No one is quite sure how issues of public concern struggle up a hill of public unawareness before reaching the summit—the tipping point of public consciousness—and then start rolling downhill picking up speed, momentum, and wide-spread concern.

There are, of course, many instances of this: civil rights; equality for women; air and water quality; nuclear weapons, and many other major issues that started as remote causes and then became of general concern for the nation.

We may be witnessing something like this concerning climate damage.  If so, it could play a decisive role in the 2020 election.

Even so, climate destruction will not replace health care and immigration at the top of the political pyramid.  But with a number of Senate and House contests that are close, as well as the presidential contest, if climate concern has reached the tipping point in public consciousness, it could well determine the next occupant of the White House as well as governing majorities in both Houses of Congress.

Recent history will credit former Vice President Al Gore, as well as others such as former Senator Tim Wirth, for identifying climate damage early on, lead by the scientific testimony of experts such as Dr. James Hansen and others reaching back to the 1970s and even before.

Other scientists and elected officials in the 1970s and 80s also issued warnings and sought to focus public attention.  But we were drowned out by a small handful of so-called experts on the payrolls of energy and auto companies and others benefiting from unrestricted carbon emissions in the private sector and relied on by conservatives eager to avoid the issue and its dire consequences.

Some of these occupied the never-ending circle of campaign contributions and mutual reliance.  Others were trapped in an ideology based on resistance to government laws and regulations and wrote off the warnings as liberal nonsense.

There are signs this may be changing.  Republican “strategists” are beginning to warn of a climate backlash in next year’s elections.  The scientific chickens are coming home to roost in the form of rising temperatures, increased violent storms, massive flooding, crop damage by too little or too much water, damage to housing and retail outlets, record heat levels, and much else.

The shrinking band of climate deniers will continue with the mantra “who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes”.  But even those slow to change and slower to admit crisis sooner or later confront clear evidence and hard truth.

As evidence, consider the number of conservative candidates, especially those seeking re-election, now admitting “something must be done” to address climate destruction.  In too many instances their remedies are token at best.  But they cynically hope it will help them squeeze by without alienating corporate contributors still seeking to dump their last few million tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

Which brings back a pet peeve.  Do these corporate executives and their political protectors not have children?  Do they overcome sleepless consciences by pretending that their accumulated wealth will permit their children, as distinct from everyone else’s children, to locate living space somehow with its own pristine climate?

What folly!  What nonsense!  What arrogance!  What utter lack of any sense of shared humanity.

Regardless of ethnicity, color, religion, race, or gender, there is one thing our Creator has decreed: we all share the same climate.  The greedy, unconcerned executives and their hired political enablers can sail their gilded yachts to the far corners of the earth.  And guess what?  They will find the same storms, the same heat, the same rising tides as the rest of us.

Have fun on your new colony on Mars, folks.  The rest of us are going to continue our struggle to clean up the mess a hundred and fifty years of industrial pollution now deposited on our global doorsteps.

Hopefully, it is not too late.

4 Responses to “The Tipping Point, If It Is Not Too Late”

  1. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    “Do these corporate executives and their political protectors not have children? Do they overcome sleepless consciences by pretending that their accumulated wealth will permit their children, as distinct from everyone else’s children, to locate living space somehow with its own pristine climate?
    “What folly! What nonsense! What arrogance! What utter lack of any sense of shared humanity.”

    One might add “What greed, lack of morals and ethics.”

  2. Michael Says:

    I’m reminded of the Reagan official who said that if there were enough shovels to go around everyone could survive a nuclear war. No thought of whether the kind of life that would result would be worth digging a hole for. He didn’t have the incentive of financial gain, but it’s the same psychosis. Hopefully the electorate is at the tipping point you describe, and it’s not too late to actually do something.

  3. Jack DuVall Says:

    There is one figure among the platoon of Democratic presidential candidates who is unstinting about the urgency of countering climate change, and that’s Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State. No other presidential candidate knows as much about climate change as he does, and he showed it in the two evenings of televised debates to which he’s been invited so far. But I’m afraid that climate change has been stereotyped by much of the media as a Serious Policy Issue that can’t be readily summarized in three or four minutes, and it’s been overshadowed on debate stages by other issues that the front-runners have raised. It’s time for someone who isn’t running for president, but who is widely respected for his forward vision, to convene — perhaps with Inslee — a press conference in Washington to help the political media recognize that the climate emergency is a historic challenge to the country and its social and economic vitality.

  4. Eric C. Jacobson Says:

    With customary thoughtfulness the host has tried various formulations by which the Democrats might successfully “nationalize” the 2020 presidential election and “send Don-the-Con back to Trump Tower for good”—to echo Sen. Hart’s 1984 presidential primary campaign call to “send Ronnie back to his California ranch for good.”

