As many of my friends and colleagues know, I no longer follow the news cycle on an hourly or even a daily basis as it is simply too disturbing. What I have been doing since the election is to spend a few hours a couple of times a week catching up on the major stories as it allows me to read about them with a degree of perspective which I can not do if I am caught in the tweets and the 24/7 roller coaster of distortions and lies that pass for policy by this administration.
This approach allowed me to read Trump’s speech explaining his pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord as well as a number of articles that commented on the misleading comments and inaccurate data he cited as well as the implications for the United States’ standing in the world and its economy.
What struck me most, however, was an article by Peter Baker in the New York times explaining the move as essentially political.
According to the article, Trump’s decision to thumb his nose at the entire planet is a result of the conviction of Stephen Bannon, the far right architect of Trump’s election victory, and others that the best path to surviving the mid term elections and maybe even winning in 2020 was for Trump to play to his base and ignore everyone else in the electorate.
Once upon a time, politicians would win an election and attempt to heal the woulds of an acrimonious campaign and bring the nation together. Faced with he full range of information and detail that the highly professional civil service, foreign service, and intelligence community would provide, a new President would soften some of the campaign rhetoric and move on with the task of governing for the good of the Republic.
This is not the approach of the Trump White House. Instead they are ignoring climate science, basic economics, and even the consensus view of American industry to go the wrong way in the hope of saving their electoral majority.
What Bannon appears to believe is that the uninformed and gullible people who got Trump through the Republican primaries and the key midwest States will applaud the move and support him and his feckless Republican allies in 2018 and 2020. The play is that while most Americans do believe that the Paris accord is a good idea, many will not turn out to vote in 2018 and some might put their short term economic interests – such as lower gas prices – ahead of the future of humanity.
The other choice was to remain in the Paris framework but essentially ignore the voluntary targets that the Obama administration had carefully worked out. The political problem with that approach is that the far right electoral base would have cried treason and the Trump administration would still receive a bashing from more his domestic opponents and the rest of the world for falling short of the United States’ commitments.
Actually reversing himself and doing the right thing probably never entered his mind. That would require the intellect to understand the complexity of the problem, a willingness to listen to the experts and the integrity to admit that he was wrong.
Hope is not lost
As I have written before, the best thing about the American government is that it has a number fo built in circuit breakers or checks and balances. The courts have, for example, blocked Trump’s travel ban and the Senate could have blocked some of him more dubious appointments if the Republicans really had any integrity.
The real test will come in November in 2018 when the 435 members of the United States Congress and 34 Senators are up for re-election. This is when we will find out if Mr. Bannon was right.
My hope is that the citizens will overwhelmingly support candidates who will come to office with a commitment to reverse the direction that Trump is taking the country, block any more foolishness or even impeach him.
My hope is that Democrats will not only prevail in their traditional constituencies but also that a group of sensible Republicans will emerge to challenge the current incumbents in traditionally Republican districts.
Many of these Republican members of Congress and Senators have had long and distinguished careers as public servant and spoken out for the environment and other important causes under attack by Trump and his henchmen. Over the last 6 months they have not stepped up to do the right thing and if they do not do so soon, they should be swept aside by their own voters.
Global warming is an enormous issue that requires global coordination over the next 20-50 years. The planet can probably survive misguided American policy as long as it does not last too long.
Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris accord on climate change appears to be a due to a calculated bet that his narrow electoral base will allow him to continue after 2018.