I’m ending this week-long series of posts on climate change with two pleas, the first of which is to Justin Bieber.
Biebs, look buddy, I saw you on the cover of the same Rolling Stone in which Bill McKibben wrote his piece on the terrifying new math of global warming. I think there’s an opportunity here. What’s the rest of your life going to be, man? Slaying young girls and writing trifling pop songs while you try to avoid the same pitfalls that sink everyone who gets too rich too famous too fast? Take up climate change as your cause, Biebs! Organize your zombie army of Twilight-Tweens into an actual force for good! Get them to shame their parents! It’s up to you, Biebs—the fate of the world is on your shoulders!!!
OK, and also, to you, regular-not-Justin-Bieber-person reading this. You should start voting your heat.
We have to acknowledge something fundamental about American politics: where there used to be a bi-partisan consensus on the basic facts surrounding global warming and the need to address it, the Republican Party has now stepped off the ledge of reality.
Is this because Republicans suddenly became privy to information the rest of us simply missed? No. At one point Republicans like John McCain and Virginia’s John Warner advocated for cap-and-trade schemes. As late as 2010, South Carolina’s Lindsay Graham was trying to pass a bill with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman. So it’s not as if the evidence has suddenly dried up and these people saw the light. Much to the contrary, the few voices of intelligence and courage on this issue within the Republican Party have been marginalized, bullied, and silenced.
Republicans have purged themselves so thoroughly of dissent, of anyone who attempts to challenge the fossil-fuel denialist narrative, that it has left a huge void in our democratic system. One half of America’s political identity literally doesn’t even acknowledge the reality of our situation.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are unlikely to attempt anything serious about climate if voters punish them. This is why climate has to become a first-tier issue, by which I mean it has to be at the forefront of voting behavior. For some people their first-tier issue is abortion, for others it’s taxes, for others foreign policy. Yet none of these things will matter at all if we don’t start tackling the biggest issue out there. The same goes to people who probably lean toward my side of the political spectrum. Your income inequality, your education, your gun control, your immigration reform—all in need of addressation, sure, but we’re going to look awful simple-minded to our grandkids if we spend all our time protesting the transient profits of big banks while the world burns. We have to vote our heat.
I’m continually perplexed that over the last decade the political and media class has fed or fueled for us a string of existential threats—terrorism, financial crisis, budget deficits—that were in some cases totally non-existent (Saddam’s WMD anyone?), in some cases overblown, and in many cases have answers that don’t exactly require society to reinvent the wheel. Meanwhile, the one actual existential threat that will be—even under perfect circumstances—incredibly complex and difficult to solve is treated contemptuously as the jerk-off whining of tree-huggers. The mainstream media, while not denying the existence of global warming, certainly doesn’t lift a finger to connect the dots for viewers, to question the status quo. Therefore, how can we expect politicians to take the threat seriously if their constituents don’t take it seriously?
This year drought, heat, and peak energy demand will affect every American in some way, especially in higher food prices. We need to think about that when we step into the voting booth. In particular, one political party needs to be repudiated on its anti-scientific, flat-earth absolutism. There’s just no other way to get there. Coal-powered Democrats will persist and oil-fueled politicians will probably be with us for as long as the dregs of that crap are being scraped out of the ends of the earth, but their coalition can be denuded. To put it as bluntly as possible, the Republican Party, in its current ideological form cannot survive if we want to.
That’s my plea: when you vote, think about the heat.
And don't worry, next week I'll be back to belly button lint and other fun topics. Rigth after I hashtag #VoteYourHeat to Biebs.