    As the resident left-liberal (Dem-leaning) activist in this space (actually a registered independent voter since December 2011 which here in California is known as “Decline to State a party preference”) I have to say with utmost respect (while there’s possibly still time to avert a 2020 electoral calamity): In my humble opinion none of the themes proposed to-date by Sen. Hart will work. And one of the ones repeatedly proposed by my fellow commenters here—in sum: tripling-down on Russiagate—would be even worse (as further discussed below).

    The 2016 election, like all American elections, was about “the economy stupid” in James Carville’s famous phrase. (Parenthetical fun-fact: James worked for Hart in 1983 but Gary had to lay-off Carville as an economy measure during Hart’s time-of-testing in the fall of 1983 when funds became so scarce that it wasn’t clear (what we might today call) Gary’s “alt-liberal” public interest presidential campaign would survive the winter. It did!

    In sum: 2016 was the first presidential election in any living voter’s memory in which most Americans (including many who had hitherto been cynical and apolitical) became “woke” to the current- and future impacts of what is known as “the one-world economy”—AKA corporate-sponsored globalization, not to be confused with the internationalist ideals of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and benign features of international law such as the Law of the Sea Treaty (still unratified by the US almost 37 years after its advent in Dec. 1982 for no good reason).

    I refer to our fellow citizens’ sudden realization that (what Daniel Bell quaintly dubbed in my youth) “post-industrial society” was in fact a dark “new world order” in which (cumulatively) BILLIONS of American and talented foreign workers were being placed in perpetual jobs- and wages competition with one another.

    And that this new global economic reality (which no American EVER voted for) was inexorably supplanting US sovereignty over our economic system (including the supply-and-demand dynamics of labor markets). Power-struggles over economic and commercial rules-of-the-road had always been a major part of the warp-and-woof of DOMESTIC American politics. Indeed the very first bill passed by Congress was protectionist legislation designed to emancipate our new Republic from British economic domination: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tariff_of_1789 .

    Americans recognized that this economic “new world order” (a near-total perversion of the ideals of the UN and John Lennon’s Imagine anthem) placed at total risk ALL of the progressive social-engineering our society had painstakingly devised and employed since the 1890s to keep capitalism conscientious and honest—including for example 20th century measures to safeguard private-sector unionization and appropriate policing of the volume of flight of capital- and production facilities to cheap labor zones abroad and the influx of immigrants to the US.

    And the public further understood the consequence of such perverse corporate-sponsored globalization: That wages and living standards for US employees (all but THE very highest echelon management ones) were stagnating and making impossible the age-old tradition of free wage-earners: To periodically ask for- and RECEIVE raises and bonuses (and pensions and medical care!) in exchange for the diligence and loyalty they had traditionally shown to their employers. (THAT quid-pro-quo was the key reason European-type socialist movements had never gained widespread traction in our country.)

    In 2015-2016 Americans finally realized that that entire “world of their fathers” and mothers was now essentially “inoperative” (in Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler’s old phrase). The voters (including those who supported Bernie Sanders’ insurgency in the 2016 Democratic primaries) were legitimately steamed about it! In Nov. 2016 the public narrowly voted to extricate our country from the regressive new world order and send the Clintons packing. As Trump opportunistically but correctly asserted (like the stopped-clock that is right twice a day): the Clintons were co-authors of this abysmal dystopia (for all non-elites in America and throughout the world) along with Nixon, Reagan, the Bushes and Obama.

    In 2016 Trump (a true “Scallywag” as the host says) deceitfully ran to Hillary’s LEFT on economic issues, promising populist, protectionist and quasi-isolationist policies that (if sincerely meant and competently-implemented) augured the slowing-down and eventual reversal of Mainstreet America’s “downbound train” in Bruce Springsteen’s old phrase.

    Bruce—who partied with President Obama without realizing Barack was a lite-Republican who favored the neoliberal (so-called “free trade”) trends Springsteen opposed—suggested the 2016 economic-nationalistic “road not taken” for the Democrats in the theme song of his 2012 album titled Wrecking Ball: “Wherever this flag is flown, we take care of our own:” https://youtu.be/-x8zBzxCwsM .

    Trump of course is- and always was a fake-populist, fake-protectionist and fake-isolationist. After the passage of the Nov. 2017 tax bill revealed the Trump-GOP as the con-artist charlatans they were, the Democrats were perfectly positioned to run on the enlightened, real-populist, real-protectionist, real-isolationist themes that most voters support and that should have dominated the 2018 and 2020 election cycles. (I offered them a roadmap in my Jan. 2018 op-ed here: https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/01/12/hello-i-must-be-going-is-michael-wolffs-book-fake-populist-trumps-exit-strategy/ .)

