Monday, July 25, 2016

How a Climate Voter Can Choose Hillary

[NOTE: this is a repost and collection of various thoughts I've had over the past weeks that I want to collect in one spot. It is not an invitation for Hillary slamming or Bernie slamming. It is simply an explanation of how I came to my decision. I believe that support of Bernie is fully rational and I will happily and proudly support either of them in the general election.]
Many of my climate activist allies think all serious climate activists support Bernie. (I do challenge that idea given a recent Quinnipiac poll that found 11% of dems rank climate as their number one issue and 66% of those support Bernie and 30% support Hillary).
But given the basic presumption that Bernie is better on climate, why do I think Hillary may actually be the better candidate on climate?
(1) Soul versus Trenches I agree that Bernie and Bernie's supporters are looking to redefine the soul of the party.
And I agree that that is worthy. And important.
But I disagree that it is all that is important.
Climate action must be NOW. Not in five years, not in ten. And it must occur in our current political system, not the one we may be able to create in 4 or 8 years.
And so, experience and skill and detail matter within our current political system.
Bernie has a clear vision that Hillary lacks. A vision beyond the horizon. But Hillary has a command of the horizon that has few equals. Beyond the horizon lies the soul of the party. But the climate relies before our horizon.
I think Hillary has the kind of natural executive skill that Obama has, but with a whole lot more experience than he had to start. Obama has managed to accomplish way more than a lesser skilled executive could accomplish. And the results may be the difference between 4C and 2.5C.
I see the weaknesses in Hillary as the other side of the coin of her strengths. She is ready for the trenches. She is prepared for the long slog. And that means she may not look beyond the horizon. Of course, it also means she is ready for the slog. I will give you a quick example. In her climate plan, buried deep, is a vague discussion of creating carbon markets to coordinate internationally with Canada and Mexico. Few recognize that she is talking about carbon pricing because she has buried it deep in her climate policy. That wasn't an accident. And it's not that she doesn't really want to price carbon. It's that she doesn't want to wave a red flag for the GOP bull that she is preparing for because she knows that bull and she knows how to fight it.
Less soul. More trenches. [Edited on April 14 to add the following: I think Hillary is beginning to incorporate climate into a broader vision, perhaps one that sees further to the horizon. Her new plan ties climate into the issues she has most consistently addressed. From her most recent plans: “[s]imply put, this is environmental racism. And the impacts of climate change, from more severe storms to longer heat waves to rising sea levels, will disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities, which suffer the worst losses during extreme weather and have the fewest resources to prepare. “ She goes on to explain how she intends to ensure that climate mitigation and adaptation and resilience all address climate’s disproportionate impact on minorities.
(2) Fracking, Nuclear and Keeping the Working and Poor Classes' Lights and Heat On.
Bernie wants to ban fracking. Sounds great. Fracking is destroying our water, leaking methane, causing seismic activity and earthquakes and produces carbon dioxide when burned. He does acknowledge that in the absence of legislative action, he will have to regulate fracking heavily. That is precisely Hillary's policy stance--heavily regulate fracking.
What's more is that Bernie wants to shutter nuclear plants. That is understandable. Nuclear's history is fraught with poor oversight and weak public support. However, every time we shutter a nuclear plant, it seems we replace it with gas. Moreover, once we shutter a nuclear plant, it cannot be simply refurbished and reopened. So if there's uncertainty about getting to 100% renewables , closing nuclear is a gamble even in the long term. It makes much more sense to first replace gas, coal and oil with renewables and then close down nuclear as it too can be replaced by renewables. (This is actually a simplification, since there are also issues of distributed energy versus centralized energy, but the gist of it remains--shuttering nuclear today results in more gas).
So let's say Bernie CAN ban both fracking and nuclear as he intends. If the renewables aren't up and running yet, then that simply means lights out. Heat off. For whom? The poor and working classes. The wealthy will happily make do with the solar and wind that we've gotten up and running.
Bernie will NEVER do that--it would devastate the people he cares most about. So...until we can get renewables 100% up and running, he faces a choice--gas, coal (once you shutter gas, it can easily be returned to coal), oil or lights out. He will be left with the same policy that Hillary is working toward.
(3) Entrenchment and Being Owned by the Establishment.
Hillary is completely tied to the Democratic establishment. She has ties.
That is true. But not all bad. The establishment includes Civil Rights activists from decades ago. Mothers of dead black children from today. Groups dedicated to women's reproductive freedom. Large environmental groups. Unions. I don't agree with everything the "establishment" stands for. I don't want Wall Street calling shots. But I don't want to forgo leveraging WalMart's consumer power to buy solar either. Or Unilever's interest in driving climate action. We have nearly 319 million people in this country and 7.2 billion people on the planet. It will take a lot to move everyone in the right direction. And THAT is precisely what we must do. Leveraging power to do that is not a bad thing.
(4) Political Will and the Revolution Bernie is inspiring and engaging. And it is about time we hear voices from the left. Every one of us--including private citizens and politicians--need to move left. But that is the POLITY that must move left and be engaged. Whether Bernie is POTUS or Hillary is, we will need to show up on Election Day and every day after that. Demanding more. More of Bernie (whose goal does not go as far as that of O'Malley, btw). More of Hillary. More of our legislators. More of ourselves.
[Here, btw, is her vague buried reference to clean energy markets:
"Clean Power Markets: Build on the momentum created by the Clean Power Plan, which sets the first national limits on carbon pollution from the energy sector, and regional emissions trading schemes in Canada, Mexico, and the United States to drive low carbon power generation across the continent, modernize our interconnected electrical grid, and ensure that national carbon policies take advantage of integrated markets." ]

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