Dr. Steven A. Leibo is a professor of international history & politics at the sage Colleges
“Following Jefferson’s Majority”
Ok I am big enough to admit it. I was a very discouraged to have more media time put into the burning question of whether Beyoncé lipscinked her inaugural song than President Obama’s very public embrace of the challenge of an increasingly destabilized planetary climate system. But of course those of us who have been fighting to get the United States on board the international consensus that humanity absolutely must take on this greatest threat that modern civilization has ever faced are used to frustrations of that sort.
We have after all been frequently stymied in our decade’s long effort to bring the United States into the global scientific consensus that humanity has to move away from dirty fossil fuels or face the sort of struggles on a macro level that the recent victims of Irene, Lee and Sandy are still facing on a daily basis. So even if Beonices’ lip sinking somehow managed to over shadow the president’s historic inaugural address focused on climate change it was still gratifying. For the fact is that President Obama, despite his impressive record on nurturing green energy technology, has often been rhetorically absent in the fight to impress upon our nation the urgency of the challenge, both atmospheric and political.
Indeed a political challenge that has been extraordinary well analyzed by Harvard’s University’s noted political science Theda Skocpol in a remarkable new study just issued
Naming the Problem: What it will take to Counter Extremism and Engage Americans in the Fight against Global Warming
Which dissects with impressive analytical skill just why a comprehensive health care reform managed to squeak by while legislation addressing the climate crisis, arguably an even greater national health care challenge than our unfair medical insurance system went crashing down, an analysis that just became available on the web and which is linked within this commentator’s own WAMC radio archive Leibo’s World Watch.
And one of Dr Skocpol’s core conclusions is that not surprisingly the radicalization of the republican right from a party that was once deeply associated with environmentalism, from Teddy Roosevelt to the republican’s last relatively warm embrace under George Bush the elder has transformed the party office holders into a group of career obsessed politicians so afraid of the fossil fuel industry funded grass roots flat earth activists who control the party’s primaries that the sort of traditional compromises democracy thrives on and that President Obama, at least in his first term, seemed to appreciate so much are currently impossible.
Forcing Dr. Skocpol to conclude it is going to take too long for the Republican party to regain a sense of science based reality, to move past the ideological and well-funded state of denial on climate change they have trapped themselves in. And that for the moment what is needed is not a search for political compromise but a broad, popular, science fact, based mobilization that will eventually, when it comes time be able to take that momentum into the realm of national legislative action of the sort that can really be effective in moving us toward less damaging clean energy.
But for right now, building on President Obama’s well enunciated commitment to take on the challenge she focuses on the importance of building that national mass movement, which WAMC listeners can be quite proud to know is happily being organized by long time WAMC friend, Bill McKibben, from his base in Vermont along with his merry band of activists from 350.org who are as I speak are organizing what may well be the biggest climate change event in American History for February 17, an event that could well turn out the be the political tipping point that allows the United States to take its rightful place among the community of nations, from China to France From Germany to the United Kingdom that have already committed themselves to do everything we can to maintain planetary climate stability.
But that won’t happen unless every one of my listeners remembers Thomas Jefferson’s important message
“That we are not a democracy of the majority but a democracy of the majority who participate”