Why Solving the Blue/Green Rift with Boogeyman Politics is Doomed to Fail

by William Skink

The Democratic rift between labor and environmentalists was recently detailed in this NYT piece. What seems most worrisome to Democrats about this rift is that it could negatively impact the efforts to elect more Democrats.

Glossed over in the NYT piece is the fact a rift exists within the environmental movement itself between collaborators–organizations corrupted by corporate cash–and groups resisting the siren-song of well-funded political triangulation.

The resistors are probably just as leery of hedge fund environmentalists donating millions of dollars to elect Democrats. From the NYT piece:

Two of the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituencies, labor and environmentalists, are clashing over an effort to raise tens of millions of dollars for an ambitious voter turnout operation aimed at defeating Donald J. Trump in the November election.

The rift developed after some in the labor movement, whose cash flow has dwindled and whose political clout has been increasingly imperiled, announced a partnership last week with a wealthy environmentalist, Tom Steyer, to help bankroll a new fund dedicated to electing Democrats.

That joint initiative enraged members of the nation’s biggest construction unions, already on edge about the rising influence of climate-change activists. The building-trades unions view Mr. Steyer’s environmental agenda as a threat to the jobs that can be created through infrastructure projects like new gas pipelines.

Both labor and environmentalists are constituent groups that Democrats have been taking for granted for decades now. Democrats should be especially worried this election cycle as the angry white faction of the labor demographic increasingly ignores the smug style of liberalism in favor of the loud volume of a demagogue. While I referenced this piece on the smug styler earlier, I’ll quote at length from it today. Here is the opening of the argument:

There is a smug style in American liberalism. It has been growing these past decades. It is a way of conducting politics, predicated on the belief that American life is not divided by moral difference or policy divergence — not really — but by the failure of half the country to know what’s good for them.

In 2016, the smug style has found expression in media and in policy, in the attitudes of liberals both visible and private, providing a foundational set of assumptions above which a great number of liberals comport their understanding of the world.

It has led an American ideology hitherto responsible for a great share of the good accomplished over the past century of our political life to a posture of reaction and disrespect: a condescending, defensive sneer toward any person or movement outside of its consensus, dressed up as a monopoly on reason.

The smug style is a psychological reaction to a profound shift in American political demography.

Having been on the receiving end of this sneering condescension, non-collaborating enviros and other cranky leftists know this smug style quite well. And it sure as hell isn’t expanding the base or improving the chances of Democrats getting elected.

Over at Intelligent Discontent–our local MT blog that perfectly embodies the smug style–Pete Talbot is trying his darn best to redirect this rift against Trump in a post titled This schism is getting old:

No one ever said this chasm would be easy to bridge but in this purple state of ours, Democrats cannot afford to lose either blue collar or green votes.

Now, party leadership hasn’t solicited my recommendations nor have I been tapped to replace DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz, but I have some ideas.

There’s a common goal called sustainability: long term, good paying jobs along with a stable environment. Organized labor needs to work with environmental leaders to advance intensive clean energy legislation that includes high-paying union jobs in the alternative energy sector. Environmental organizations must make job creation a priority in their push to create a clean environment.

Basically, it’s time for leadership from both sides of the debate to sit down and plan what’s best for workers and the planet. A starting point could be booting from office the common enemy of the people — the living wage and climate change deniers — a.k.a. Republicans.

No where in Pete’s post is Hillary Clinton mentioned, and that’s too bad. Instead, what I think is getting old (besides the author) is the reliance on boogeyman politics to keep members of the herd from bolting.

Here is the inconvenient reality Democrats like Pete Talbot seem to want to ignore: the DNC’s choice for president is a deceitful political creature who supported NAFTA and used her position at the State Department to sell fracking to the world, so there’s something for both environmentalists and the working class to despise in the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Making things even worse, that latter group is liking what they are hearing from Trump as he criticizes the trade agreements that have negatively impacted their lives.

Doing damage control means Democrats will continue to ignore reality. Here is more from Talbot:

I don’t believe this blue-green schism comes close to approaching the debacle that is currently the Republican Party. The destructive potential is there, though, and Democratic Party leadership better bring the factions together and get a handle on this.

What is it going to take to get Democrats like Talbot to wake the fuck up and vehemently oppose the coronation of Hillary? Like it or not, Republicans are coalescing around Trump. The Democrat dream of a contested Republican convention isn’t going to happen. What seems more likely, if the Nevada melee over the weekend is any indication of things to come, is the Democratic convention in Philadelphia turning into Chicago, circa 1968.

Here is another little dose of reality for Democrats: Trump leads Clinton Nationally for first time in latest poll. From the link:

Clinton has a net negative honesty rating of -35 points. That’s because a new low 31 percent say she’s honest, while a record 66 percent say she isn’t. Trump does better on this measure, although he is still underwater by 17 points: 40 percent think he’s honest and 57 percent say he’s not.

