Sunday, September 18, 2016

Millennials, 2000 and the Climate Crisis

I don't pretend to understand Millennials.  I don't even know why they are called Millennials since most of them were born in the 20th century.  But I do remember the millennial year of 2000.

According to various recent articles, Millennials don't have sex, and they don't like breakfast cereal because it involves too much clean-up.   Other items are more explicable in this economy--they typically don't own a home, half aren't married, a lot live in their parents' home and they have a lot of pets.  And a lot of them think this society and its political system are really screwed up.

I may not understand Millennials altogether but I do know what it's like to be young and notice news stories about millions of suffering refugees next to articles about the latest high fashion excess.  I come from the Generation Gap generation and I remember when society didn't understand us and was actively hostile, as well as the anger and the change in worldview when aspects of society having to do with wealth and power, race and class, the facade and the reality that the conventional wisdom ignores were revealed to me.

Right now Millennials are big news because Democratic political pros who've been analyzing recent presidential preference polls have concluded that Trump is not rising, it's Hillary who is falling and it's primarily because she's losing support from Millennials.

One theory is that Millennials who see the hypocrisy and corruption in the political establishment and pinned their hopes on Bernie may understand that Trump is catastrophe but feel Hillary isn't much better--but were prepared to vote for her if necessary.  When she was getting double digit leads in the polls it may have seemed it wasn't necessary anymore, she was going to win, so they could vote for a third party candidate who seemed closer to their views, or simply as a protest against establishment politicians.

Now the polls have tightened and a concerted effort is beginning to convince them that their votes are needed, that their future hangs in the balance.  Bernie is out campaigning and telling audiences that "this is not the time for a protest vote." Elizabeth Warren is out there now too, making the same case in Ohio.

  A lot of Millennials voted for Obama (and are still with him) and so both the President and First Lady are making the case for Hillary, and will be through to November.  

There's even talk of bringing Al Gore onto the stage--Exhibit A in what can happen when a third party protest vote leads to tragedy.  (And G.W. Bush's presidency is a tragedy we're still living.)

The New Yorker notes about the Dem VP candidate: Tim Kaine, America's Dad, Makes His Pitch to Millennials.  Now Hillary herself is set to make a direct appeal to Millenials tomorrow.

Some of the Millennial disenchantment has substance, but the 2000 election should have provided an object lesson in strategic voting.  As Kim Stanley Robinson, supporter of a post capitalist economy, used to say back before Bernie, Vote for Elizabeth Warren in the primary and Hillary in the general.

And in general it's worth considering this perspective.  Yes, there's a lot wrong--and that's the point really--a lot.  If Hillary Clinton got everything done she wants to get done, there would still be a lot.  But a lot of things would be better than they are now. That's as important to say as that things would be way way worse with Trump.

The theory that big positive change will more likely happen if things get way worse has not proven to be true in America, at least not in this century.  Big change is more likely to happen as a result of incremental change for the better.  The kind of change many Millennials crave is not supported by anything close to a majority, let alone a consensus.  Look at the virulent opposition, the hate directed at President Obama and Hillary Clinton.  Getting things gradually better, laying the groundwork for big changes, and bringing people along, is at least democratic.  Revolutionaries who want violent conflict must be willing to sacrifice the lives and futures of a lot of people for a very long time.  And without consent of the governed, it's just another form of fascism.

I suppose the biggest thing I don't understand: according to a poll study analyzed in Newsweek:  Nearly seven out of 10 Sanders supporters believe there’s no daylight between Trump and Clinton on the issues they care about...Forty-four percent say there’s no distinction between the two candidates on transitioning away from fossil fuels, and 43 percent say there’s no distinction on protecting air and water."

This is so completely untrue, especially on the climate crisis.  Their stated positions are polar opposites.  But it's more profound than the fact that Trump believes the climate crisis isn't happening and Clinton knows it is.  Clinton is preparing to do a lot about it.   She is already assembling a team of experts and advisors that Politico refers to as Hillary Clinton's Climate Army.

Her plans specifically target energy and fossil fuels. They involve protecting air and water.  Trump's plan is for more fossil fuels, period. Eric Levitz points out: Trump has vowed to “renegotiate” the Paris climate deal, presumably to reflect his belief that the Earth is quite possibly “going to start to cool at some point.”

Levitz writes: There are a lot of insane beliefs that could shape Donald Trump’s four to eight years of governance. But only a few have the potential to trigger literally apocalyptic consequences — the idea that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese is one.

Millennials and generations immediately following are the ones who are going to bear the brunt of climate crisis consequences, and the responsibilities to deal with both the causes and consequences.  They need to get this right.

Al Gore already has counselled that the wrong way to address this future is to vote for a third party candidate.  The actual Millennium, some would argue, was marked by the year 2000 elections.  Yeah, Gore and Bush were well-known politicians from within their party establishments.  They both wore suits and red ties to their debate.  But the idea that there were no important differences on issues or abilities was the most pernicious and damaging idea of, well, the millennium.

Much that President Obama accomplished in addressing the climate crisis in his eight years might well have happened a decade or more earlier, and so we would be making more progress now--maybe crucial progress to the future.  Instead as a result of 2000 we got the war in Iraq, torture and rendition and the Patriot Act, and the Great Recession.  And climate crisis denial in the White House, including censorship and deliberate distortion of scientific findings.

Millennials can only bring tragedy upon themselves and this planet's chances for a future by failing to vote for Hillary.

Update: Eugene Robinson in the WPost: A vote for Trump is a vote for climate catastrophe.

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