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The pandemic strikes me as first viable chance to actually test Al Gore’s etymologically dubious argument that the climate crisis could be teased apart into both danger and opportunity. Humanity has proven itself quite maladapted for responding to threats moving too gradually to see, while also demonstrating amazing flexibility and tactical ingenuity when the danger abruptly switches to ramming speed. Covid-19 represents the first swift and global-scale disaster whose likely causes lay in climate change, and every part of the world’s population is, for once, paying attention.
Count me among those who believe that the world as we knew it even as recently as last Christmas is gone forever. Even if and when this particular menace finds itself isolated and inoculated into history, the world will emerge profoundly changed, at a scale and a magnitude not seen since the end of World War II. Both individual states and global society will need to stitch their wounds and rebuild — and, in so doing, reorder themselves, at every level.
I want to see the United States come out better for it. I think it’s possible. For all the pain and death and ignorance and tearful, angry frustration we experience right now, I really do think it’s possible.
I have a vision of near-middle-future America — and I fully admit that I mean “vision” here not in the sense of a personal guiding light but of a dreamily wavering image in the blue and uncannily contrail-free sky — that has seen sweeping changes in its top-level political structures, where neither the Democratic or Republican parties as we know them today continue to exist.
In this future, the Democratic party has undergone a healthy mitosis, with its two ever-diverging “moderate” and “progressive” lobes separating to form two new political parties. These would become the nation’s conservative and liberal parties, respectively: both interested in seeing the country progress, but holding differing philosophies about focus. They would continuously check, challenge, and compromise with one another in the style of a functional, multi-party democracy.
Perhaps this doesn’t happen so formally; maybe they both remain in the same nominal party tent, but the population gains a better understanding that the Democrats are not a monolith. People would express this understanding through greater awareness of and activity in primary elections — including, nay, especially state and local primary contests — and then through pushing their community-chosen Democratic candidates into seats in general elections.
And what they would push out, in this realignment, is the Republican party, which has become garbage, which has under Trump completed its embrace of the anti-future selfishness it has veered towards since the Reagan era. As a political force, Republicans are capable only of wreckage and national regression, burning up the future to fuel their uncaring need to stay in power just a little bit longer. Elected Republicans who toe the party line have no interest in leadership: they serve only the party, and the party serves only itself, openly, contemptuously. The Republican party is a cancer on the American body, and needs surgical removal.
While America still needs a conservative party, it isn’t the Republicans any more. It wants, instead, the wing of the Democrats that drives my friends into teeth-grinding frustration when they act like stodgy traditionalists instead of the hungrier and far less patient faction fronted by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and her cohort. I believe that we still need self-styled moderate voices, just as I am willing to believe that the Republican party might once have filled this role.
But today, the GOP has no ability at all to argue or act in good faith. As an experiment last week, I took note of every time I read about Republicans — including, but not limited to, the president — acting in broad daylight against the health of country or the world. I hit twenty articles by Friday, by which point the news had become swamped with the president’s infuriating blather about ingesting disinfectants, and I stopped it there. (I have attached my notes to the end of this article.)
I don’t have a better plan of action here other than: well, first of all care, then vote — in both primary and general elections. Vote for the Democrats you like best in primaries, and vote for whatever Democrats have been handed to you in the general, even if they’re not who you asked for. Why no, that’s not at all ideal! But the first step towards a reordered America means forever wrenching the levers of power out of Republican hands, and unfortunately there is literally one defensively possible way to do that right now.
To help me keep the future in mind — and not just the present predicament — I think about how I can continue pressing, once the Republicans have been reduced to an inflammatory but powerless rump. How will I use my voice (and my money) to pressure a more openly two-poled Democratic party into pulling the national direction towards the future I want to see, and holding them accountable until then? That will be our next fight! But first, we gotta win this one.
And, here is my “Exhibit A”, five days of Republican anti-American and/or anti-future activity, as I happened to come across it during the week of April 20, 2020. I admit that the title of this post came to me today as I regarded this note-page of links threatening to go stale unless I wrote about them soon.
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