Here’s an interesting conundrum that popped into my head the other day: Which Crisis is More Bleak and Irreversable: Campaign Finance or Climate Change?
Campaign finance impacts the state of our American democracy; climate change concerns the livability of our planet. It could be we are past the point of no return on both of them.
Campaign Finance. It still costs a lot of money to run for office in America. We attempt to regulate how candidates get and spend campaign cash in order to protect the idea that citizens are equal participants in our republican democracy. This fundamental goal mildly conflicts with First Amendment principles, and we get to watch the Constitution eat itself. Since McCutcheon, with the Supreme Court no longer recognizing everyday Americans’ understanding of corruption, wealthy donors can freely purchase influence by donating to every member of Congress and — just to be sure — every one of their general election opponents. Lest we forget, the impact of Citizens United continues as unlimited “independent” expenditures are permitted. Candidates’ official campaign organizations no longer have to bear the entire burden of the campaign; let some “independent” group produce and pay for that attack ad.
What are the odds of halting or reversing the slide from American democracy to plutocracy (no, it doesn’t mean “rule by Pluto,” though we might be better off under the control of a fictional cartoon dog than a handful of sociopathic 0.1%ers)? Well, Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy are getting old, and it looks like Democrats will control the White House for the next generation. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Democratic president cave in and nominate a “confirmable” choice for a Republican-controlled Senate to confirm. If the Democratic president does grow a spine, we could be in for some kind of constitutional crisis.
Climate change. My god, they’re still arguing over whether it’s real! Every time it snows, some dumbass will remark, “So much for global warming. Har-har.” The people/corporations with the most power got that power because the status quo worked out pretty well for them. Changes dramatic enough to make a difference, won’t look good to their short-term bottom line. After all, they’ll be dead in 60 years, why should they care if the rest of us have to deal with weekly Hurricane Sandys?
Can climate change be fixed? Scientists have stated that the safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. We’re over 400 this month. It’s a global problem. It is going to be hard to get all the industrialized countries on board, especially the recently developing ones. China wants a chance to live like Americans, too. I’m skeptical that we’ll be able to recruit the will to do enough and that when we do the damage will not have already reached some kind of tipping point (I’m looking at you so-called permafrost).
Well, both campaign finance and climate change are nearly unresolvable. If I were to bet, I’d say we figure out how to manage our democracy just in time to watch Miami flooded. It’s just as likely we’d be snapped back to sanity by some other unrelated natural catastrophe, like an asteroid strike or massive volcanic eruption.