We’ve always known that big money politics is bad for America, now the GOP highlights why for all to see.
Peggy Lee struck a mournful chord with her hit song, “Is That All There Is?”
It was about the vapidity of life, and I found myself subconsciously singing along last week as I pondered the GOP presidential debate. Of course, these made-for-TV spectacles are more akin to mud-wrestling than actual policy debates. Still, I dared hope for some tiny element of civic seriousness. After all, the eight aspirants were auditioning to be (“Oh, say can you see…”) the next president of the United States!
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for example, stands out as a textbook example of the vapidity of modern American big money politics — a rampaging ego with no core democratic principles, no authentic persona, no speaking from the heart… and no possibility of being elected except that special interest powers have pumped him up with a couple hundred million dollars to be their boy.
Indeed, a strategy memo from DeSantis’ own funders and consultants surfaced publicly just before last week’s debate, confirming his vacuity — as a candidate and a person. The detailed memo instructed him to avoid talking about policy solutions, to “sledgehammer” an opponent, to appear both for and against former President Donald Trump and to maybe show a little human emotion by talking about his kids. In short, he needs advisers to tell him how to be “himself.”
DeSantis is hardly the first who-am-I candidate for the White House. Hillary Clinton’s managers reintroduced her as the new “real” Hillary every couple of months in 2016, and Rick Perry’s handlers tried to make him look smart by wearing horn-rimmed glasses.
This lack of authenticity is now the norm, for it allows Big Money Politics to shape candidates in its image. And that’s why today’s public policies are overwhelmingly based on what money wants, not on public need and honest principle.
The Day the Planet Started to Win
The people are revolting (in the very best meaning of that word)!
An inspiring example of people rising up against a trifecta of economic, cultural and political oppression has just come to us from a community of seemingly powerless people living in a very isolated place. Long exploited, lied to, disrespected and robbed, they revolted, daring to take on the biggest, richest, most-politically-connected industrial power on the globe: Big Oil. Astonishingly — after a decade of protesting, organizing, coalition-building, suing, petitioning and otherwise resolutely rebelling against injustice — these tenacious people just won an inspiring grassroots victory over Big Oil profiteering.
One reason you probably haven’t heard about it is that it didn’t happen in any of the usual centers of media focus, but in the Amazonian rainforest of Ecuador. Also, this revolt was not led by some brand-name environmental group or charismatic political honcho, but by the Tagaeri and Taromenane tribes and other indigenous Huaorani people living in the rich biodiversity of Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park.
Directly challenging the exigent crisis of climate change, the Huaorani rallied the region’s young people into a potent political force. They successfully organized behind a national referendum to ban oil drilling in the region and compel the profiteers to remove their wells and pipelines and pay for remediation and reforestation. Significantly, they specifically called for leaving oil in the ground so it would not add to climate destruction. Moreover, the proposed ban was binding, unable to be overturned by future lobbyists and officials.
A resounding 58% of Ecuadorians voted “Yes!” As a Huaorani leader noted, this is “the day the planet started to win.”
The victory also says to environmental leaders everywhere: “Be bolder! Trust the people; grassroots organizing wins. Go for it!”