© Gage Skidmore
Or, an Obituary for Bernie
It’s over, whether you like it or not.
With 94 percent of California districts reporting, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been declared the winner in the state’s primary. According to the current numbers, Clinton beat Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) by about 400,000 votes, snagging 257 of the Golden State’s 475 delegates. Combined with her other victories in New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota, the Secretary has been blessed with a plethora of delegates, well past the number needed to secure the Democratic nomination.
Some outlets are saying Clinton made history tonight for being the first woman to lead a major party ticket in the nation’s long, democratic narrative. Clinton herself is not shy about making that the central focus of her own personal narrative.
Less prevalent are the headlines that point out Clinton is the first presidential candidate to be targeted for an FBI investigation.
Or that the Obama administration has blocked the release of Clinton’s emails not once but twice – first in October 2015, claiming the need for secrecy, and recently in response to an IBTimes Freedom of Information Act Request. The latter request was made in hopes of uncovering Clinton’s correspondence regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, a controversial issue – like so many controversial issues – for which Clinton has recently flipped her script. That second set of emails will now allegedly be released in November, after the election.
Some outlets have pointed out that Clinton wore a $12,495 Armani jacket to deliver a speech on inequality, but of course that’s irrelevant. The Clintons have money and they like to run for President. Neither Bill nor Hillary is going to stump in a potato sack.
The most relevant and troubling element of Clinton’s presidential run is that her nomination, though decided well in advance by her party’s brain trust, has met unprecedented disapproval along the way. According to the polls, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the undisputed Republican nominee, are “more strongly disliked than any nominee at this point in the past 10 presidential cycles.”
And yet for such unlikeable candidates, they do seem to keep winning, don’t they? Is it Americans’ subliminal need to punish ourselves for our prosperity? Is this the most masochistic election in history?
That’s beyond my limited political ken. What I can say, without a doubt, is that Clinton’s wins over rival Bernie Sanders tonight marks the moment that the United States lost the most environmentally focused candidate it ever had.
Sen. Sanders will likely be remembered for his ardent stance on income inequality and the need for the nation to reform its economic practices. Our banking system is dangerous, he said time and again, so it needs to be changed. There’s far too much special interest money in politics, he said, so it needs to be removed. Issues like race and sexual identity and justice, and the rights of Native peoples suffering the long aftermath of genocide, these were things that Sanders did not campaign on because they were popular but because he’s believed in them his whole life. Sanders, unlike his fellow candidates – and any candidate, possibly since the 1972 McGovern campaign – shocked both the nation and his party by suggesting the government is in desperate need of legitimate reform.
And while he’s not wrong, Sanders’ most important stances, from a global perspective, were those he took on the environment. Last week, Sanders called for a ban on hydraulic fracturing all across the country, while Clinton still believes it should be employed domestically and around the world.
Sanders made climate change a central plank in his campaign, his website going so far as to say that the country needs to be reclaimed “from the billionaire fossil fuel lobby.” The candidate put forth a comprehensive plan to fight climate change, including a carbon tax and “massive investments in energy efficiency” and wind and solar power, the creation of a “Clean-Energy Workforce of 10 million good-paying jobs,” and protections for the most vulnerable communities to climate impacts.
“Enough is enough,” said Sanders. “It’s time for a political revolution that takes on the fossil fuel billionaires, accelerates our transition to clean energy, and finally puts people before the profits of polluters.”
Regarding the science of climate change (something we here at Planet Experts are constantly reporting on, the facts being what they are), Sanders said, “The debate is over. The vast majority of the scientific community has spoken. Climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and it is already causing devastating harm here in the United States, and to people all around the globe.”
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has gone from pro-fracking, to pro-renewables, to something awkwardly in between. “We’ve got to do a lot more on carbon capture and sequestration to see how we can get coal to be a fuel that can be continued to be sold and continued to be mined [emphasis added],” she said last month.
Unfortunately – for the planet’s many coal workers as much as the planet itself – selling and mining coal is not something we can keep doing. Not if we want to keep the planet’s average temperature from rising two degrees (or more) by the end of this century. Coal is cheap, but it also puts the most carbon into the atmosphere. And that’s melting the Arctic, it’s raising seas, it’s screwing with the weather and it’s accelerating military conflict. About the only thing it’s good for is helping plants grow, but that is a temporary benefit that will ultimately burn away.
The United States is still debating whether these things are truly happening, but most of the world (and the sitting U.S. President) is not. Clinton has stumped for climate action but, as with all things, in moderation. Trump claims global warming was invented by the Chinese. Bernie Sanders was unequivocal:
“We will act boldly to move our energy system away from fossil fuels, toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal because we have a moral responsibility to leave our kids a planet that is healthy and habitable.”
Not since Al Gore has the U.S. had the opportunity to elect a candidate who sincerely understands the global threat of climate change, and not since Gore has that opportunity been so wistfully ignored.