Sunday, December 20, 2015

Is Politics Trumping Concern for the Planet?

“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.


  1. To say the least! Although I suspect it's not entirely politics. A significant portion of America's conservatives actually believe, or prefer to believe, that human activity is not a significant cause of global warming. I know a pastor who wrote in his pastor's column in the newsletter that God would not let humanity destroy the natural environment. And, then, of course, there are the economic interests who oppose any regulations that make it harder for them to make a buck.

    Another thought: Why would any country ever trust the United States when its opposition party is proclaiming that it will shred international treaties if it comes to power?

    Finally, here's a post I composed for Facebook this morning after reading part of your blog: Have you ever thought about how stupid it is to oppose a policy merely because it looks like socialism? Are you aware that the only major philosophical school the U.S. has contributed to the world is pragmatism? So shouldn't the preeminent American question always be: What policy will work best, rather than what kind of policy it is? -akj

    1. Anton, thanks for your (as usual) substantial comments. At this time I will respond only to the first paragraph.

      Sure, there are a lot of people in the country other than politicians who deny human activity as a cause of global warming. But with few exceptions they are supporters of the Republicans. So the Republican politicians speak out to keep or strengthen the good will of their supporters -- and then that strengthens the position of the latter, so it becomes sort of a vicious circle in terms of doing what is needed for the planet.

  2. Good article and references Leroy!
    My feeling is(as an Independent)that there certainly is enough evidence to support the supposition that what we are doing to our planet is NOT beneficial. So, with almost Every country in the world agreeing to take measures to improve the life for Everyone on our planent; why shouldn`t we DO IT because it is simply "The right thing to do"?
    I like many others, is difficult to understand why Anyone(Democrat or Republican-reson I changed to be an Independent) would be against Anything that would benefit the whole of mankind.
    That`s my two(2) cents worth-THANKS!

    Blessings and a Merry Christmas to All,
    Donna Sue&jc

  3. Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson of Kentucky shares these pertinent comments:

    "I’m saddened to think you are right, Leroy, about Republican opposition, especially Mitch McConnell’s, linked to hostility toward Obama. A subtle racism underlies that outlook. It’s palpable here in Kentucky. In this state Mitch McConnell is the fashioner of the political ethos. It is mind-boggling that even people of minimal education would not recognize the threat to human survival, but sinister politics trumps the small amount of logic it requires to see that we must act now."

  4. Yesterday I received the following comments by Thinking Friend Eric Dollard in Chicago. He has another explanation for the Republican opposition to taking action on global warming:

    "Thanks, Leroy, for your always provocative comments.

    "I do not believe that opposition to President Obama per se is the main reason behind Republican intransigence on the subject of global warming. The main problem is the vast wealth and political clout of the fossil fuel industry, which opposes any effort to reduce fossil fuel consumption. And there is no doubt that the fossil fuel industry pours millions of dollars into political campaigns.

    "In other countries, either there is no fossil fuel industry or the industry is largely state-owned, so the political dynamics are different. The revenue from those state-owned fossil fuel industries are being used to develop renewable and sustainable energy alternatives (e.g., Norway, where 25 percent of cars are electric; Saudi Arabia, which is developing its considerable solar power potential; or Iran, which is developing nuclear alternatives to fossil fuel--and hopefully not a bomb)."

    "The U S has been developing alternative energy sources, but we need to do much more--and we can, if the Republicans can be weaned from their dependence on campaign funding from the fossil fuel industry."

    1. Thanks, Eric, for your comments that must be taken seriously. Perhaps it is a matter of both/and rather than either/or, though.

      In a 12/22 Washington Post article, Sen. Cruz said he would withdraw from the Paris agreement if he were elected president. "He accused the administration [Obama] and other countries of using climate change as an excuse to increase regulations and make life more expensive."