Ironically, as The Clinton campaign pushes for Bernie to “know when he’s beaten,” the same FOX News poll finds Sanders polling well above both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Democrats can continue ignoring reality if they want to, berating dumb hicks for supporting Trump, but refusing to come to terms with the dynamics pushing once loyal constituents away from the blue tent will quite possibly help put the demagogue they detest in the White House.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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15 Responses to Why Solving the Blue/Green Rift with Boogeyman Politics is Doomed to Fail

  1. JC says:

    “non-collaborating enviros and other cranky leftists”.

    That about says it for me these days… 😉

    As to bridging the blue-green divide, Talbot and other Montana dem liberals would do themselves well to look at NREPA again, and give it their whole-hearted support. From AWR’s site:

    * NREPA provides a net savings of more than $245 million over the first ten years after passage by prohibiting below-cost roadbuilding and timber sale programs within sensitive roadless areas
    * NREPA won’t “lock up” public lands. Approximately 50% of publicly managed lands in the region will be managed for sustainable uses
    * NREPA protects the economic base of the region: clean water, wildlife, fish, recreation, jobs and the unsurpassed natural beauty
    * NREPA creates more than 2,300 jobs restoring damaged lands and watersheds––good wage jobs that restore wildlife and fish habitat and add to economic growth
    * NREPA is based on sound science, sustainable economic models and environmental law that will provide long-term stability that is vital to intelligent economic planning and prosperity

    If democrats can’t publicly and verbally get behind that, which is about as good of a piece of blue-green legislation as it gets, then all they are doing is flapping their lips.

    • Nameless Range says:

      Not only do those typically opposed to Wilderness want nothing to do with NREPA, Mountain bikers, one of the fastest growing contingents in the west, want nothing to do with NREPA. Same goes for snowmobilers. Jobs related to those activities would certainly be affected.

      NREPA is an “all or nothing” approach, and as such, it is dead in the water. AWR can keep pushing it and wasting resources doing so, or they can wake up.

      • JC says:

        And therein lies the problem. Nice moderate, pragmatic liberals want to compromise to what they think is a reasonable approach. The the right, corporations, motorized users, etc. inevitably drag the legislation much further to the right.

        You either believe in wilderness and biodiversity or you don’t. Why should I and the good folks at AWR capitulate to your notion of how wilderness legislation should proceed.

        As to the motorized contingency, you can bet they’re not going to enter the debate with a pre-compromised piece of legislation. They are going to demand what they want and fight for it.

        But you have conveniently left out the discussion of jobs in NREPA. And you use the same old tired diatribe of how other jobs would be affected. Guess what, there are always winners and losers in any piece of legislation. And I couldn’t care less if those losers are part of the motorized lobby.

        • Nameless Range says:

          I largely agree with you about motorized use JC. But, Mountain bikers are not motorized use, and largely feel the same way about motorize use that you do.

          Until those pushing big W acknowledge their concerns, and look for solutions that utilize that ever-dirty C word(compromise), and take in to account those concerns, the NREPA will collect dust and be another example of why legislation that doesn’t involve compromise is nothing but hope in one hand and $h!t in the other.

          The idea that it is either biodiversity and Wilderness or nothing else of value is a loser.

        • steve kelly says:

          Fully awake. The Wilderness Act prohibits mountain bikes. Mountain bikers are generally anti-wilderness, but won’t generally come right out and say so. It’s all about me. The speed of travel makes mountain biking and wilderness incompatible. There is nothing natural about moving so fast through untrammelled landscapes. Speed kills the whole “one with nature” experience — and probably a lot of small creatures on the trail that can’t get out of the way fast enough. Just one more way humans try dominate nature without a second thought.

        • JC says:

          Why do I have to compromise? That’s what politicians are for, and do rather well. This is the problem with liberals: they think people should compromise their principles before the legislative process gets underway.

          NREPA is a benchmark piece of legislation. It stakes out the principles that a large swath of people in the region uphold. Compromise should happen on the floors of Congress in daylight, not behind the corrupt doors of hidden “collaboration” where foundations, business and the government pay off nonprofits and individuals to modify their principles before the legislation is even written.

          And what Steve says about mountain bikers. They’re going after the Wilderness Act in an attempt to get it rewritten. Maybe your time would be better spend trying to convince those mountain bikers who believe in the Wilderness Act and who don’t want to despoil wilderness to call out those mountain bikers that do. But you won’t suddenly find NREPA supporters getting behind Tester and MWA’s logging bills… ever.

        • Rob Kailey says:

          JC: “Why should I and the good folks at AWR capitulate to your notion of how wilderness legislation should proceed(?)”

          Legislation is a matter of votes. Those who legislate is a simple matter of votes. Most simple questions really do have simple answers. To answer your simple question and express agreement with Nameless Range, they have the votes, and you do not.

