Introduction: Some gallows humor
Seeing the grave existential and political fix we’re now in, some gallows humor—a sophomoric old joke highly pertinent to my title theme—seems as good a way to start as any.
Q: What’s the difference between a virgin and a light bulb?
A: You can unscrew a light bulb.
Like the virgin of this admittedly sick joke (relic of more patriarchal times), the climate movement has been truly and royally screwed by Democrats. Given what’s at stake, a more appropriately inflammatory term is raped, and as with virginity in cultures where virginity deeply matters, the damage Democrats have done the climate movement (and thereby all of humanity) by their rape is grievous and simply irreparable.
To be clear, by “Democrats” in this piece I mean the Clintonite Schumer-Pelosi establishment that actually controls the party, as well as their media mouthpieces at the New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN, and NPR. I do not mean Democrats’ voting base (much of it more progressive than the party establishment) or the relatively powerless progressive insurgency led by politicians like Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, and the four brave women of “the Squad.” In speaking of the Democratic Party as an agent in US politics, it’s natural to call “Democrat” behavior the results those who control the party and its media discourse intend and actually get. My usage isn’t meant to “diss” the nascent progressive element in the party; rather, it’s meant to underline—and lament—its powerlessness.
Well-merited rape metaphors aside, Democrats (as just defined) have literally wasted two and a half precious, never-recoverable years fixating public attention on a Russiagate conspiracy largely of their own concoction instead of an ever-worsening climate crisis. In the process, they have aggravated a nuclear arms race incompatible by its sheer cost alone with addressing humanity’s climate emergency, to say nothing of steeply eroding trust with a Russian petrostate whose close cooperation will be needed in phasing out fossil fuels. And nuclear arms aside, recklessly increasing tensions with Russia (with little rational justification) inevitably increases spending on conventional militarism—when the US military is already the world’s leading institutional consumer of oil.
Grievous as the harms just named are, they’re hardly the worst ways in which Democrats have raped the climate movement. If we wish to talk seriously about conspiracy and collusion, we should be discussing nothing Russia did, but rather how Democrats have silently aided and abetted Climate-Criminal-in-Chief Donald Trump in committing an unprecedented act of climate genocide—and racist climate genocide to boot. Much as the Michael Klare piece just linked to focuses on the obscene consequences (above all, for poor people of color) of climate inaction, Trump’s aggressive worsening of the climate emergency—as if climate science were his most hated personal enemy—is far more criminally insane than mere inaction.
Yet Democrats—in both a self-serving and politically suicidal way—have unconscionably placed nearly all their Trump “resistance” eggs in the forever-fraying (see here and here) Russiagate basket, meanwhile scarcely breathing a syllable about Trump’s egregious, unprecedented climate crime against humanity. By callously sacrificing voter concerns—including Trump’s racist, genocidal climate policy—to Russiagate, Democrats have handed Trump and Republicans a huge electoral gift, likely giving climate’s most destructive, obstinate enemies four more years in charge of the climate emergency. They’ve also likely put a megalomaniac tyrant’s impeachment—forever his most destructive policies—in such partisan disrepute that it’s forever off the table.
Nothing could have done more lasting, irreparable harm to the climate movement.
The damage done: Even staunch Progressives are silent
Sadly, even staunch progressives have begun to echo Democrats’ climate policy silence. In an insightful essay highlighting the folly of impeaching Trump over “obstruction of justice,” Jim Kavanagh cites numerous legitimate policy reason for which Democrats (setting impeachment aside) could have and should have conducted a “frontal political assault” on Trump. Kavanagh cites Trump as “vulnerable for increasing inequality, social insecurity, and foreign aggression.” Shockingly, he does not mention Trump’s relentless, unconscionable assault on climate and environment. That so unquestionably solid a progressive as Kavanagh, while rightly lambasting Democrats’ Russiagate/Mueller obsession, doesn’t even think Trump’s most insane, dangerous policy worth naming as replacement attack grounds, should prove to climate activists how irreparably Democrats’ Russiagate rape has damaged our cause. What needs to be the lead issue of the 2020 presidential campaign is so deeply buried that not even staunch progressives mention it as grounds for voter grievance with Trump!
My point here is not to impugn Kavanagh’s motives (which I assume are honorable), but to give climate activists a desperately needed wake-up call. My best guess is that Kavanagh, sincerely and legitimately hell-bent on defeating Trump in 2020, simply didn’t think climate criminality would register with voters as much as the grievances he mentioned. He may well be right, but that’s a serious problem—one only a united climate movement can hope by its own efforts to solve. Climate is a desperate, short-timetable emergency that can’t afford to be put on the back burner next to anything; the climate movement’s only hope for saving humanity is to raise the public profile of that truth.
If I cited marginal presidential candidate Jay Inslee’s New York Times op-ed in favor of the view that climate action must be our top priority, I did so for a crucial strategic reason. See, it’s hardly as if Inslee is completely right and Kavanagh is completely wrong. Far from it. Inslee is totally right that climate action must be our government’s top priority, but he’s crazily wrong in thinking it’s the public opinion winner he takes it to be. There’s a genuine, crucial question of truth to be split between Inslee and Kavanagh, and the best evidence of the important truth on Kavanagh’s side lies in Inslee’s own pathetic polling numbers.
