Green New Deal “climate kids” should hijack the impeachment conversation

"If Democrats are unwilling to do the right thing and assist at that suicide, today’s real grownups—you climate kids—must embarrass them into doing so."

Image Credit: Lorie Shaull/Flickr/cc

Turning wasteful loss into brilliant gain—while having juvenile fun

A wise old political adage says, “When you’re ‘splainin’, you ain’t gainin’.” We need a new, ad hoc version to wake up “climate kid” supporters of an existentially crucial Green New Deal, now sitting politely bored—as through their principal’s speech—while Democrat elders crowd them off stage with their heated-but-trivial Mueller-based debate on whether or not to impeach Trump.I propose this: “When they’re ‘splainin’, you ain’t gainin’.” It’s frankly depressing to see passionate, idealistic kids hold still like respectable middle-aged Rotarians while adults with shallow, juvenile agendas waste civilization’s ever-more-precious time and dominate the floor.

Hey, climate kids, it’s time to act like kids and get seriously rowdy. This is one “adult” conversation you desperately need to disrupt. And not merely disrupt but actually hijack. The future of the Green New Deal—and therefore of civilization itself—may depend on you remembering that you’re still kids and therefore totally smashing up what the old farts had planned. You’ve already earned your maturity street creds by your incredibly sane, responsible climate activism; it’s time to have some delinquent, disruptive, old-fart-torturing fun.

As an old fart who never quite grew up—what the Sunrise climate kids more politely call a “Young at Heart” supporter—I’ve already started fracking with the old folks’ minds like someone a fraction of my age. In fact, not just once but twice. But see, I can’t do this alone; after a few hours of “delinquent” head-butting with fellow AARP types, I desperately need a nap. And juvenile delinquency—however urgently needed—can quickly look a little pathetic when not perpetrated by actual juveniles. Still, I do a pretty decent job, and the seriously pissed-off comments under the Nation of Change versions of my two “delinquent” articles (see here and here) show I’ve gotten deeply under Democrat geezers’ sagging skins.

Now I know, this isn’t just about flipping off the pathetic old gasbags. You really, desperately want to do something about climate, since your generation has a bigger stake in this than anyone else. Fair enough. That’s why I totally grok the Sunrise approach of letting younger folks be the climate leaders. And your wise approach of politely but forcefully confronting political leaders proves you fully grok the value of maintaining respectability amidst planned disruption. I passionately support you precisely because your approach is so effective. 

But my pet disruption idea—impeaching Trump for his extremist attack on climate—already takes care of the respectability element. See, you won’t be disrupting the conversation just to disrupt it; you’ll actually be contributing something highly relevant—or as overpaid respectable attorneys say, “on point.” In fact, far more on point than what the purported grownups are saying. Therein lies the special beauty of my climate impeachment scheme: it’s rationally and morally sounder than anything the so-called adults are pushing, while having the added juvenile thrill value of pissing them off to the maximal max. 

As a passive-aggressive old fart desperately clinging to the last tatters of youth, I passionately relish that juvenile thrill value. I believe the relevant juvenile joy here is called “hostile obedience”: obeying so totally and pointlessly that your very obedience is an act of satiric ridicule toward your “respectable” elders. What you’re obeying is the ardent desire of “progressive” Democrat elders to impeach Trump—who richly deserves impeachment. But your stated reason for impeaching him—his way-beyond-criminal climate policy—makes a cosmic mockery of the far shallower reasons put forth by his conventionally progressive would-be impeachers.

Though I hope you’ll fully savor the juvenile thrill of one-upping one’s hypocritical elders—one of my fondest youthful memories–there’s far more to gain here (as I’m sure you’ll realize) than sumptuous juvenile thrills. What may be at stake is the entire future of the Green New Deal (GND)—and therefore of humanity itself. That’s what I’ll address in the rest of my article.

