“Politics is generally a mediocre to horrible platform for change.” That was a statement left by an anonymous person on my previous blog article. I am not sure what all the writer was suggesting, but how else can important changes be made in society?
In this country, and many others, all major legislation that has made great and important changes for the betterment of society has been passed through the political process.
One hundred and fifty years ago, in December 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, and slavery was officially abolished.
That Amendment, however, was defeated the first time it was voted on in the House of Representatives: in June 1864 it fell thirteen votes short of the two-thirds needed for passage.
That vote was along party lines. No surprise there. But later it received sufficient votes in the House and significant change came through the political system.
Eighty years ago, in August 1935, the Social Security Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt, and Social Security has become one of the most appreciated of all government programs. But there was considerable political opposition at first.
Many Republicans and some conservative Democrats were fearful about the program's influence on the economy, and some objected because they thought the program was socialistic.
After a week’s debate in June 1935, the Social Security Act was passed in the Senate by a vote of 77 yeas, 6 nays, and 12 not voting. Five of the negative votes were by Republicans, but a majority of those not voting were Democrats. But here again, long-lasting, significant change came through the political system.
In the case of so many Southern Democrats voting against the 13th Amendment, most probably truly opposed freeing the slaves. And in the case of Social Security, the vote on which was not completely partisan; those who opposed it likely really did think it was not viable fiscally—or that it was socialistic.
But what about current issues—such as legislation designed to combat global warming? On December 12, an historic agreement was made at the COP21 meeting in Paris. As Thomas L. Friedman wrote in his Dec. 16 op-ed piece for the New York Times, the Paris Climate Accord is “a big, big deal.”
(COP stands for Conference of the Parties, referring to the countries that have signed the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; the COP in Paris was the 21st such conference.)
The Paris agreement was highly praised by President Obama and political leaders around the world. It also received high praise from Pope Francis (him again!). In his address at the Vatican last Sunday, Pope Francis praised world leaders for reaching the historic agreement.
Almost immediately after news of that significant agreement by 195 countries was announced, though, Republican politicians began to denounce it.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said that President Obama is “making promises he can’t keep” and should remember that the agreement “is subject to being shredded in 13 months.”
Such statements are surely made for political reasons rather than because of concern for the welfare of this planet and its inhabitants.
In almost all of the world’s countries, while there may be disagreement about solutions there is almost universal agreement among politicians that global warming is a real problem.
Only the U.S. has strong opposition to combatting global warming—and that is mostly because of opposition to President Obama, it seems.
One cannot help but feel that Republican politics is trumping needed concern for the planet and our future.