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Post Mortem

I intended to follow up my last post about the sufficiency of the programs proposed by green reformers by discussing their strengths and weaknesses, but the shocking election result compels me to react.

My prediction of a 10-point popular vote victory for Clinton was way off. Perhaps my error resulted from living in a liberal bubble. Clinton received around 90% of the vote in Amherst and Northampton, the two biggest towns in my county. She only racked up 75% of the vote in my somewhat more conservative town. Clinton won in Massachusetts by over 25 percentage points and the same is true of the West Coast. But the nation is made up of more than the Northeast and Pacific Coast.

As democrats lick their wounds, the recriminations have started. Some hang the loss on “third party candidates.” I don’t think that makes sense. First, it is wrong to lump the Libertarians and Greens together because the former attract more people from the right while the latter gather more from the left. When you decouple the third parties it is apparent that Gary Johnson’s vote total was sufficient to tip the balance to Clinton if the vast majority of his voters instead voted for Clinton. However, given the right-wing nature of Libertarianism, the chance of that happening approaches zero.

Jill Stein’s supporters were more likely to take votes from Clinton, but she gathered so few votes that even if every one of her supporters voted for Clinton, she still would have lost. For example, Clinton lost Florida by about 115,000 votes, but Stein only got about 64,000. In Pennsylvania, Clinton lost by about 68,000 votes and Stein totaled 49,000. In other words it was statistically impossible for Clinton to carry those states even if every single Stein voter held their noses and voted for Clinton.

I believe that Greg Palast’s article “The Election was Stolen - Here’s How” gets closer to what really happened. Palast writes, “a coterie of Trump operatives… created a system to purge 1.1 million Americans of color from the voter rolls of GOP-controlled states. The system, called Crosscheck, is detailed in my Rolling Stone report ‘The GOP’s Stealth War on Voters,’ 8/24/2016.” For example, Trump won Michigan by 13,000 votes while Michigan Crosscheck purged 450,000 voters. In Arizona Trump won by 85,257 and Crosscheck purged 270,000. In other words, it was effective right-wing voter suppression, not left third party voting that engineered Trump’s win.

Clinton supporters who blame their electoral defeat on those to their left are making a grave tactical error. Liberals may find it easier to blame the weaker left than the more powerful right, but doing so at this moment is counterproductive. We need everyone to the left of center to unite against Trump. The right now controls the Presidency, the Congress and the Courts; we can’t afford to be fighting among ourselves.  Read More 
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Necessary but not Sufficient?

Some Green activists, I’ll call them reformists, argue that we can recalibrate our economy by investing in sustainable technological innovation and privileging renewable energy sources over fossil fuels. They argue a War on Climate Change (Bill McKibben) or a Green New Deal (Jill Stein) will drastically cut greenhouse emissions while generating tens of millions of green jobs that will allow for continued economic growth. It isn’t stated explicitly, but the implication is that if we take these actions we can both live sustainably AND continue much as we have been.

Recent articles question these plans.

“[S]imply shifting to no-fossil fuel energy will do nothing about the exploitation of humans and ecosystems that nourishes both capitalism and the global climate emergency. … The climate movement tends to … focus on technical production goals such as achieving 100% renewable energy by 2050. But that’s far from enough; we have to rein in the economy and eliminate net greenhouse emission far sooner and be prepared to deal with the economic consequences.” (Stan Cox, “If there a World War II-style climate mobilization, it has to go all the way - and then some,” 9/22/16, greensocialthought.org)

“It is … contrary to established ecological science for Mr. McKibben to promote a war on climate focused solely upon techno-optimist industrial solutions. First and foremost, climate change is an ecological issue. I [am concerned] that he apparently has little understanding of the ecological systems that maintain a livable earth.” (Dr. Glen Barry, “Bill McKibben’s Ecology-Free Declaration of War on Climate is Dangerous and Wrong,” 10/23/16, ecointernet.org)

McKibben and Stein are mobilizing millions either to vote green or attack the extractionists at their weakest point, pipelines and other infrastructure that no one wants in their back yard. It is necessary for such movements to attract increasing numbers if we hope to stop the removal, transportation, refining and burning of fossil fuels. Doing this is essential if civilization is to survive.

But the articles quoted above raise several difficult questions.
1. Are the demands of the reformist green movement necessary, but not sufficient, to save us?
2. Is the assumption that we can make our current system sustainable without changing its basic nature valid?
3. Does the reformist agenda contain counter-productive elements because it is not scientifically grounded?

Those are valid concerns and important questions. At the same time, I worry that attacking green reformists may be a grave strategic error. We can’t build a mass movement on an unprecedented scale by attacking a major source of potential allies. In the next few blogs I will discuss the three questions posed above and attempt to tackle the thorny challenge of how to work with, rather then drive away, those seduced by the prospect of living sustainably without significantly reducing our current level of consumption.  Read More 
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