Towards a politics of results, or I am voting Democrat for solar panels, high speed rail and wind turbine factories and you should too.
Why I have returned to the Democratic Party: voting for results
For the first time in ten years, I have returned a staunch if critical supporter of the US Democratic Party in the 2010 congressional elections. Many of my friends will ask why, after ten years as an active Green Party member and someone critical of our economic system I am supporting the Democrats, a mainstream party that gobbles up corporate donations, is inconsistent in its support of working people and the environment, supports wars in foreign lands and generally doesn’t seem to have a consistent ideology. Hell, I didn’t even vote for Obama; I didn’t believe he would do much for us. I was wrong.
In short: I am voting Democrat for high speed rail, wind turbine factories and solar panels. Because I vote for results, and the Obama Administration and congressional Democrats have delivered.
I work for a company reporting on the global solar industry, and that position allows me to closely monitor the news in energy policy.* There has been a lot that President Obama and Secretary Chu of the DOE have done that I do not like; namely the loan guarantees to Southern Company to build new nuclear reactors in Georgia. However, the more I look into it, the more the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act or “stimulus package”) is appearing to be the most important piece of legislation passed in my lifetime, and one that will begin to put this nation on a path towards a better future in tangible ways.
*Disclaimer: the writings on this blog do not represent the positions of my employer and never have.
The Dangers of Global Warming and dependence on finite resources
Most of you, like most of the world, are aware of the danger that man-made Global Warming poses for us, our children and our world. You know about the shrinking glaciers, you know about the opening up of the Northwest Passage and the Arctic Ocean north of Russia to sea travel for the first time in recorded history. You may also know that Hurricane Expert Dr. Kerry Emanuel says that Global Warming gave Katrina the extra energy to destroy our poorly-made levees here in New Orleans. You may or may not know that record temperatures seriously damaged Russia’s wheat crop this year, and that flooding in Bangladesh continues to worsen. And you may or may not know that if sea levels rise, you can kiss South Louisiana goodbye.
You also know that coal, petroleum and natural gas are finite, while our appetite for energy grows every year. And you know what happens when we go looking for oil farther and farther off shore. You also know that even Alan Greenspan has acknowledged that our war in Iraq was all about oil supply. You also know that people don’t voluntarily stop using energy. Therefore, any sane leader would put mass transit, energy efficiency and renewable energy industries at the top of the list of national and international priorities.
Nurturing the seeds of clean energy and new mass transit industries
Every few days I write another article from another state on some renewable energy program that has been funded by the Recovery Act. Whether it is a wind turbine factory in New Orleans East, a lithium-ion battery plant in Michigan, high-speed rail on the West Coast, the Midwest and Northeast, or just another run-of-the-mill solar incentive program, the Recovery Act has cast seeds of this better future far and wide.
It is now up to us to nurture and grow these seeds. Historically, new industries have not sprouted whole; they are typically nurtured by states through their early stages until they can become competitive. Nations that are not allowed to do this, as historically has been the case in the “developing” world (which never quite gets to developed) remain economically stunted. China right now is pouring heavy state support into its renewable energy industries, because it knows that these are the industries of the future. If we want to compete, we have to do the same. Period.
The benefits of doing this are not only good manufacturing jobs but fewer wars and other catastrophes, both from the crises that will inevitably occur when we exhaust our fossil fuel resources, but from the changes that Global Warming will cause when it manifests as shifting climate patterns.
Of course, people must live in the short run as well, and I will note that among other things, the Democrats are responsible for extending unemployment insurance and forcing health insurance companies to stop discriminating on the basis of pre-existing conditions. It is also important to note that the Democrats’ new legislation has abandoned the “free-market” Clintonite era and is embracing economic nationalism, which is a fancy term for keeping good jobs in this country.
The Right has No Plan
Which is exactly why I am strongly, if critically supporting the Democratic Party this fall. The Republicans have no answer to these crises except to thwart renewables (with the exception of Schwarzenegger), and to continue to subsidize fossil fuel generation. Hell, David Vitter (R), our whore-mongering hypocrite of a Senator here in Louisiana, even suggested that we bail out BP, a foreign corporation, after they destroyed the Gulf, poisoned the shore, and lied about everything.
Now I do want to note that President Obama does not have a spotless record either. He has given with one hand and taken away with the other. His EPA utterly failed us in the BP Oil Flood, and he deserves to be taken to task for this. However, Obama was not alone. Thirty years of mostly Republican Presidents have been whittling down agencies like the EPA and OSHA to the point where they are a failed model of protection. I’m not letting Obama off the hook. He failed us. However, not only might Republicans have done even worse, but they are part of that failure by fighting against environmental regulation and the interests of working people.
The Republican Party, whether in its mainstream or Tea Party variety stand not only for racism, war, and the entrenched interests of the rich and corporations, in its most visceral form, but for quarterly profits over the future for our children. They don’t believe in health and safety regulation, and they have no plan for when the oil runs out. Instead, they substitute racially tinged paranoia, moralistic arguments and economic mystification.
Furthermore, they are lying about their opposition to Big Government. They support a militarized border with your and my tax dollars, as well as social programs that will lead to an expansion of prisons and law enforcement. The Right in this country gave us the $800 billion Iraq adventure that left hundreds of thousands dead. They want a Big Government and they will need taxes for it; only their Big Government will give you war, police and prisons instead of healthcare, education and jobs. Never forget that our military is our biggest source of federal government expenses.
We can’t let these bastards take over congress this fall. We have too much to loose.
Voting in the larger scheme of things
My friends have ask me from time to time what I think needs to be done. We need real structural change in this country; namely we need to build real institutions by, of and for working and poor people, we need to disband the large corporations and nationalize the commanding heights of the economy, and we need a government and a society focused on sustainability (which will only come from the first two). Voting Democrat won’t get you there. But there are long-term programs and short-term fixes. Voting is a minimal form of political activity, and isn’t as important as belonging to or starting a union at your workplace, but it is important at times. This is one of those times.
Look at the policies that matter for our children and our future. Stop voting on name or even personal reputation, but on policies. These people aren’t Sunday school teachers, we’re hiring them to do a job, and that is to vote for our interests. And I urge each and every one of you to get politically active this fall, because this election matters.
Voting for results in Louisiana elections
Now, I want to make clear that I still don’t support Democrats because they are Democrats. I support the Democratic Party at this present moment because they are giving us meaningful policies for our future, and the minute they stop, so does my support. Also, I do not support certain right-wing Blue Dog Democrats, like Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. Landrieu, a servant of the oil industry, has consistently conspired with her buddy Senator Lisa Murkowski to undo any effective regulation of greenhouse gases. She is a traitor to the future of our state and will be remembered as such.
I do support Charlie Melancon. I don’t agree with everything that he does, but he alone among Louisiana’s congressional delegation voted for the stimulus, and for God’s sake: he’s running against Vitter. And I strongly support Cedric Richmond against Cao, because Cao voted against the stimulus, health care reform and expansion of public lands. I don’t care if he’s nice to talk to, he’s a pawn of the big money and votes against our interests time and time again. Don’t let Slick Joe fool you.
There are other important races in other parts of the nation. We can’t afford to lose; too much rides in the balance. Pollsters are already predicting a Republican victory this Fall, and they will be buoyed by the unlimited money of corporations now that we the Supreme Court has turned our elections over to them. But it is not over yet.
Various organizations like MoveOn.org will ask for your money. I support MoveOn, and while both are important I say it is more important to talk to your neighbors and get active than to give money. We can’t outspend the corporations but we can out-mobilize them. We had better, as we are engaged in a national struggle for the future of our nation and our world.
Go get her done.