The Wreckage Wrought By A Marauding Minority
PARIS — Along the Champs Elysees’ on Christmas night, an angels’ envy of rope-thin LED halos — colors shifting from red to blue to white — circled the trees and lit the broad boulevard where thousands of people strolled carefree. Nobody worried about the sick and the deranged wielding assault weapons capable of mowing children down like wheat toppled by a stout wind. People stood in line at a theater, clearly unconcerned that the movie inside could be the last one they watched.
Paris, where I’ve alighted this week, is the largest city (2.2 million residents) in one of the world’s largest democracies (population 65.6 million). And while there are issues aplenty here, neither the city nor the nation are undermined by a marauding minority bent on wrecking order and stability from within.
That is not true at home. In the United States, this was a Christmas of consideration for what we’ve allowed ourselves to become. The murders of 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut was a chilling disaster for the country. Newtown crystalized the accumulation of tragedies that have weakened the nation – terrorist attack, financial meltdown, climate-warming fires and floods, mass murder, governing deceit and fecklessness. More significantly, the massacre clarified the principal cause — a reckless and dangerous minority, armed with a governing strategy constructed from the raw materials of greed and fear, and firing with indiscriminate recklessness the bullets of inflexible ideology.
The central issue for America’s intelligent, world-aware, reality-respectful president and his progressive supporters is pretty straightforward: How to stamp out the renegade threat. That campaign, it seems to me, encompasses four essential components:
1. Recognize the danger. As I noted in an earlier ModeShift post, the progression of nationally injurious events — from the Supreme Court’s sanction of President Bush’s hanging-chad victory to 9/11 to the Newtown massacre — are directly tied to the Republican Party’s dangerously diligent agenda. The United States has sustained 13 straight years of national body blows.
It is about to sustain another. House Republicans are defying their own House leadership. They are pushing the country to another fiscal confrontation that weakens our financial credibility and could thwart the recovery. The illogical dimensions of what’s happening defy reason. House Republicans refuse a modest increase in taxes for the top 2 percent richest wage earners and businesses to provide more federal revenue to lower the deficit. Because of the peculiar strictures of a deficit-reducing bill negotiated a year ago, the result of what these right wing lawmakers and their supporters clearly see as a matter of principle is that taxes will rise for all Americans.
In the world of reality where most of us live, there is absolutely no logic to what the right is doing. But in the world of fabricated reality, invented enemies, made up facts, and delusion where the right operates today, it makes pefect sense to block a tax hike on the richest Americans that has the effect of producing a tax hike on all Americans. After all, this is the same party that argues that teaching kids how to gang rush adults, and cries for more guns in schools are sensible answers to preventing mass murder in schools.
2. Understand the right’s shrunken electoral influence. The Republican Party represents a minority of American voters, and its reach is steadily diminishing. Outside of the Deep South states, President Obama swept Mitt Romney by more than 10 percentage points in the 2012 election. House Republicans argue that they have a mandate since so many lawmakers won their districts by margins exceeding 60 percent to 40 percent. But a lot of that influence is due to the geographically insane redrawing of House district lines — an exercise undertaken by state legislatures every 10 years — in a way to maximize conservative voting patterns. The total 2012 national vote for all House seats, though, showed the same result as the presidential vote: The Democratic tally was millions of votes larger than the Republican tally.
3. Talk about this in public. Conservatives succeeded over the last two decades to command
the public arena by being fearless and articulate. They demonized the progressive press. They temporarily removed the word “liberal” from the political lexicon. They silenced or redirected the national discussion of climate change, gun violence, the deficit, terrorism, and war. They did this by citing made up facts, broadcasting them on commercial radio and Fox News, and by drawing together a melange of emotional concerns – guns, gays, abortion, and race – to rally support among a ragged group of largely white, older, suburban and rural voters.
The terrible national consequences of the Republican Party’s dogma are indisputable and perfectly visible. There are bound to be Republicans who are capable of seeing reason and don’t want to be complicit. Democrats need to reach out to them even as they talk about the record of violence that Republican dogma has produced, and that is now killing children, obliterating facts, and damaging the nation. Reasonable people who support Republican candidates need to be asked, time and again, why they are countenancing such a reckless agenda? Why do they reject the science of climate change when droughts and storms and floods are proving the accuracy of computer climate models? Why are they fighting restrictions on assault weapons and putting their children and ours in harm’s way? How is it that they can fight so hard for the unborn and care so little for those that are born? Just as being a member of the white supremacists, the skinheads, and the Klan carries a black mark, voting for this Republican Party needs to be seen by Democrats and by reasonable conservatives as a social stigma.
4. Actively support President Obama and fearless progressive candidates. The Republican Party has grown weaker and meaner. They represent a real threat to the American economy and to personal safety. Their record of policy making and governing over the last decade reflects an allegiance to one sacrosanct principle: making the very rich richer. Elections are still sacred institutions in the United States. We just elected a president who has the capacity to be truly great. He needs active, consistent, enthusiastic support. The rational among us owe him and the country the strongest measures of our allegiance.
– Keith Schneider
Since 2008, when he led a multi-media reporting team from Circle of Blue to the Murray-Darling basin, Australia’s prime food-growing region, Keith Schneider has reported from the front lines of five continents on the intensifying global confrontation between water, energy, and food. His work as senior editor and chief correspondent for Circle of Blue’s Global Choke Point project has taken him to the coal-producing deserts of China’s Yellow River Valley, the oil and gas fields of the American West, India’s wheat and rice basket in Punjab, Qatar’s mammoth Persian Gulf desalination plants, Mongolia's mineral rich and water scarce South Gobi desert, the Peruvian Andes, Panama's rainforests, and to United Nations climate conferences in New York, Copenhagen, Barcelona, and Tianjin. In documenting and assessing the consequences of rising demand for energy and food in an era of diminishing freshwater reserves, Keith is playing an essential role in writing a new 21st century narrative about the contest for scarce resources. On every continent, the steep increase in demand for coal, oil, natural gas, and grain — the largest users of water — crosses an equally sharp decline in available freshwater reserves. As Keith and his Circle of Blue colleagues have shown in exclusive online multi-media reports, the place where the trend vectors collide is reshaping the Earth’s environment, reordering national priorities, and deeply affecting national economies. In 2014, two of the six provisions in the U.S.-China climate agreement, a breakthrough in diplomacy, focused on the new data and fresh assessments of the ties between energy and water. Those details were brought directly to the leaders of both countries by Keith's reporting for Circle of Blue, and by his participation in speaking tours and convenings in China and the U.S. In 2012, the Rockefeller Foundation recognized Global Choke Point and Circle of Blue with its $100,000 Rockefeller Centennial Innovation Award. Keith also is a special correspondent in the United States for The New York Times, where he has reported on energy, urban affairs, technology, environment, agriculture, and cultural trends since 1981. He is the winner of numerous awards for his work as a journalist, program innovator, and editor including two George Polk Memorial Awards for environmental and national reporting, among the most prestigious in American journalism. He is a graduate of Haverford College, and writes from northern Michigan, where Circle of Blue is based, and where Keith has lived since 1993.