Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Why are Presidential Primary candidates pushing Climate Change policy? Is it because the foundation of our American culture is ignorance of history?

The foundation of American culture is ignorance of history. Consider...

When asked in 1972 about the influence of the French Revolution, the late Premier of the People's Republic of China Zhou Enlai is reputed to have said:''Too early to say."

It is the apocryphal example of the patient and far-sighted nature of the discourse in China, where cultural advances are surveyed in terms of millenniums and economic progress is evaluated in centuries. This contrasts to the discourse in the United States, where cultural changes are defined by decades and economic expectations are calculated in days.

Here is an interesting historical fact from Wikipedia:

    The 1924 Democratic National Convention, held at the Madison Square Garden in New York City from June 24 to July 9, 1924, was the longest continuously running convention in United States political history. It took a record 103 ballots to nominate a presidential candidate. It was the first major party national convention that saw the name of a woman, Lena Springs, placed in nomination for the office of Vice President. John W. Davis, a dark horse, eventually won the presidential nomination on the 103rd ballot, a compromise candidate following a protracted convention fight between distant front-runners William Gibbs McAdoo and Al Smith.
    Davis and his vice presidential running-mate, Charles W. Bryan of Nebraska, went on to be defeated by the Republican ticket of President Calvin Coolidge and Charles G. Dawes in the 1924 presidential election.
    A total of 58 candidates received votes over the 103 ballots, and the second ballot was the one where most candidates were voted for (20 in total).

Democrats and others look at the current almost two dozen candidates running in the Democratic Presidential Primaries and relate it back to the 2016 Republican situation. That is because people don't understand much of anything about the history of our political system, even what happened 3+ years ago.

The important thing to remember about the Democratic 2020 Presidential Primary system is that it will be nothing like the Republican system that produced Trump. Trump won because of winner-take-all delegate award rules. The Democrats for 2020 have set up proportional rules which likely will make it easier for candidates with dogged, but limited, support resulting in their appearance on second ballot at the Convention.

It may not happen that the Democrats will end up with a brokered convention, but it is a real likelihood. And because all the various obnoxious subcultures support particular candidates, all of whom but one must lose, the possibility of bitterness suppressing Democratic turnout for the November election is very real.

This isn't all that complex to explain, but cultural context is a loser for the United States and particularly for Democrats. Consider for a moment the controversy over debating Climate Change policy. Tom Perez, head of the Democratic National Committee, ruled out an official presidential primary debate centered on climate change. That angered the dumb and young. Which then stirred the candidates who assuredly will discuss their policy proposals on the subject not only in the debates but afterwards because they have to win the primaries.

In 1988 the when George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis, global warming was discussed for a whole one minute and 25 seconds:

Unfortunately, in 2019 the Democrats will feel compelled to say more...
  • without referencing what happened in the years immediately after the 1988 debate when the real opportunity to do something presented itself and 
  • without referencing the Republican alternative position which has already been mentioned publicly but formally will be rolled out in the near future to create fear about the Socialist Green New Deal among the electorate.
Which brings up the difficulty of discussing Climate Change in either a Chinese or American cultural context and, more particularly, across cultures.

Perhaps we should note that there is climate change and there is Climate Change. A capitonym is a word that changes its meaning when it is capitalized. In this case "climate change" refers to changes in Earth's climate system resulting in new weather patterns that last for at least a few decades, and maybe for millions of years. In terms of millions of years, in the Earth's distant past there were period such as the Cretaceous Thermal Maximum, the Permo-Carboniferous Glaciation, and Snowball Earth. During the time humans have been on the planet, there have been lesser periods called Bond event glaciations. The Earth survived all the past climate change periods though millions of species didn't.

But today we discuss "Climate Change" which actually refers to an Industrial Age climate change more properly known as global warming, the  long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth's climate system, an aspect of climate change shown by temperature measurements and by multiple effects of the warming over the lands and in the seas. The discussion goes to species extinction and sometimes to the probability of the extinction of the human species, the species that is the cause of Climate Change.

Despite what you will see or hear from the Trump Administration, China has made some progress in the struggle against Climate Change in no small part because they do explore issues in an extended historical context - extended both back and forward in millennia. In 2018 Zhejiang province was recognized with a Champions of the Earth Award, the United Nation's highest environmental honor. As noted here in previous posts on China and environmental issues:
    One of the pioneers has been East China's Zhejiang province, where in 2005 Xi Jinping, then Zhejiang Party secretary, famously said: "Clear waters and green mountains are mountains of gold and silver." Putting the theory into practice, Zhejiang has pioneered an "eco-compensation" system, which enables regions to both preserve the environment and develop eco-friendly industries. - from "The five major development concepts" by Robert Lawrence Kuhn
Xi Jinping, of course, has been President of China since March 14, 2013. But in 2005 when he offered the environmental statement quoted above -  "Clear waters and green mountains are mountains of gold and silver" - he was far from pandering to the popular thinking. In the first decade of this century, climate change skepticism in China was worse than in the U.S. But today China is led by an environmentalist while we have Donald Trump.

