The Democratic party and the nominees are highly intelligent people, they know what’s happening to the climate, they know that climate change will have devastating consequences for their constituents, their country, and the planet as a whole. So why don’t they welcome the chance to showcase their candidates’ progressive ideas and further distinguish themselves as the party of the future?
The answer from the DNC chairman Tom Perez is that if they granted the request for a climate-focused primary debate, “they’d have to change their guidelines and say yes to every other candidate’s issue-specific debate ideas that they’ve made central to their own campaigns.” This is 100% pure nonsense. The DNC has full authority to treat the debates any way it likes — whatever guidelines they have are just that, guidelines, and they can be changed. So now that we’ve got that settled, let’s look at the real story.
When you zoom out and look at the big picture it begins to make perfect sense.
They Answer to the Same Masters
The Democrats, who are essentially controlled by the same corporate elites and billionaires as the Republicans, are quite satisfied with the state of the economy and its positive effect on the expanding wealth of the top 1%, or better yet, the top 0.01%. The fact that the bottom 90% of the population isn’t sharing in that wealth is less relevant than you might think. As I explained in a previous article, politicians don’t represent the bottom 90%of citizens and so according to their metrics, the status quo is working great; corporate interests and billionaires who fund campaigns are adding nicely to their fortunes.
Let that sink in for a minute. The corporate elites and billionaires who fund both Democrats and Republicans are getting exactly what they want.
The concern for the elite is that if politicians delve too deeply into the issue of climate change, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes obvious that this challenge can only be successfully addressed with drastic changes in how the economy works, how business is conducted and the role that government plays.
This is terrifying to the elites. They have a good thing going and they have no appetite to make any large scale changes that could tamper with their wealth hoarding system.
A Shift In Thinking
We’re not talking about a few tweaks here and there, but rather, a dramatic shift in the ideological approach and the narrative of the role of business in how the economy and society operates and nothing brings all the issues into focus like climate change. It touches upon everything that we care about; the air we breathe, our jobs, our health, our food supply, opportunities for our children and grandchildren, immigration and national security. It’s truly a holistic issue and is arguably the perfect way to frame a debate.
The old myths of trickle down economics, massive deregulation (banking and environment) and billionaires adding to their wealth being good for everyone needs a good looksy — it’s a massive failure by any metric, unless you are striving for wealth concentration. But perhaps the biggest myth of them all, and the newest member to the group, is that business (and billionaire philanthropists) using the profit motive can find solutions to the world’s biggest problems with win-win solutions that ensure that any profits be kicked back upstairs to those who created the problems in the first place.
For those paying attention to the world of corporate sustainability, CSR, Profit with Purpose, Impact Investing etc.; business has proven beyond any doubt that its profit motive and win-win approach is completely outmatched by the magnitude of our environmental and social challenges. Just look at the stats on every major ecosystem on the planet — all of them are in decline.
It Will Be Painful For Some
Climate change is getting worse, the arctic is melting at levels not expected until 2090 and it’s causing the gulf stream to become more unstable which removes predictability from our agricultural system. This is in addition to all of the other climate related issues that we’ve become more familiar with in recent years such as; forest fires, heat waves, flooding, food and water shortages, mass migration etc.
…the corporate elites and billionaires are terrified that they might be asked to pay for the past harms that they caused.
These challenges must be addressed but in doing so it will cause great pain to a lot of rich folks who are profiting from exploitation of both people and the environment. And here is where it gets really tricky for those who made vast fortunes from this rigged system. At some point the issue of responsibility will come up and the corporate elites and billionaires are terrified that they might be asked to pay for the past harms that they caused. I explore this issue in my article titled, “Forget the Carbon Tax: The Climate “Karma Tax” Is The Perfect Solution.”
Those funding the Democrats are not fighting the same fight as us; making the system fair for everyone not just the elite, protecting our air and water, protecting democracy, ensuring that education and health care is affordable, ensuring that corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes and holding those who cause harm and break the law accountable for their crimes.
When you zoom out it becomes more clear — the corporate elites and billionaires are telling their puppet politicians to go slow with a wait and see approach…and the politicians who represent the elite are just following orders.
Let’s hope that leaders such as AOC, Washington Governor, Jay Inslee, Greta Thunberg, and movements such Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Movement who incidentally slept on the steps of the DNC last night, can shake this harmful power structure. There is still hope but the clock is ticking.
As Greta says:
“I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
Brad Zarnett is a Canadian sustainability strategist, thought leader and speaker. He is the Founder of the Toronto Sustainability Speaker Series (TSSS). You can follow Brad on twitter: @bradzarnett, LinkedIn: Brad Zarnett and now on Medium Brad on Medium