective climate action would actually look like. But rather than compile evidence – abundantly available – of why Democrats’ climate policy is so inadequate as to be “just plain silly,” I’ll instead argue why the climate policy of an unreformed Democratic Party (the kind sought by the McResistance) is guaranteed to remain so.

Sonali Kolhatkar had laid the foundation for my climate-specific case against Democrats in a splendid, more general Truthdig piece – one that, without using the term, is a masterpiece in framing the issues surrounding the “McResistance.” Right off the bat, Kolhatkar hits a “home run” of framing:

“Our current political moment is being interpreted as a battle between compassion and cruelty, between reason and irrationality. But it ought to be viewed as a fight between two limited sectors of the political spectrum: the extreme right and the center, both of which care more about corporate power than about ordinary Americans.”

No two sentences could better explain the contrast between the false perception of Democrats the McResistance propaganda machine strives to impose and the stark duopoly reality we now face. A duopoly reality Max Mastellone has beautifully summed up under the “Good Cop, Bad Cop” model. And to which I’ve usefully added the realization – important in stigmatizing the DNC’s scandalous legal argument (see this article’s final section) – that “playing Judas” is virtually the Good Cop’s job description.

But returning to Kolhatkar’s “home run” framing of our disastrous duopoly, she immediately adds,

“The difference is the degree to which cruelty and irrationality reign. The weak reforms implemented and backed by Democrats have only provided fodder for their rivals instead of bulwarks against extremism.”

Again, these two sentences are dead on. And Kolhatkar’s own examples in the article are splendidly picked to illustrate how the halfhearted weakness of “reforms implemented and backed by Democrats” repeatedly sets them up for undoing by brutal Republicans. Cunningly, Republicans temporarily become as rational as Democrats’ principled leftist critics – indeed, they often make the same critiques, even citing the principled left – in castigating Democratic Party half-measures doomed to failure. Then,   Republicans substitute policies of their own that – from every perspective but a shortsighted oligarchic, social Darwinist one – set new standards of cruelty and irrationality. In reaction, voters then beg Democrats to “have a heart,” and they respond with “half a heart” (if even that) – continuing the duopoly’s “Good Cop, Bad Cop” vicious circle of exploiting American voters.

On climate – an issue where Kolhatkar cites the toothless Paris Climate Agreement as Democrats’ halfhearted, easily undone reform – the Good Cop, Bad Cop vicious circle is especially sinister. For here, the utter moral and intellectual depravity of Republican climate change denial lets Democrats palm off any halfhearted, half-assed reform as a significant achievement – until it’s savaged by both well-meaning and ill-meaning critics. But what’s far worse (considering climate is any issue that doesn’t affect most voters immediately) is that “just plain silly” policy from the supposed adults in the room teaches the public a horrendous lesson it’s all too glad to receive: that climate change is simply not a serious issue.

Scientific reality is a harsh, demanding god – and (ironically, given the much-ballyhooed conflict between science and religion) Democrats’ half-hearted climate action is the most catastrophic example yet of the religious axiom, “You can’t serve both God and Mammon.” We urgently need to put the “fear of God” in “climate Judas” Democrats.

Betrayal #2: “Lying neoliberal warmongers” can’t handle climate justice

Climate change is a deadly serious issue. Serious to the extent that it can’t be treated an isolated issue; deep students of climate action’s political implications (like Naomi Klein) have emphasized our response cannot be consumer capitalism’s “business as usual.” In fact, a substantial part of the “business” of effective climate action is changing the way we do business – in both our nation and our world. A business model based – like our current one – on endless economic growth, lawless global corporations that give orders to national governments, secretive governments beholden to plutocrat donors, constant war, and runaway economic inequality is a sure recipe for climate catastrophe.

In that context, it’s quite telling that one of America’s most astute political analysts, University of Pennsylvania political science professor Adolph Reed, has referred to Democrats’ 2016 political candidate Hillary Clinton as a “lying neoliberal warmonger.” And all the more telling in that Reed was not writing as a Republican or Trump supporter “stumping for Trump,” but as a self-professed progressive (with a sterling history of pro-labor activism) keenly aware of the extreme danger Trump posed and seeking to ward off that danger. Instead, being a serious public intellectual with a reputation for intellectual integrity to protect (like climatologist James Hansen), Reed refused to ward off the Trump menace by fostering illusions about Clinton. Rather, he told it like it was: by branding her a “lying neoliberal warmonger.” What’s important for our purposes is just how many light-years this puts  her from competence to forward Naomi Klein’s climate justice vision. Every word – lying, neoliberal, and warmonger – is a mortal sin against the essentials of climate justice.

