Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Alt-Reality and the Coming Realignment

It's been a difficult time for me, since November the 8th.  I, like so many others, had bought into the mainstream media story that Democratic Party nominee Hilary Clinton had the U.S. Presidential election in the bag.  Sure, I was aware of a late-election surge for Republican Party nominee Donald Trump, thanks in part to FBI Director James Comey's leaked letter about possibly needing to revise his statement to some Congressional Committee or other about Clinton's emails, based on what the media was reporting to be new information obtained from the Federal Bureau's investigation of Anthony Weiner.  I knew it was going to be close – but my faith in Americans to do the right thing remained strong, and although I made plans to stay up late to watch the election results roll in (and to see whether or not Trump was going to concede in the face of those results), I really secretly thought I'd be turning in before midnight.

At least I got that last part right.  I turned the television off and shut the cover to my laptop at a little after 11pm.  At that time, the analysts and pundits were talking about battleground Michigan, but Flordia and Ohio had already fallen to Trump.  And although Pennsylvania hadn't been called for either candidate, Trump's lead seemed pretty strong there.  In Pennsylvania.  I knew it was all over, and not worrying about whether Clinton would concede, I decided to get a good night's sleep – knowing that I was going to need it, just thinking about the next four years.

But I didn't have a good night's sleep.  I tossed and turned and dreamed in fits and starts that Clinton had managed to pull off some sort of bottom of the ninth rally – maybe taking New Hampshire and Nevada, and thanks to the good people of Detroit, Flint and Philadelphia, maybe she had managed to eke out a victory in Michigan and Pennsylvania.  The American people know best, surely. President Trump?  It can't be a reality.

Unfortunately, President Trump was the reality I woke up to.  On my way to work I tweeted that I had just seen Mr. Spock with a beard, because I was certain that I had started this day in another dimension.  The real world was still carrying on as it should somewhere else – with President-Elect Hilary Clinton doing media interviews on breakfast television.  It was just me that somehow got stuck in another universe.

No Skin in the Game

Let me back up a moment, because I think that those reading this blogpost might be under the illusion that I wanted Clinton to win the election.  This is where things get complicated for me, but luckily on the level of actually being able to affect any outcomes, I didn't have any skin in the game.  As a Canadian, I did not cast a ballot in the election.  And as a Green, I think it's fair to say that had I been able to vote, it would not have been for Hilary Clinton.  Therefore, it's difficult for me to even project myself into the U.S. election, beyond acknowledging that had I been a participant, I would have been wasting my time and would have had zero impact on its outcome anyway.

Of course, that's really no different than many of the millions of Americans who voted for Clinton.  More Americans actually voted for Clinton than for Trump (see: "Final Vote Count 2016,", November 13, 2016. The Snopes article also provides insight into claims made by Trump supporters that it was Trump, not Clinton, who ended up with more votes - more on fake news in another blog!), but because of the U.S.'s antiquated and unfair electoral system, the States gets President Trump with a smaller number of votes.  Sure, it's all perfectly legal.  Just for those voters in states like California and Washington where they're still counting ballots – well, I think they know clearly that their votes mattered as much as the imaginary vote that I would have cast for U.S. Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

Climate Change on my Mind

You see, my issue is climate change.  It's not the only issue that I care about, but it's one that I care about deeply.  I think I have a pretty good grasp of the implications of climate change, and I'm extremely concerned about the lack of action we've taken to address what we know will be the impacts of a warming planet.  With that in mind, for me, what happens in the U.S. matters significantly.  The U.S. sidelined itself by not ratifying Kyoto.   Under President Obama, who promised that his presidency would see the rise of the oceans begin to recede, the U.S.  actually regained its status as one of the world's largest oil and gas producers (see: "Despite Protests, Oil Industry Thrives Under Obama Agenda,", January 5, 2015).

With climate change in mind, it's clear to me that the Democratic Party has been a disaster for the planet.  Years of saying one thing and doing another under Obama have clearly (to me) been lost years in the global fight against climate change.  Sure, there have been a number of small victories and tentative steps forward (cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline was mostly symbolic, but it was the right symbol; the Paris Climate Change treaty is a little more substantive, as is the recent Canada-U.S. Agreement to limit fugitive methane emissions). So the Democrats have been a disaster – but perhaps not a complete disaster.

The Republicans, on the other hand, have been a complete disaster for the planet.  There are still actually a significant number of elected Republicans who don't believe in the reality of climate change, and instead subscribe to conspiracy theories which they've mainstreamed for the U.S. (and partially for Canada's) right wing.  If the Republicans ever seized power with a climate change denying President and both houses of Congress under their control, well, it probably would be game over for the planet.

Uhm, ya, so about that....

Looking for Hope Amidst Planetary 'Game Over'

Anyway, all of that's to say that I'm coming at this election from a bit of a different place than most.  I couldn't vote, and even if I had voted, I would have done so knowing that my vote wasn't going to matter.  I've believed that both candidates would fail to take meaningful action on an issue of importance to me.

Strangely, though, the idea of President-Elect Donald Trump gives me hope.  Don't misunderstand me:  my hope doesn't reside in the person of Donald Trump or any of his “policies” whatever it is that they might eventually amount to.  My hope is that the very presence of Trump at the pinnacle of world power might finally lead to real progressive, democratic reforms.  And real action on climate change.

