The perversity

It is striking how this played out. Obama and Comey both wanted to protect the integrity of the vote. But in doing so they both assumed Clinton would win. Then Trump won and we lost faith in the integrity of the election – a lose/lose outcome caused by their mistaken assumption. Trump set it up by questioning the integrity of the vote in advance, thus instilling this concern in two of the most conscientious people in government. They decided to do what they would not normally–Obama not making a bigger deal about Russia hacking our election and Comey reopening the Clinton investigation–because they were afraid of what Trump would do. Yet Trump would have been powerless to do anything. People would have forgotten about him in a week. Is this a problem of those who are not power-hungry–they get conned by those who are?

Collective action and inaction

The purpose of government is solving collective action problems. Consider crime. Government coordinates collective resources to protect individual victims, which benefits the collective, regardless of whether each member of the collective has been or may be at risk of victimization, by creating a society in which we are relatively free from worry about being victimized.

But who constitutes the collective? Not the women whose domestic violence complaints are ignored, the immigrants whose wage theft goes unprosecuted, the black men killed by police, the poor people exposed to toxins by corporations paying their way free from environmental regulation.  The collective are holders of concentrated wealth. The rest are systematically less assured of freedom from victimization.

What if?

What if a party campaigned for a set of structural reforms to our democracy that would be viewed as non-partisan corrections to the widely lamented distortions of democracy plaguing our system today? Such reforms might include:

  • Strictly limiting campaign contributions and spending,
  • Replacing the electoral college with a system that ensures every person’s vote counts equally,
  • Ending gerrymandering,
  • Automatic voter registration,
  • Declaring Election Day a paid national holiday, and
  • Breaking the Republican and Democratic parties’ duopoly, e.g., by including candidates of other parties in debates.

Wouldn’t most Americans, regardless of political party affiliation, and even contrary to their party representatives, support such reforms, so long as the process of advancing them did not collapse into a partisan fight or corporate hijacking over, say, a balanced budget amendment? Isn’t the growing disillusionment with democracy and lurch toward authoritarianism a result of frustration over how little power people have in our so-called democracy because of partisan gridlock, corporate lobbying, and the suffocating grip the establish parties hold over electoral options?

Eating our cake and others’ too

Environmentalism, even at its most radical, is a human-centered project. It is about the kind of world we want for ourselves.

Living in harmony with abundant nature is not a sacrifice, but an expedience. Consider that we relatively privileged people already enjoy this relationship. We own houses with big backyards, ranches with hundreds of acres of land, weekend homes on lakes and mountains; we command beautiful views; we attend universities with manicured campuses; we take days off work to ski, golf, cycle; we partake in eco-tourism vacations or yoga retreats in secluded wilds; we breathe clean air and drink purified water; we buy organic produce.

But we ascribe to an economic system that deprives the rest of the world of the same.