Cleared for takeoff: The constitutional legitimacy of our impeachment talk hijack

As I just noted, Trump richly deserves impeachment; he probably did from Inauguration Day. Congressional Democrats never seemed much interested in the many promising grounds for impeaching Trump; instead, fixated on a flimsy Russia collusion narrative that might be their party’s undoing, they’ve focused exclusively on obstruction of justice charges related to the recently ended Mueller investigation. An investigation that, by the way, cleared Trump of the charge Democrat-friendly media had obsessed over. Unless powerful Democrat House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi can be persuaded it’s politically wise to do so (knowing the failure of Russiagate, she’s rightly concerned about the 2020 election), Trump’s impeachment for obstructing the Mueller investigation probably isn’t happening. But numerous progressive House Democrats disagree with Pelosi, and a noisy—and from a climate perspective, time-wasting, debate–is taking place.

So, young climate warrior friends, what does Democrats’ impeachment kerfuffle have to do with us? A lot—and a lot more than meets the eye.

As I already highlighted, we’re being crowded off stage: public air time spent debating Trump’s impeachment for obstruction of justice is time not spent discussing humanity’s climate crisis and the Green New Deal. Considering politicians’ and media’s long years of indefensible silence about the climate change, now grown into a global emergency, any prolonged distraction from climate talk seems intolerable. 

But here’s a perfectly satisfactory solution: hijack the impeachment conversation and make it—provided we have legitimate Constitutional grounds—all about Trump’s way-beyond-criminal climate policy. 

Constitutional questions aside, no reasonable person can doubt the moral abomination of Trump’s assault on climate—amidst a climate emergency. Columnist (and The Nation publisher) Katrina vanden Heuvel rightly lambastes Trump’s policy as not merely climate denial but “embracing climate destruction”; she scathingly—but accurately—brands Trump himself “a warrior for climate calamity.” TomDispatch’s founding editor Tom Engelhardt notes that—should civilization survive to remember Trump at all—Trump will be remembered for none of his deeds and misdeeds that now obsess digital and print media, but for the historic “crime against humanity” of his climate policy

So shouldn’t we be impeaching Trump for the extremist attack on climate, the unprecedented crime against humanity he’s committing? Common sense says hell yes; what good are Constitutional impeachment provisions if they can remove a madman who’s endangering—perhaps knowingly endangering—not just our nation but human civilization itself? 

Fortunately, a large body of reputable legal opinion backs common sense. According to Constitutional scholars consulted by Politico, grave misdeeds by presidents and other high officers need not be crimes under any statutory law to be impeachable offenses. An article by Albert Broderick, originally published in the American Bar Association Journal around the time of Nixon’s impeachment, confirms this nicely (emphases mine): “Impeachment must be understood as a political, rather than judicial, process that does not require a criminal offense but must be grounded on serious misconduct.” 

It’s hard to imagine more serious misconduct than aggressively attacking an endangered climate in ways that put the future of civilization in jeopardy. Unlike actual hijacks of planes, which are of course crimes, our “delinquent” hijack of the impeachment conversation seems legally cleared for takeoff. 

(Not to engage in overkill, but since our Constitutional legitimacy in calling for Trump’s climate-based impeachment is vitally important, I thought I’d cite a few more reputable legal sources backing our position. These articles from the Constitutional Rights Foundation and Common Cause support the notion that grave misdeeds violating the public trust—not statutory crimes—are the standards for impeachment. And this piece, created by a Findlaw team of lawyer writers and editors, enumerates four legal interpretation schools—of which only one holds that impeachable offense must be crimes—without endorsing any. Interested readers could easily find many more reputable sources showing that impeachment based on grievous misdeeds that aren’t indictable legal crimes has extremely solid legal standing.).

How Trump’s climate impeachment is key to GND strategy

In my previous article, I’d already pointed out one huge advantage of climate and GND activists demanding that Democrats impeach Trump over his criminally insane climate policy. Namely—and this applies only to Democrats’ overcrowded field of presidential candidates—it’s the perfect, unavoidable litmus test for finding which Democrats are serious, gutsy, and committed enough to do the unprecedented political heavy lifting an effective GND will demand. 

Only candidates willing to buck their party leadership and stick their necks out for as radical and unconventional idea as impeaching Trump for his worse-than-criminal climate policy are ready to lead the long, uphill fight for an effective GND. No one rejecting this impeachment scheme—which is really merely principled common sense—is likely to have what it takes. And this is an almost-perfect litmus test; it doesn’t involve any easy present promise easily forgettable after the election, but demands taking a public, gutsy position right now. See who’s willing to make that gutsy position, and you know who has the goods to fight with commitment for an effective GND.

