Last week the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative released the report, "A Climate of Change: African Americans, Global Warming, and a Just Climate Policy in the U.S." The report and related materials can be downloaded from http://www.ejcc.org/climateofchange/index.html. Although the report got only a modest amount of press, over the last week a wave of coordinated attacks on the report -- for more attacks than there was news coverage -- has been launched by conservative blogs and right-wing talk radio.I couldn't help but notice that this report is squarely in Van Jones' department. If you haven't heard him speak yet, you need to. I have to wonder if part of the brouhaha is fear of another Obama-like progressive rising into the national spotlight.
What does the report say that Right-wing bloggers find so threatening? Among other things, it finds:
- The struggle for racial and economic justice is an unavoidable part of the fight to halt global warming.
- Successfully adopting a sound global warming policy will do as much to strengthen the economies of low-income communities and communities of color as any other currently plausible stride toward economic justice.
- Climate policies that best serve African Americans also best serve the U.S and its people as a whole.
The reason I say the attacks are coordinated is because they all repeat the same small group of messages. They all say:
- It is absurd to say the weather discriminates on race.
- The real motive of climate advocates is to promote socialism, not protect the environment.
- The report pretends to talk about race, but is really is really addressing poverty.
- The report is manipulative of Blacks and racist.
- The real problem is blaming whites and encouraging a sense of Black victimization.
Except for a handful of specialized environmental blogs, the progressive blogosphere has essentially ignored the report. Why is the Right attacking this report so viciously, while the progressives have largely ignored it? The following is a personal view, and should not be attributed to any organization, including the one I work for. (It has taken no position on these political speculations, which are not within the core of our sphere of competence as a policy think tank).
The biggest difference between the Right and Left in recent decades is that the Right has managed to keep its disagreements largely internal and present a united and coordinated front, while the Left has been increasingly fragmented into single-issue silos. This report presents a new take on climate policy that sees it as an effective instrument for distributional justice. It advocates a policy set very similar to an earlier report n a climate policy designed to support organized labor. As such, it presents an unusual opportunity for a broad-cross-issue coalition of key elements of the Democratic coalition, including Blacks, Latinos, and union members. Moreover, it unites these groups behind a policy which is pro-growth and good for every racial group and for all workers -- a unifying rather than a dividing strategy. It is founded on careful quantitative analysis, but also includes a nicely vicious set of villains – giant price gouging energy companies, polluters, OPEC -- required for a populist political campaign.
So I think the Right sees this as a developing a long-term threat to their ideological hegemony. It has therefore responded with a series of attacks that are all out of proportion to the release of a single scientific report. Up to this time, progressives have responded in the usual fashion -- focusing on issues confined within their respective silos, and not paying much attention to initiatives that cross movement boundaries.
Can this progressive indifference to Right-wing attacks on the seed of an emerging progressive coalition campaign be changed? Is there anything you, dear reader, can do to help change it? Are you, or do you know, an activist, a journalist, a blogger, a scholar, or a policy-maker who should be aware of this report and the attacks on it?
Here are a few examples of the many attacks by conservative blogs::
archives/2008/07/31/the- weather-doesnt-like-black- people/
I think the progressives are not making much of a fuss possibly because it reaffirms what they take for granted already, that doing the right thing rubs off all around and helps everybody. Ideological blindness. "Yeah, so what? That's a no-brainer." But for a non-liberal, it's not a no-brainer. It's either an eye-opener or a threat - a surprise in either case.