In terms of addressing human behavioral effects on the climate, China has a long ways to go as does the United States, though the governmental leadership attitude is radically different. Every Chinese Climate Change (note the capital letters) policy is organized with specific goals over defined five year periods with long term objectives seen in terms of a century. This is, of course, not "the American way" - except perhaps in California which like Zhejiang is following a State government led path to achieve significant Climate Change goals over the next three decades.

As noted in this blog previously the Trump-led Republican climate change policy (note the lack of capital letters) assumes that as an adaptive society we Americans - all randomly, voluntarily, and profitably in the American Way - will take the steps necessary to adapt - we will reorganize, we will move to different places, and we will innovate through technology.

On Sunday, June 23, 2019, Vice-President Mike Pence reflected the Republican climate change view in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper:

    Tapper:But I want to ask you a question about Climate Change. The director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, said in a January report on worldwide threats that the climate emergency is -- quote -- "likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress and social discontent." It is a priority for the DNI, Coats. The EPA this week, however, rolled back part of President Obama's Clean Power Plan, letting states set their own limit for coal power plants emissions. Do you believe think human-induced climate emergency is a threat to the United States?
    Pence:Well, what -- what I will tell you is that we will always follow the science on that in this administration.
    Tapper: The science says it is.
    Pence: But what -- but what we -- but what we won't do -- and the Clean Power Plan was all about that -- was hamstringing energy in this country, raising the cost of utility rates for working families across this country...
    Tapper:TAPPER: But is it a threat?
    Pence: ... while other nations like China and India absolutely do nothing or make illusory promises decades down the road to deal with it. You know, the truth of the matter is, with the advent of natural gas, with the natural gas explosion that is developing...
    Tapper: Yes.
    Pence: ... with clean coal technology, we're seeing -- we're seeing a significant reduction in carbon emissions all across this country.
    Tapper: Do you think it's a threat? Man-made climate emergency—is it a threat?
    Pence: I think the answer to that is going to be based upon the science.
    Tapper: Well, the science says yes. I'm asking you what you think.
    Pence: Well, there's many in the science that—
    Tapper: The science community in your own administration—at NOAA, at the DNI—they all say it's a threat. But you won't, for some reason.
    Pence: What the president has said—what we've said—is that we're not going to raise utility rates. Remember what President Obama said? He had his Climate Change plan, he said it's necessarily going to cause rates to skyrocket. And that would force us into these green technologies. You've got Democrats all running for president on a Green New Deal that would break this economy.

The difficulty in this exchange is Tapper believes there is a "human-induced climate emergency" that is "a threat to the United States." Pence is focused on immediate policy choices. As proposed in the Democratic Green New Deal, pursuant U.S. Government regulation America would be required to reorganize its economy to meet defined needs to reduce or adapt to the impacts of Climate Change.

In 2020 the Republicans are going to challenge the concept of "climate emergency" in terms of climate change versus Climate Change.

In 2014 Haley Barbour, then Republican National Committee chairman and former Mississippi governor, told the Republican Leadership Conference: “In a two party system, purity is the enemy of victory.” If you Google the two words liberty enemy you will get a multitude of results for "[something] is the enemy of liberty." You will not get results for "liberty is the enemy of [something]". It's pretty easy to make the Green New Deal the enemy of liberty for purposes of winning the election. Of course Barbour was talking about winning elections.

The challenge for Republicans will be to get American likely voters thinking about what they are willing to give up economically for what they describe as the "Socialist Green New Deal." The supporting numbers are relatively easy to find.

Consider the chart to the left from the Environmental Progress website article Electricity prices in California rose three times more in 2017 than they did in the rest of the United States. California's implementation of solar and wind energy rapid expansion has its costs and as usual, the costs hit those who least can afford them despite rate structure efforts.

Lest you think, based on recent polling showing more Americans are concerned about Climate Change, that it would be good for Democrats to put a lot of their election eggs in that basket, here's the message from the other side regarding just one policy issue:

"Committed urban progressives" must quit talking among themselves long enough to attempt to understand the implications of the map below...

...because although the majority in all states think Climate Change is real, if Republicans make enough voters believe that the Democratic Green New Deal will cause them immediate economic harm, not only might Donald Trump win reelection but the Democrats may lose the House.

This writer fears that by embracing potential solutions to Climate Change found in the Green New Deal, Democrats will defeat themselves. The fact that the map above is based on extensive 2018 polling offers some hope as subsequent wildfires, flooding, tornadoes, and hurricanes across the nation might be bringing the implications of Climate Change up close and personal for many voters before November 2020.

The phrase "The economy, stupid" was coined by James Carville as the campaign strategy for Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign against President George H. W. Bush, the last time a sitting Republican President lost reelection. That is because the economy is more up close and personal for all voters than any other issue in any election not being held in a time of declared war.

Of course since the foundation of American culture is ignorance of history, the Democrats may blow it anyway by repeating the 1924 Democratic National Convention.

Oh, and by the way, meaningful Climate Change policy such as that found in California depends upon legislation which is adopted by the legislative branch. What we have in California was put in place by a Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown, negotiating "energetically" with a Legislature that was a Democratic super-majority.

At the national level, the Democrats have virtually no chance to achieve that kind of majority, indeed almost no chance to get a majority in the U.S. Senate. So why are the various subcultures in the Democratic Party so intent on having the Presidential Primary candidates fall on the Climate Change sword???

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