Now, given that Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, her being a lying neoliberal warmonger – the antithesis of the climate justice vision – may not seem so serious. Except for the nagging little detail that the ruling echelon of today’s Democratic Party is created in her image, if not actually under her (or her powerful family’s) orders. To such an extent that the chief actions of the Democratic Party since Trump’s election – its refusal of self-introspection and blame for losing, its “blame Russia” narrative, its saber-rattling toward Russia and Syria, its rejection of single-payer health care, and its rejection of a Sanders-approved DNC chair – have all mirrored Clinton’s own wishes and behavior. So an unreformed Democratic Party remains a “Clintocrat” party – a lying neoliberal warmonger party – as perversely bad on climate action itself as on the non-climate issues required to foster it.

Betrayal #3: In duopoly mud wrestling, “Judas” can’t beat “The Ogre”

Democrats’ third betrayal of humanity on climate (probably their most dangerous betrayal of all) consists of ground I’ve already covered elsewhere. In my article “Resist the Duopoly – Because Judas’s Party Can’t Beat Trump’s,” I argued that a Democratic “Judas party,” ever betraying its working-class poor, and progressive base – and even, as in the DNC legal argument, unrepentantly treating the betrayal as its legal right – will simply be too repulsive to voters even to beat a party as cruel and hideous as Trump’s.

In an oldie-but-goodie article, Andrew Levine (without using my “Judas” terminology) explains the role of Democrats’ “Judas party” in our two-party system quite well:

“The Democratic Party is, by default, the political voice of organized labor and of social movements that fight for racial and gender equality, environmental sanity, and other worthy causes. Democrats can, therefore, do what Republicans cannot: integrate the victims of the status quo into a political consensus that serves and protects those who benefit most from it – the ‘one percent,’ the ‘billionaire class.’ They are good at this.”

Having identified Democrats’ as the “Judas party” and let Levine summarize how that Judas party functions in our system, all I need is to come up with a comparably damning rhetorical tag for Trump and his Republicans. Pondering Trump’s verbal shortcomings – combined with the sheer “caveman” nature of Republicans’ climate (and other) policies – reminded me of “The Ogre” in W. H. Auden’s brilliant short political poem “August 1968.” Above all, its concluding two lines: “The Ogre stalks with hands on hips/While drivel gushes from his lips.” To anyone acquainted with the lowbrow, proudly inarticulate brutality of today’s Republican Party, The Ogre’s relevance should be obvious.

But one problem remained. Having settled on the appropriate derisive monikers for our two duopoly parties, I had to imagine a context in which “Judas” would meet, battle – and routinely lose to – “The Ogre.” In short order, the answer dawned on me: these were the names of two professional-wrestling “villains.” So, duopoly wrestling it was. But to add an extra layer of ridicule – and politically appropriate dirtiness – to the affair – I decided “duopoly mud wrestling” was the appropriate field of combat for our two corrupt, morally challenged gladiators, united by a “script” (where Judas routinely loses) that secretly puts them in cahoots.

One can only hope – in a political context richly meriting ridicule – that “Judas vs. The Ogre” becomes a popular meme.

Progressive or Bust’s call to arms

In researching the background of Auden’s “August 1968” poem, I stumbled across a brilliant analytic essay on it by the late Christopher Hitchens. (The good Christopher Hitchens, not the Islamophobic “clash of civilizations” neocon.) In that essay, “The Verbal Revolution,” Hitchens points to the role of articulate ridicule in bringing down Soviet satellite regimes that were reaching the last shreds of their threadbare legitimacy.

At Progressive or Bust, we feel our two duopoly parties – well represented as “Judas” and “The Ogre – have likewise reached the last shreds of a threadbare legitimacy. In place of Democrats’ “McResistance Summer,” we’d love to launch an “Anti-Duopoly Summer” in which derisive memes and slogans along the lines of “Judas vs. The Ogre” play a demolishing role. Saving the climate may depend on it.

Later this week, Progressive or Bust plans to launch our website, where we’ll unveil our DNC = Democracy Never Counts campaign – aimed at kicking off an Anti-Duopoly Summer. If you like what we’re planning, please join our Progressive or Bust Facebook group as you wait.

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