Bill McKibben of 350.org says we don’t have time to challenge two-party rule and build a political alternative like the Green Party that takes the climate threat seriously. In reality, we don’t have time not to.
Those of us who participated in the #ForwardOnClimate Rally against the tar-sands pipelines in Washington, DC, on Feb. 17 witnessed the environmental movement at its best and worst.
It was at it best because tens of thousands turned out in freezing weather to demand that President Obama kill the proposal for the Keystone XL and Enbridge pipelines that, if approved, will route highly polluting crude oil from the Alberta tar sands through the US. The PR justification is that the oil will help meet domestic energy needs, but it’s evident, given the pipelines’ destination (Gulf and Maine coasts), that the oil is meant for export to enrich the fossil-fuel cartel. The State Department’s environmental review of the pipeline is being handled by the same experts who were earlier hired as consultants by TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline.
The movement was at it’s worst because speaker after speaker at the rally confirmed his and her allegiance to President Obama, to cheers from the crowd.
The message that the President and Democratic leaders heard on Feb. 17 was “We hope you’ll say no to the pipelines, but if you don’t we still support you.” Which tells them that they risk nothing by greenlighting the pipeline.
Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and perhaps the most prominent writer on the global climate threat, agrees with a Time Magazine soundbyte that the pipeline question might be the “Selma and Stonewall” of the movement to curb climate change and writes of his frustration with the Democratic Party in his essay “Is the Keystone XL Pipeline the ‘Stonewall’ of the Climate Movement?” (TomDispatch, April 7, 2013)
President Obama has made it clear, despite assurances to the contrary, that global climate disruption is a backburner issue. He identifies “energy independence” as a top goal and promises to tap all available domestic (or at least North American) sources, which is why offshore drilling in US coastal waters, hydrofracking, and mountaintop detonation mining continue despite the damage they cause.
The President has also insisted on deletion of the 2C goal for keeping the world’s average temperature from rising more than two degrees Centigrade from international climate-change negotiations and has secretly negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an international trade pact designed to serve corporate lobbies by overrriding environmental and labor protections. The climate crisis (like the TransPacific Partnership) was never mentioned during the Obama-Romney debates during the 2012 presidential race. It’s no secret that Dems covet those generous Big Oil campaign checks.
The Democratic Party will not provide leadership against climate disruption. Democrats are continuing to slide to the right on most issues, tailoring their positions to satisfy corporate lobbies and donors. The same tendency explains the Obama Administration’s plans to cut Social Security and Medicare, failure to prosecute too-big-to-fail banks for their criminal recklessness, and the individual mandate on which Obamacare is based — a Republican scheme introduced by the rightwing Heritage Foundation.
Mr. McKibben wants to believe that “taken as a whole, [Democrats are] better than the Republicans,” as if being not quite as awful as Mitt Romney or John Boehner is a virtue.
“Republicans are worse.” That’s the mantra of progressive and pro-environmental Dems while their party marches the US into the climate abyss a few steps behind the GOP. Republican climate-change denial and contempt for science enable Democratic politicians to claim they’re taking the lead on the crisis. In multi-party countries, such leadership would be recognized as an impediment to action just a few degrees removed from denial.
Progressives have fantasized for decades that they’ll pull the Democratic Party to the left some day. Instead, the Democratic Party has pulled progressives to the right. Barack Obama’s 2008 victory ended the antiwar movement, as anti-Bush peace activists acquiesced to an Obama foreign policy that incorporated the belligerent neocon postures of the Bush-Cheney Administration. Progressives cheered a Supreme Court decision upholding the individual mandate, which blesses the health insurance industry with a direct public subsidy.
Where are the massive public demonstrations against proposed Social Security and Medicare cuts, civilian-slaughtering drone warfare, erosion of civil liberties, prosecution of whistleblowers, Guantánamo, record-high incarceration rates in the prison-industrial complex, the TransPacific Partnership, privatization of the TVA, the corporate takeover of public education, continuing multi-billion-dollar taxpayer subsidies to Wall Street banks… all of which might be happening right now if a Republican were in the White House?
By refusing to consider an alternative to the corporate-money two-party choice, progressives have participated in the consolidation of capitalist oligarchy.
The Green Imperative
The idea of a third-party alternative makes Bill McKibben fidget. He writes: