After all the warm-fuzzy nostalgia, I became a little perturbed and more than a little perplexed.
A towering majority of my congregation identify as Democrats. It's practically assumed that UU's are Democrats by default, a great many of them on the progressive wing. Voting for Democrats and cheering on favored candidates in primaries are practically autonomic reflexes in this crowd. I noticed a few fellow-congregants in the sanctuary yesterday getting the same nostalgic feels from Rev. Bossen's recounting of anti-corporate demonstrations and the movements they sparked.
So why the perplexity and perturbation? It boils quickly and neatly down to this:
How the Olympic-size fuck does anyone who agrees with the sentiments of the WTO protesters—not to mention the Occupy Wall Street activists of 2011-12—justify continuing to vote for Democrats in our national elections? or even our state and local elections?
Think about it: (1) Democrat Bill Clinton's presidency, during which the Battle of Seattle took place, imposed neoliberal and globalist economic policies at home and abroad. The WTO is the very embodiment of those policies. (2) The Occupy Movement happened under Democrat Barack Obama, and it was often crushed or infiltrated by urban police forces, either at the direction of or with the cooperation of Democratic mayors.
It doesn't matter which party is in office while Big Capital is actually in charge. That's the message that Ralph Nader and Jill Stein have propagated, and way to many Democratic voters Just. Don't. Get. It.
Climate Panel Perplexity
That very Sunday afternoon, First UU hosted an interfaith panel on Interfaith Responses to Climate Change, which I attended. I walked out a bit early, during the Q&A, when one to many audience member ranted instead of asking a question.
The panel consisted of a UU religious education director, a Presbyterian elder, a Muslim professor of economics (who specializes in Muslim finance), and a Rabbi. Rev. Bossen, who often states from the pulpit that anthropogenic climate disruption is among the greatest existential threats our world has yet faced, and that people of conscience should do what they can to stop it, moderated the discussion.
Dr. Mahmoud El Gamal and Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss both referred in their speeches to the separation between people's religious beliefs and their activities in the real world. Some of that is simply adaptation to real-world circumstances, but too often it's the rank hypocrisy of advocating unChristian behavior in the name of Jesus: e.g., favoring capital punishment or keeping out refugees.
RE Director Carol Burrus, who sits on the board of Texas Campaign for the Environment, was the UU panelist. She walks the environmentalist walk in as many ways as she can, including keeping a vegan diet, driving a Nissan Leaf, and educating people around her about Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. She is an exemplar of a UU who doesn't need God to help her understand the importance of leaving one's world better than one found it.
Elder Bill Bray outlined how his denomination is working to get industry on board with climate action, involving The Market in fixing the current mess—which, I admit, made me cringe a bit, but a case can be made that dictating to industry what actions they will take can be counterproductive.
This led me to ask myself a question that I wished I could ask the panel:
How do people so concerned about the climate catastrophe continue to vote for Democrats, especially for federal offices?
It brought back memories of 2016, when former Vice President Al Gore went on his Climate Reality tour. Kayleen had the privilege of participating and meeting Mr. Inconvenient Truth, whom she has long admired. She tried to pin Gore down on how he could campaign for—not merely support—Hillary Clinton despite her weak and inconsistent rhetoric on the environment. He mumbled something about how Trump would be so much worse and thus it was necessary to stop him. Of course, it would also look really bad to speak out against his former running mate's spouse (ah, the '90s—good times, when a cigar was...just a cigar).
Obama's administration boosted domestic oil drilling and production, and then he even had the temerity to boast about it. (Well, it did get energy wonks to STFU about Peak Oil for a while.) Canada's Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau puts on his concerned face over climate while promoting the continued development of the Alberta tar sands, the biggest climate bomb known. Democratic candidates, especially at the top of the ballot, often must be guilted or peer-pressured into refusing campaign contributions from Big Energy. In general, Democrats and Liberals, whether in office or on the trail, keep pushing the outdated notion that economic growth is necessary and virtuous.
No Need to Push
Like iconic Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Obama told his voters something like, "OK, you've elected me to do all these things, make me do them." In our current world, that means that the mass of people need to talk and act louder and bolder than the corporations who rain down big bucks on DC and reap disproportionately huge harvests.
The FACT that everyday people have scant influence on Congress or the Presidency in our so-called democracy is the primary reason Nader ran for president in 1996 and 2000. Green candidates don't have to be lobbied into proposing or adopting earth-friendly policies. It's what Greens do, not just in the US, but throughout the world—even in countries where Green MP's take neoliberal stances to maintain power within coalitions.
It's also a FACT that self-identified Greens make up a tiny percentage of the electorate, but they wield outsize influence on policy, often through woke Democrats who actually get elected. (Green New Deal, anyone?) It's similar to how Unitarian Universalists, active religious liberals who make up about 0.1% of the US population, influence not the religious landscape but the political as well. Indeed, four of our 44 presidents (counting Grover Cleveland only once) have been Unitarians: both John Adamses, Millard Fillmore, and William Howard Taft. (All four served one term or less. I didn't say that they were good presidents. Our two Quaker presidents didn't fare so well either.)
Perhaps it's smug of me to say so, but UU's who want to truly live out their faith would find a more appropriate political home in the Green Party, or in some other sincerely socialist movement. Democratic Party leaders, acting as "the Entertainment division of the Military-Industrial Complex," have repeatedly demonstrated its antipathy toward progressive candidates and policies. The Democratic Party cannot be reformed through an infusion of well-intentioned Progressives, at least not within my lifetime; it will change its stripes only when it starts hemorrhaging Progressives.
Democrats Who Get It
2020 candidates Sema Hernández (U.S. Senate) and Ashton P, Woods (Texas House District 146) are trying to prove my diagnosis wrong. They are two Democrats who will not need to be pushed into fighting for people, planet, and peace. If they are successful in their attempt to push their party to the left, they might just win back a lot of disaffected Progressives like me and an even greater number of Americans who have given up on voting.
As i have stated previously, unless circumstances change drastically between now and March 2020, I won't be voting in either primary. But if friends ask me for whom they should vote, I'll recommend Hernández and Woods.