Clearly, presidential hopeful Inslee has made the climate issue his hill to die on. Obviously, a candidate’s choice of main issues isn’t the sole, or even chief, determinant of that candidate’s polling success; clearly, factors such as name recognition, media support, political organization strength, perceived prospects of winning, and debate performance play huge roles. But Inslee has so thoroughly identified himself with the climate issue that if climate were the automatic winning issue Inslee claims, his numbers in many of the aggregated polls just linked to would surely exceed a Lilliputian 1%! Quite plausibly, Inslee would be polling much better—and would probably be defining much of the Democratic debate agenda—if Democrats had ever responsibly emphasized the criminal insanity of Trump’s and Republicans’ climate policy.
My chief concern here is to make the politically comatose climate movement aware of how royally, irreparably it’s been screwed—yes, raped—by Russiagate Democrats pushing a narrative with no seeming connection to climate. Climate activists’ failure to connect these crucial dots has made Russiagate analogous to a coma-inducing, rape-permitting drug. But on the topic of splitting the truth difference between Kavanagh and Inslee (whom I brought up mainly to further illustrate how deeply Democrats’ Russiagate fixation has screwed climate activists), I’ve left some loose ends hanging. I’ll briefly try to tie them up before proceeding to my Russiagate-damning conclusion.
Yes, Inslee is right that climate action needs to be our nation’s top priority. Yes, Kavanagh is right (in implying by his silence) that climate action is not the chief issue on most voters’ minds. But fortunately, the climate movement has two readily available means to split the truth between them.
One such means is the Green New Deal (GND), which gives the climate issue top priority, while cleverly wrapping it in a package of populist reforms that appeal widely to voters of both parties. In this sense, a strong-polling populist like Bernie Sanders, who espouses climate action via the GND, is a far more effective climate champion than someone who, like Inslee, embraces it directly. The climate movement can do wonders for its cause by incessantly demanding the GND and by supporting only populist politicians who fearlessly embrace it. It’s worth adding, of course, that the climate movement will need to apply relentless pressure to keep Democrats (assuming they even gain power) from watering the GND down to the point it’s meaningless.
One other means of splitting the truth between Inslee and Kavanagh (realizing the climate issue has vast potential but is not yet a big winner) is for the climate movement itself to do the job that Democrats raped them by reprehensibly shirking. Namely, constantly hammering the criminal insanity—the racist, genocidal criminal insanity—of Trump’s climate policy. Personally, I still the best way to do this is for climate activists to demand that Trump be impeached for policies amounting to climate terrorism. I still think climate-based impeachment is the one exception to the rule that any impeachment launched by House Democrats after Russiagate will appear grossly partisan and will backfire politically. To me at least, it’s strikingly obvious that taking the climate issue seriously enough to impeach Trump over it disgusts Democrats more than the prospect of eating dung beetles; unsurprisingly, no Democrat politician—not even climate hawk Inslee—has ever suggested Trump’s genocidal climate policy as grounds for his impeachment. Just to guarantee that Trump’s climate impeachment does not appear a partisan Democrat thing, climate activists should demand it—if at all—as Democrats’ penance for their Russiagate-based rape of the climate movement.
But even if climate-based impeachment strikes climate activists as too risky, we should demand some related penance of Democrats—like using language that exposes Trump and Republicans’ biggest vulnerability while forcing Democrats themselves to publicly take the climate emergency seriously. As Democrats’ penance for Russiagate, I propose demanding that Democratic presidential candidates refer to Trump’s climate policy as climate genocide ora crime against humanity, with climate activists dispensing extra forgiveness (or brownie points) for adding the word racist to each formula. Climate-change denial is, after all, the GOP’s terrorist suicide vest, and Democrats have an obligation (especially after their Russiagate rape) to ensures that suicide vest takes down the GOP rather than humanity itself.
Conclusion: Time for public climate movement outrage
Never expect a climate warrior to like Inslee to fare well in a Russiagate party obviously at war with talking about climate. Nancy Pelosi’s hostility to a Green New Deal, and Tom Perez’s entrenched opposition to a climate-specific debate, should tell climate activists everything we need to know about Democrats’ revulsion to serious climate action. A revulsion clearly reflected in—and perhaps even consciously motivating—the Democrats’ Russiagate-based gang rape of the climate movement. In a sense, Russiagate was both the coma-inducing drug permitting the rape and the act of rape itself. While obliterating public awareness of Trump’s unprecedented climate crimes, it actively promoted policies savagely detrimental to the climate cause itself: frightfully expensive military buildup, both nuclear and conventional (wasting desperately needed infrastructure and just-transition funding); a ramping up of fossil fuel use by the conventional military; erosion of trust with a petrostate whose cooperation is desperately needed; and positioning Trump as victim of an unjustified witch hunt, likely giving him free rein to stoke a raging climate fire for four additional, irredeemable years—with impeachment in severe disrepute and off the table.
If the US climate movement doesn’t soon start showing over Russiagate public outrage appropriate to a rape, it’s probably time to abandon the US climate movement.