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The Logic of Emergency: Strategy for a Climate Tea Party

By       Message Patrick Walker       (Page 2 of 2 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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But billionaires, too, must live on planet Earth, and so (unless they're oil-and-gas men, for whom destroying the climate is the core of daily operations) they might throw some bucks into saving it. Especially if such public-spirited action helps to salve their consciences for holding so much unjustified wealth. And others, whose philanthropic focus is not necessarily climate, might be persuaded to aid the climate cause as an integral part of their own preconceived public-service schemes. And in fact, even Bill Gates has jumped on the climate bandwagon, though sadly (and predictably, since it less impacts his business interests), he has thrown his weight on the side of remediation (a lunatic scheme) rather than mitigation. But I see two other billionaires (if properly cajoled and directed) emerging as potential political "life-jackets" for climate action's losing cause: Tom Steyer and Pierre Omidyar. They must loom large on the radar of a climate-action Tea Party.

How so? Well, finance whiz Steyer has had a "religious awakening"--one apparently genuine enough that he's putting big money behind it--that directly involves the climate-action cause. Now I don't know as much as I should, but I sense Steyer has been misled in directing his efforts by political third-graders like Bill McKibben, and that he's actually wasted time and money on trying to persuade Obama, of all people. While even McKibben seems to be outgrowing his Obama fairy tale, his influence could mislead Steyer into placing too much trust in mainstream Democrats, worst of all, Hillary Clinton. (He may have at least the good sense to steer Steyer toward the Climate Protection Act.) Climate Tea Partiers must persuade Steyer that Democrats must be browbeaten into climate righteousness--and in this, Pierre Omidyar could be our staunchest ally.

For those as yet unaware, eBay and PayPal billionaire Pierre Omidyar is launching a major new journalistic enterprise, supposedly designed to correct the grievous failings of mainstream media. Now any such public-spirited enterprise launched by a billionaire should raise skeptical eyebrows--especially when fulfilling its mission has vast potential conflicts with its funder's business interests. And in fact, if Omidyar hadn't attracted journalists of Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill's caliber, I'd laugh to the point of wheezing. However, hope springs eternal (especially for folks desperate as climate activists), and even my inner cynic finds some rational grounds for hoping in Omidyar.

Why? Well, covering the important stories silenced by corrupt corporate media is the model espoused by Omidyar's stable of journalists, and no news story fits this model better than climate change. Giving it vast coverage would do wonders to establish the credibility of Omidyar's new enterprise, and to confirm the integrity of the journalists who've joined him. Moreover, my inner cynic knowingly sneers, climate reporting doesn't directly conflict with Omidyar's business interests, and doing a hero's job in reporting such a vital--and criminally neglected--story might easily divert attention from news Omidyar under-reports because  it hobbles his own capitalist "prime directive." Now Greenwald, clearly touchy about his reputation for integrity, claims such under-reporting won't happen at all; the sheer independence and feistiness of the journalists Omidyar's hired won't let it. Be that as it may, the opportunity to pressure Omidyar to heavily report climate is obvious. And--here's the key for climate activists--climate reporting Greenwald-style won't spare Democrats. A mainstream news service hammering Dems' cowardice and criminal irresponsibility in not passing the Climate Protection Act could be climate activists' meal ticket. Especially if seconded by outraged reports of Republican's reproachably ignorant--or morally leprous--assaults on essential public climate knowledge.

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Electing Dems--In Order to Torture Them

So, besides imploring and cajoling (or pressuring, as need be) Steyer and Omidyar to take our side--and spend big bucks on it--what does a climate Tea Party do? I'm sure I've already majorly peed off haters of big, intrusive government, believers in "lifestyle" climate solutions, and ardent advocates of "getting money out of politics" (of which, by the way, I'm one)--and this is only gonna get worse. Why not anger the Green Party for good measure? Here goes. The first step for a climate-action Tea Party is making sure Democrats win in 2014. Say what? Sadly, yes, despite my genuine--and repeated--insistence that we must stop rewarding Democrats for their bad behavior, this last bit of political nose-holding is simply what the climate requires. Why? Well, there's so little time to organize before the 2014 Congressional elections, that no Green I know of has a snowball's hope in hell of being elected; perhaps none even rises to the level of being a "spoiler." And since there's equally little hope of Republicans voting for the Climate Protection Act (passage of which is our Holy Grail), we must place our champion's mantle on the deeply undeserving shoulders of Democrats. The good news is that we intend to torture them once elected--if not considerably well before.

See, the message of the climate-action Tea Party is that we're electing Democrats in 2014 in order to pass the Climate Protection Act, and there will be hell to pay in 2016 if they don't. For after electing Democrats, we transfer our efforts to building the electoral prospects of the Green Party--even using billionaire dollars and Omidyar's news service as needed to do so--and letting Dems know this is exactly what we're up to. And if Greens won't temporarily sacrifice their ideological purity about money for the sake of saving the climate, our climate Tea Party will simply pledge to vote Republican in 2016. But the bottom line is this: if the Dems don't pass the Climate Protection Act after being elected in 2014--and their prospective control of the presidency and both houses of Congress gives them no excuse--our candidate is Anyone But Democrats in 2016.

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What's in a Name?

There, in bold outline, is my strategy for a climate-action Tea Party. Many details remain to discuss (like how best to reach Steyer and Omidyar, or how to collaborate with environmental organizations like the Sierra Club or 350.org), but those can wait for future articles. But I'd like to close with addressing another possible design flaw: the "party" name. Doubtless, many folks will be offended by any suggestion of association with the Republican Tea Party (and I get that), just as many were put off by my True Blue Democrats name suggesting (directly contrary to my intent), that we should be loyal to Democrats no matter what. I don't wish to repeat what I now genuinely regard as a mistake, and I by no means insist the group call itself "Climate-Action Tea Party." But maybe we should steal yet another page from the Tea Party and choose a name that lets us wrap ourselves in the American flag. How about "Climate Patriots of America"? I don't insist on that name either, but it would make it harder to stigmatize us as ecoterrorists. Additionally, it would belatedly fulfill my father's long-cherished secret dream: that I become a CPA.

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Patrick Walker is co-founder of Revolt Against Plutocracy (RAP) and the Bernie or Bust movement it spawned. Before that, he cut his activist teeth with the anti-fracking and Occupy Scranton PA movements. No longer with RAP, he actively seeks (more...)

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