        • JC says:

          No, they don’t have the votes. When’s the last time John Tester and MWA passed a wilderness bill?

        • Rob Kailey says:

          Fair enough. I do notice, however, two things. Unions have had the votes (nationally) to get many of the things they’ve wanted, for good or ill. And I have noticed that you haven’t any of the three questions I posit below.

  2. There is still time for people to plant gardens and preserve food for the winter. That is my recommendation for everyone. Do what you can to change the political climate, but planting food and getting it put up should be on the agenda. Oh, save your seeds, too.

    On to the topic of our state party’s support of Hillary, I find it very surprising that the same people that fought tooth and nail to make sure our children have access to adequate nutrition are backing Clinton, part of the force that has destabilized many with NAFTA and doubled the rate of extreme poverty with the Welfare Reform Law.

    Speaking of children and families, do you remember the waves of children coming over the border after the U.S., under Hillary’s Dept of State destabilized Honduras by deposing their democratically elected leader? If you need more proof that Hillary should not be anointed, watch Abby Martin’s Empire Files : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUeHZMfQ-Uc

    On the other hand,if you are someone that believes the Democratic Convention should be hosted by lobbyists, and corporate donors- some of them are Republicans, and you believe that complicating Obamacare even more than it already is are good ideas, then you should be a loud and proud Hillary supporter.

  3. steve kelly says:

    Thanks for another interesting post.

    The so-called “blue-green alliance” is another myth as far as I can tell. There seemed to be genuine appreciation and support for Sen. Lee Metcalf back in the day from labor and environmentalists, however, I believe he listened to both constituencies and responded independently and effectively. Union leaders have dismantled their system to take care of senior members at the expense of newcomers and the future. We are now, predictably, living the future. All that’s left is the corruption and pensioners.

    Professional enviros killed the grassroots component — volunteers — that empowered the movement. Right-wing foundations created mega-NGOs, a fake hierarchy, high salaries, imaginary titles, and access to politicians.

    Money and greed did the blues and greens and Democrats in. It’s time to start another movement for labor, and one for the environment. Compost the Democrats.

  4. Rob Kailey says:

    Since we all appear to be in a ‘questioning’ mood, I have one. Two actually. Is there a solution to the Blue/Green rift? Does it actually matter if it’s solved at all? Let’s make that three questions. Who loses if it isn’t solved?

    • JC says:

      1) there is no single “blue/green” rift, thus no single “solution”. Skink talks about “a rift”. Matt Koehler has talked elsewhere about instances where there is no rift (say over TPP issues).

      2) Does it matter if it is solved? I don’t think so. Labor and environmental concerns don’t necessarily overlap in many instances, and in some instances absolutely are at odds with each other. Coal comes immediately to mind. None of the unions affiliated with coal extraction, transportation, and combusting would agree with climate change environmentalists that the sooner using coal for power ends, the better. There is no solution to this rift, as far as I can see.

      3) Who loses? Depends on the issue. As there is no single solution, there are no single groups of losers… or winners. As with any important piece of national/international policy, there are always winners and losers. And with the tension between labor and enviros, there are as many different groups of winners and losers as there are issues to look at.

      4) I know, there weren’t 4 questions, but you get a bonus answer for being polite. The conventional wisdom that unions support democrats no longer holds as many unions have as many (or more) members who are republicans or independents than democrats. Or put another way, unions more and more are more concerned about jobs than they are with what political party they want to affiliate with. If republicans give them what they want, then they will go with them. Labor used to be a democratic counterbalance to business and the republicans that advanced their political priorities. Those days are long gone, as democrats are as much a party of big business as republicans are.

      • Rob Kailey says:

        1) Agree, pretty much completely.
        2) Yeah, I think it does, because you will always be on the weaker side. Anything that puts food on peoples plates or pays the mortgage or medical bills, will always trump environmental concerns. On this we appear to agree. It matters that the rift gets solved because the right has set the opposition and the left keeps (sometimes) claiming that the environment trumps people living in comfort. It is not a coincidence that the best environmental; laws were passed during the times of strongest union power. It is easy to believe that one who works benefits from environment when their security is assured. If it’s a choice between security and woodlands, security will win every fricking time. Everyone.
        3) The middle class in America are the losers. To me, that’s clear. This is a much larger discussion for a much larger time, Just take it that I disagree at this point that it is issue based. It is class based, and the middle class has lost.
        4) Well said. You appear to have bought into the argument that I argue for Democrats. No. I argue that things get better for me under Democrats, than they do under Republicants. That does not, nor has it ever made me a party stooge. In the blue/green opposition, I am likely always to side with the blue. I don’t support Democrats, I support working folk. Though I have never been an eligible member of a union, I will always support them. That’s how Jon Tester defeated Conrad Burns. It was not his enviro stances, it was his support for people that made me ‘his guy’. He’s been true to that, so far. I see the divide Skink points out as very real and very painful. It doesn’t have to be, but it is.

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