At last night’s third and final presidential debate, we heard about horses and bayonets, nukes and drones, Israel and Iran and whether we should just give up on Pakistan. But, for the first time since 1988, we didn’t hear anything last night or in either of the two previous debates this year about climate change.
As to energy, it came up much less in last night’s foreign policy debate than in the previous week’s debate on domestic issues, but anything said on energy was just as foolish.
For example, there was nary a word about oil, the reason that the world cares about the Middle East in the first place. And if Afghanistan is the longest war in America’s history, it’s also an oil war. But that didn’t come up last night either.
Both candidates did pledge their allegiance to drilling, but only Romney was shameless enough to promise “North American energy independence,” the first point of his pandering Five Point Plan. And, true to form, Romney found a way to mention bankrupt solar manufacturer Solyndra but said nothing about massive subsidies to Big Oil and Big Coal — showing his hostility to both solar power and to clean energy in general.
A plague on both your houses
“There’s a good reason why nobody is paying attention to the election this year except the people who, one way or another, get paid to be interested: because for all that’s at stake there is no coherent discussion about any of it,” wrote James Howard Kunstler just before the third debate. “By ‘at stake’ I mean what we are going to do when the major systems we depend on for everyday life begin to wobble and fail.”
I felt the same way last week when both candidates talked more about energy. Then, it turned out they had a lot in common: both candidates love oil, coal and natural gas and think that America should produce more fossil fuels.
And, surprise, they both wish gas prices were lower. But depressingly, they both act like the U.S. president can do something about it.
I wouldn’t blame anyone who cares about climate and peak oil and fears (or hopes) as Kunstler does, that the global financial system could collapse soon and bring down the rest of industrial civilization with it, for cursing both Obama and Romney, as Kunstler also does:
Mitt Romney represents all the forces that seek to pervert truth in banking, markets, trading, and commercial business. He made his fortune in a business of lethal arbitrage, hunting through the underbrush of American business like a poisonous snake, striking his victims in stealth and then consuming them. Barack Obama, lawyer and president, forgot that one of his duties is hunting snakes, and has allowed the garden of America to become overrun with snakes. There is even the pretty good chance that, if he loses this election, Mr. Obama will become one of those snakes himself.
Personally, I have no faith in either of them, and watching them pretend to battle in the trumped-up arena of “debate” makes me sick.
Lesser evil and all that
How tired are those of us who still vote of having to choose the guy who’ll merely step on our toes instead of the one who’s going to cut off our leg, as Rebecca Solnit so aptly put it recently?
At the same time, there’s no award for staying home on election day. No matter how much personal satisfaction it may give you to abstain, CNN won’t tabulate your non-vote in a special “Opt Out” category. Nor will they do a story on the trend, growing or not, of non-voters.
Rightly or wrongly, non-voters are the ultimate non-story.
So, if you think that staying home on election day will keep your hands clean, I ask you to think about what your abstinence really means.
“But I’m too busy on gardening and local activism to vote,” you might say. Horseshit, I reply. Voting comes only once or twice a year in most areas. So there’s plenty of time to do both.
I’m not saying that this election is any kind of contest between good and evil. The best I can say is that it’s between disastrous disaster and merely scare-the-crap-out-of-you disaster. And if you don’t vote, that won’t stop plenty of idiots from doing so. It’s just that your lack of voting will give voting idiots relatively more say in the matter.
Pick your poison
Of course, there’s no reason for anyone who cares about peak oil, climate change or the house-of-cards economy to vote for a stuffed-shirt puppet of the plutocracy who is bought and paid for by Big Oil and the Koch Brothers like Mitt Romney.
And, while there’s very little reason for the aforementioned voter to push the digital button for Barack Obama, it’s also wrong to say that there’s no difference. Or, that it doesn’t matter.
There is a difference. And it does matter.
As a sometime political candidate myself, during the energy discussion last week, I knew well enough that I had to pull out my weasel-language translator to see what the candidates were really saying. It’s all about the nuance, as political consultants explain.
Aside from the obvious bullshit about gas prices and oil leases on federal lands, Obama’s language showed that he supports renewable energy and the environment, no matter how little. That’s true to his record. Whereas it’s equally clear that Romney supports the environment not at all. That’s arguably worse than his record as governor, but consistent with where the regressive GOP has wound up today.
And if arithmetic is not your strong suit, I should explain that there’s a big difference between a little and not at all.
Another nuance in last week’s debate: Romney mentioned Keystone XL, but Obama refused to bite. That’s not nothing.
Maybe it’s the difference between an F and a C-. Not a great choice — but a choice nonetheless.
And we’re all adult enough to know that no president elected today, whether as brave and loving as St. Francis or as honest and law-abiding as Socrates or as committed to good government as Confucius, could make much difference in our current hijacked national political system, complete with a grandstanding Congress, the Senate filibuster and a Supreme Court ready to nullify anything big a president might try to do (except, for some reason, Obamacare).
For those determined to make a protest vote, the Green Party’s Jill Stein is the obvious energy-smart choice for her support of conservation and renewables and serious action on climate.
Actually, the real choice on November 6 will not be in the presidential race. Nor probably for your Congressman either. Where your vote will really count is in your local races.
As a local elected official myself, I am beginning to see just how much difference that un-sexy city councils and county boards can make. From zoning to real estate tax rates to school budgets to development and transportation plans, local governments make most of the decisions that affect your quality of life and the ability of your community to become more resilient in the face of peak oil and financial crisis.
Unless you’re enlisted in the army or invested in a defense contractor, it won’t make as much difference in your life whether the U.S. invades Iran as whether your city decides to invest its limited resources in building a new a bypass instead of beefing up the bus schedules.
“Go vote. It makes you feel big and strong,” as debate moderator Bob Schieffer’s mom used to say.
Be honest. does refusing to vote really make you feel more honest or virtuous? Or does it just make you feel small and weak?
– Erik Curren, Transition Voice