Queen Hillary and Her Populist Court Jester
See, faking you're not oppressing the peasants--when that's exactly what you're doing--can be a royal pain in the keister, requiring some serious after-hours guffaws. But destroying all of human civilization, while turning an utterly blind eye to the fact you're doing so--why, that has to be the mother of all royal hemorrhoids. Uneasy lies the head that wear the crown. This aprÃ¨s moi le deluge stuff can cost a guilty monarch some serious shut-eye, unless one's lead-up-to-slumber hours are lightened by some hard-core levity.
Enter motley fool Liz Warren, whose panoply of populist tricks never fails to please. And--in a providential stroke of luck for Queen Hillary--they don't merely divert her own guillotine-worthy head, but have a proven, lastingly soothing effect on her oppressed peasants. To such an extent that, for perhaps the first time in history, the timeworn role of court jester is about to be combined with a diplomatic post: Ambassador to the Peasants. So silly is this newfangled post, this incongruous conjunction of sublime and ridiculous, that it's enough to keep Queen Hillary smirking not merely during her wine-addled hours of after-dinner theater, but even while conducting serious business of state. Like launching some new, never-to-be-acknowledged war. Or signing our climate's death warrant.
Of course, not that Queen Hillary herself cares a lick for the peasants she knows need amusing. Her own attitude is perhaps best summarized by paraphrase of one none-too-populist predecessor. Were jester-ambassador Warren, in serious distress, one day to report, "Your Highness, the peasants have no water," one can easily picture Queen Hillary drawing herself up to her full regal height and cynically declaiming, "Then let them drink frack water." And at that point jester-ambassador Warren, who seems to have a genuinely good populist heart and a very decent brain to match, would painfully realize what she'd probably suspected all along: that there was nothing newfangled about her post. That she'd in fact been playing one of history's most time-honored political roles--the role of useful idiot.
Most Democrats Are Useful Idiots (Republicans Just Idiots) for Climate Armageddon
And strangely, despite Warren's good heart and brains, only a minority of Clinton's despised peasantry--only a united progressive vanguard--can likely save Warren from the lasting historic stigma of having been Clinton's useful idiot. The good news--if you care to call it that--is that if Queen Hillary has her druthers, there'll be little left of human history for Liz to remain stigmatized. History is, after all, a product of settled human civilization, and Hillary's "drill, baby, drill" energy policies could launch humanity on such a crash course with climate Armageddon that settled human civilization--the type that records and remembers history--could within a century or two become a forgotten memory.
Perhaps that last paragraph sounds exaggerated. It is not. The sheer number of people who'll shrug and think "That can't possibly be true" simply indicates how many of us--a frighteningly big majority, including nearly all Republicans and most Democrats--have ourselves become climate-destroying plutocrats' useful idiots. As Naomi Klein notes in her important book This Changes Everything (p. 23), "The International Energy Agency warns that if we do not get our emissions under control by a rather terrifying 2017, our fossil fuel economy will 'lock in' extremely dangerous global warming." And what Americans need to remember--and what no one ever says--is that the International Energy Agency (and most climate scientists) talk of the danger point for climate being 2 degrees Celsius. But most Americans, thinking in terms of Fahrenheit rather than Celsius temperatures, fail to realize that we're actually locking in 3.6 Fahrenheit degrees of planetary warming if we don't take serious action by 2017. And given both Obama's commitment to an irresponsible "all of the above" energy policy and a Congress controlled by Republicans who deny climate action altogether, it's guaranteed no urgent climate-change policies will occur before 2017. And that only if we elect a climate-responsible president and Congress in 2016. And there's zero chance of responsible climate action under frack-queen Hillary Clinton.
So, let's pause and assess where climate matters stand. Using Fahrenheit degrees, which Americans understand, as our measure, I think any betting person would stake megabucks on saying we're going to lock in 4 Fahrenheit degrees of planetary warming, no matter who's elected president in 2016. That's already a danger zone for humanity--and we should remember with fear and trembling that a considerable minority of climate scientists, many deeply respected, considered 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) a politically motivated number that, in science terms, was set too high. So it should stand as a given that we've already blown past a political-warming target that many prominent scientists considered unsafe, entailing increased catastrophic floods, snowstorms, heat waves, droughts, and disease-causing ecosystem changes that will likely cost trillions of dollars. The question now is whether we'll lock in climate changes that, within a century or two, can wipe out civilization itself.
In this context, it seems crucial to correctly assess our two electable political parties, since parties like Greens and Socialists, who will never exercise power within the short timetable for saving civilization, are simply irrelevant (except for their spoiler potential, which may prove useful for activists). It seems fair, thinking in climate terms, to assess our two electable parties by and large as follows: Republicans are idiots pure and simple, and most Democrats are useful idiots. Useful, that is, to the entrenched, extravagantly rich fossil-fuel interests hell-bent on destroying our climate. Republicans stupidly and recklessly deny there's a problem at all, while Democrats--exploiting Republican extremism--offer the deceptive comfort that, by merely acknowledging there's a problem, they're actually doing something to solve it. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Liz and Democrats' Three-Bladed Meat Grinder
Reenter Queen Hillary and her court jester Liz. Now, Liz Warren, by her good populist heart and very real intelligence, certainly deserves a better fate than to go down in history as Queen Hillary's populist court jester or--to modernize our terms--as Clinton's useful idiot. But nearly insurmountable political factors will likely condemn her to that fate. With our politics and mainstream media dominated by corporate money, our only electable parties, paralleling their climate-policy roles, are a party of idiots pure and simple (Republicans) and a party dominated by useful idiots (Democrats).
Now, it's arguable to what extent Democrats' rank-and-file--and their politicians at all levels--consist of useful idiots, though on the climate issue, as on the endless war on terror, it's clearly a majority in both cases. There's really a simple test: neither most Democratic politicians nor most Democratic voters are willing to take the party to task for eternalizing the war on terror or for pursuing "all of the above" energy policies that, if continued, spell climate Armageddon. They may not particularly like such policies, but most seem utterly unwilling to challenge the party leadership that pursues them. For the corrupt party leaders pushing those policies, especially "president material" like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, bring in the donor dollars that help Democrats fight Republicans' own billionaire mint. Plutocrats own one electable party, and dominate the leadership of the other.
Now, the interesting--or, on a deeper view, tragic-- effect of all this is to make today's Democratic Party a meat grinder for churning out useful idiots. For as the more populist of our two electable parties, Democrats need at least to pose as standing up for little folk, as backing "peasants" against "aristocrats," or, as it's often put discussing Warren, Main Street against Wall Street. And what's essential to understand--a fact dangerously overlooked by today's cynical left--is that Democrats' pose is best maintained not by smooth, practiced hypocrites, but by a fresh stock of the comparatively sincere. Someone like Warren, ambitious not for her career but for her populist issues, is actually a godsend for Democrats needing to hang onto their base. Warren should be viewed not as a corrupt senator, but as a sincere one facing a meat grinder. A machine fiendishly successful at grinding sincere souls like her into useful idiots.
Facing the sharp, hyper-efficient blades of such a meat grinder, someone sincere but narrowly focused like Warren is apt to misconceive--and underestimate--her daunting task. We should hesitate to overly criticize Warren (or any politician seeking urgent change), for her position is far from enviable. See, to be effective as a national politician, one is compelled to be a Democrat or a Republican; to be effective as a progressive, one must be a Democrat. (One can be elected to the Senate or House as independent representing a small state or an atypical district, but even Bernie Sanders realizes he must run for president as a Democrat if he's to have a chance.)