Now, I don't expect the U.S. to march off and change its unfair electoral system.  But Trump's presence in the White House might give Trudeau and Canada's lawmakers pause, and stiffen the Liberal's resolve towards making 2015's federal election the last unfair election in this nation.  The prospect of a frowning, flag-wrapped Trump wannabe in the form of Conservative Party leadership candidate Kellie Leitch might just be enough to convince the Liberals that it's time to try out proportional representation (because it's become increasingly clear that actually listening to Canadians wasn't going to be enough for Trudeau).

No Avoiding Seismic Political Shifts

I think we're going to see some pretty interesting things over the next four years, many of which are likely to be uncompromisingly negative.  Trump, who thinks climate change is a Chinese conspiracy (see: "Yes, Donald Trump did call climate change a Chinese hoax," Politifact, June 3, 2016) isn't likely to go along with the Paris agreement.  He is likely to do a great deal of damage to the environment and the atmosphere.  That's a huge problem.  Who are Americans going to look to for leadership on climate change (and on what's likely to be a number of other pretty big issues)?  A failed and flailing Democratic Party that's in the hands of business elites?  Maybe initially.  Bernie Sanders tried it that way. 

Ultimately, I think it's going to become increasingly clear to Americans that the Democratic Party isn't their friend, and has consistently failed to look out for the interests of Americans.  Either the Democratic Party is going to undergo some sort of internal transformation, or the animosity is going to boil over and we'll see something else emerge as one or two political entities. 

21st Century Fascism - American-Style

Republicans might love the idea that the Democratic Party is about to dissolve, but they shouldn't feel too comfortable.  Trump is no conservative, even if there is some overlap of his issues and what's important to conservatives.  Which side of the issues will moderate and conservative Republicans find themselves on?  Trump's agenda is nationalistic in its outlook – I would call it more Mussolini-style fascist than Ronald Reagan-conservative.  Republicans might quickly find themselves having to choose between their values (economic and social) – and continuing to go along on the populist Nantucket slay ride that Trump took them on.  Without an election for a couple of years, it's not clear to me that Trump is going to get the (relatively) free ride from his own Party that he enjoyed throughout the campaign (and no, I didn't miss the whole Republican 'Dump Trump' brouhaha – but it really did seem to fizzle in the end, didn't it?).

Republicans are ultimately going to have to search their own souls and decide whether they want to be conservatives or fascists.  Yes, fascists (I'll be doing a follow-up blogpost at some point in the near future about why I think it's important to call Donald Trump and his ilk what they really are – and about why I clearly believe they are 21st Century fascists).   And I suspect the Trump bandwagon isn't going to be as crowded with Reagan Republicans going forward.

The Failure of Liberalsim

What's happening in the U.S. is all a part of a global realignment of political interests, due to a rising understanding that liberals and conservatives have both been implicit in the promotion economic and political systems that disenfranchise and impoverish the majority of citizens.  I realize this may sound unbelievable to many, but liberals like Hilary and Bill Clinton, Justin Trudeau and - yes - Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley - have been a part of the growing problem, rather than offering much in the way of solutions.  Sure, maybe liberals haven't been as nasty as conservatives, but in some respects, they've actually been more successful than the right-wing at moving neoliberal economic interests forward.  Don't believe me?

Back to Obama and the growth of U.S. Oil and gas.  What about Prime Minister Trudeau, who seems poised to permit massive carbon bombs in the form of B.C. Pacific North West LNG and an anticipated Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain approval?  Or Bill Clinton's deregulation of the banking industry.  Or the growth of generational national debts?  And none of that even touches on issues of systemic corruption which successive "liberal" governments in both nations (and let's not forget Tony Blair in the U.K. while I'm ranting) which we've come to accept as "business as usual".

No, for too long, conservatives and liberals have put their own interests at the forefront – interests that revolve around the profitability of multinational corporations at the expense of the rest of us. They have not been champions for the average person. Their pursuit of neoliberal economic policies has been reactionary, rather than progressive, when one considers the growing wealth gap between the rich and the rest of us.  What both liberals and conservatives have chosen to champion is the opposite of sustainability.

Renewing Progressive Political Choices

In Canada, it's my hope that the NDP finally gets its act together and figures out that it really does, after all, want to be a champion of the common person.  And for the Green Party, it's my hope that it comes to realize that it has a partner in an NDP which has (ultimately and finally) rejected liberalism.  Greens and New Democrats both need to acknowledge that the only way forward is through the rejection of our neoliberal economic system and poll-driven populism.   The coming realignment may see Greens and New Democrats working together to defeat liberals like Justin Trudeau and Rachel Notley (yes, I said Rachel Notley again – that was not a mistake).

Our problem, going forward, is that fascists like Trump would be even worse when it comes to sustainability – and I'm not just talking about the environment or resource extraction or climate change here.  Trump might want to tear up international trade agreements (although I don't really think he actually will), but he's certainly not going to do away with the the elite-enriching neoliberal economic system and move towards co-operativist capitalism.  More likely, America will end up with a true kleptocracy, where national wealth is laid out like a buffet at a wake, with rich industrialists helping themselves to all the goodies while the body of the 99% lies in state.

It's a brand new world now.  When the mainstream media in the States are routinely interviewing David Duke and the leader of the U.S. Nazi Party for their reaction to Trump's transition team appointments (see: "White nationalists see advocate in Steve Bannon who will hold Trump to his campaign promises," CNN, November 15, 2016) – there can be no doubt that we all woke up on the morning of November 9th in an alternate universe.  But perhaps it's a universe in where the stars will realign – and maybe, just maybe, we might ultimately end up better off for it. 

Admit it: Leonard Nimoy looked alarmingly sexy with a beard.

(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own, and should not be considered consistent with the policies and positions of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

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