But the value of impeaching Trump over climate policy goes way beyond being a powerful GND litmus test for Democrat presidential candidates. It’s actually part of a grand GND political strategy—the only strategy I know of that’s fully addressed the almost-insurmountable political obstacles facing the GND. If the strategy seems radical, it’s because the obstacles are radical—and totally undiscussed by any candidate now claiming support for the GND. Because Sunrise and the other “climate kids” were the only ones radical and principled enough to publicly demand the GND, I’m addressing you with this strategy, because most of my fellow older adults are clearly not radical and principled enough to get it. So please listen up, because this strategy is perhaps the only truly valuable thing I as an older, experienced activist have to offer you.

No GND advocates I know of are discussing it, but by far the biggest obstacle to passing an effective GND is today’s Republican Party. As haters of climate science and government spending on behalf of average people—two crucial elements of the GND—Republicans see the GND as an existential threat to everything their party stands for. They’re not wrong, which is why Sunrise was so smart to take its fight for the GND to Congressional Democrats. It’s totally fair to say today’s GOP is incompatible with an effective GND: one or the other has to die. That’s why a Democratic candidate like Joe Biden, who wants to get along with Congressional Republicans, is such a horrible, suicidal choice to lead the long, uphill fight for the GND. We need a Democrat GND champion who wants 1) to smash Republicans in a 2020 electoral landslide and 2) to put the GOP as a climate-denying party we on permanent life support—much as it was in the days of FDR’s original New Deal. 

Please don’t think I’m being partisan. Anyone who’s even glanced at my writings knows how scathing I can be about Democrats. In fact, no one could propose anything that disgusts and threatens the Democrat leadership as much as the principled climate impeachment proposal I’m making here. But the facts are clear: the climate-killing extremism of today’s GOP is suicidal for humanity and therefore should be suicidal for the party itself. The problem with Democrats is that they like to keep the GOP around as a scapegoat for their own unwillingness to abandon their own rich donors and pass rational popular policies like Medicare for All. Or the Green New Deal. Don’t think for a second the Democrat leadership wants to defeat Republicans in a 2020 landslide. In that case, all the blame for not passing the GND—or for watering it down and fatally weakening it—would be on them. Only Democrats looking to demolish Republicans in a 2020 landslide are real friends to the GND.

Which brings us back to impeaching Trump for his terrorist war on climate. As I’ve said myself, Trump’s insanely extremist climate policies are just normal Republican climate policies—on steroids. To some extent, Trump being history’s foremost climate criminal is just a matter of timing: Trump became president when news of humanity’s climate crisis was at its worst, though any Republican president would have done some version of the same. 

But Trump brought unique personality elements to the presidency—elements that caused him to deliver standard Republican climate policies at their extremist worst. Trump is both a headstrong authoritarian and a high-stakes gambler, two qualities that have made putting him in charge of climate policy catastrophic for humanity. But—by intensifying the extremism of normal Republican climate policy (elevating it to climate terrorism)—Trump has probably done more than any single person to assist the suicide of today’s GOP. 

If Democrats are unwilling to do the right thing and assist at that suicide, today’s real grownups—you climate kids—must embarrass them into doing so. By demanding Trump be impeached for the most morally and intellectually compelling reason—an essentially Republican climate policy that threatens to end civilization itself—climate kids would set Republicans up for electoral demolition in 2020. If we offer voters a stark choice between a popular Green New Deal and civilization-threatening climate terrorism, which side would you bet on to win in a landslide? 

Publicizing Republican climate terrorism by impeaching Trump for it now is the best way to set Republicans up for catastrophic defeat in 2020, paving the way for passing the GND. I strongly urge our heroic climate kids to demand Trump’s impeachment for climate terrorism now. Any Senate Republicans who wouldn’t convict simply prove that Trump’s climate terrorism is standard GOP policy.

In my next piece, I’ll discuss another brilliant part of this strategy: how it exposes Democrats as frauds if they won’t take up the commonsense call to impeach Trump for by far his worst crime.


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