    But they blew it! Beholden to the 1% donor-class every bit as much as the Trump-GOP the Democratic political-class opposed the Trump Republicans at the social-liberalism branch level not the economic bread-and-butter root level.

    And then made matters infinitely worse: They practically sealed their electoral fate in 2020 by ludicrously very-elaborately recycling a meme from the fabulist 1987 ABC tv mini-series starring Kris Kristofferson called “Amerika”. Originally aired on Feb. 15-22, 1987 the 7-episodes in 7-nights show ran 14.5 hours and cost an estimated $40 million to produce. It depicted the aftermath of a “bloodless [US] takeover engineered by the Soviet Union.” See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amerika_(miniseries) .

    In the similarly scripted made-for-news media “production” known as Russiagate Democratic pols (over the indifference-to-great-dismay of the vast majority of the Democratic electorate and general public) attempted to depict a (highly obnoxious) NYC real estate mogul born with a silver spoon in his mouth (and “silver foot in his mouth” as Anne Richards used to say of GHW Bush) as “the KGB’s man in America!” What a Joke (with a capital J!)

    Credit to antiwar stalwart activist Scott Horton (not to be confused with the mainstream policy wonk by that name) for the connection of the Russiagate folly to the 1987 tv mini-series. Notice too that in 2013-2018 a (6-seasons 75 episodes) successor to that obscure neo-Cold-War “Amerika” mini-series named “The Americans” (see the show’s logo here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Americans ) was produced (for 4 seasons) and distributed for all 7 seasons by who else?—rightist Rupert Murdoch’s Fox tv studio!

    Horton’s illuminating interview (in which Scott makes the above points about ABC’s “Amerika”) with the vastly under-appreciated Ray McGovern, the CIA’s former daily briefer of President GHW Bush-turned-co-founder-upon-his-retirement of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, is here: https://scotthorton.org/interviews/8-2-19-ray-mcgovern-on-deep-state-gate/ . Ray utterly discredits the Democrats’ invented Russiagate narrative! (I dare someone to impugn Ray’s patriotism! It can’t be done!)

    In the 2020 presidential campaign to date, only Bernie Sanders (and to a lesser extents Marianne Williamson and Tim Ryan) have hinted that they recognize the need:

    To oppose the Trump-GOP ROOT and branch.

    To offer (popular) real, enlightened, socially-responsible populist, protectionist and quasi-isolationist policies in contrast to Trump’s fake versions.

    To thereby realistically seek to win the presidency and both houses of Congress in 2020, to deserve to win and to thereafter capably govern in the public interest.

    To go directly after the votes of Trump’s gullible wage-earner followers who are being whispered insidious sweet-nothings (ghost-written daily by demonic alt-right, AKA neo-fascist, propaganda wordsmiths) by a greedy soul-less billionaire and his latter-day Marie Antoinette-type partner-in-crime. Judging eg. from the Administration’s particularly sadistic effort to cut the SNAP program (formerly known as Food Stamps), one wonders whether the first lady has privately said to her husband, regarding the least fortunate in our contemporary and fast-worsening Not-great society, something closely resembling: “The peasants have no bread? Let them eat cake!”

    PS. A troubling afterthought: Little-to-nothing in America happens by accident. Sen. Hart, the front-runner for the 1988 Democratic nomination and the presidency (he had been dubbed such in early 1985 when Ted Kennedy announced he would not run in 1988) was a well-known advocate of detente and arms control with the USSR, had devoted a section of his 1984 Democratic Convention speech to the subject, and in 1986 had struck up a working political friendship with reformist Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, who was likewise “getting along” with President Reagan. In hindsight it is imaginable-to-plausible that the “Amerika” mini-series was the opening gambit in a planned rightist “Russiagate”-type scheme to discredit a forthcoming Hart presidency in the event Plan A—the elaborate Jan.-May 1987 set-up, character assassination and purge—didn’t work. The peace-dividend, you see, had to be prevented from materializing at all costs.

    If true, the scheme may well have been pulled off the shelf, modified and applied to Trump when he ran (in material part) on the idea wanting to “get along with Russia.” The scheme might then have been “put on steroids” when Trump (unexpectedly to all but a few of us with keen political radar) won. Given that some Democratic pols, such as my own Congressional Representative Adam Schiff and my own US Senator Kamala Harris, are STILL yammering about Russiagate, I again commend the wise injunction the left-liberal musician Don Caron gave Democrats months ago: It’s long past time to “let it go and just let it die:” https://youtu.be/Eqn3iI_h1vg .

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