Thus far, we’ve examined the past and present as we’ve assessed the State of Nevada and the work of our Nevada Legislature. Now, it’s time for us to glimpse into the future. And this time, we’re going bigger…
And by bigger, I’m talking about the need for “big, structural change” and what the action (and often lack thereof) in our state house has to say about this increasingly omnipresent race for the White House and the future of the nation.
No, this is not fine.
As you now know, I’ve collected plenty of true crime podcasts for my podcast apps. I have a few more recommendations for you: Gaslit Nation by Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa, and It Could Happen Here and Behind the Bastards by Robert Evans. Gaslit Nation does a phenomenal job of cutting through the noise and blunder of “the swamp” to uncover the disturbing truth of America in 2019, and It Could Happen Here examines just how close we truly are to a dystopian future of authoritarianism, civil war, and even worse. (And if you appreciate some comic relief with the deep dives into all that’s terrible, Behind the Bastards should do the trick.)
So why are we talking about podcasts again? For one, we have a very special project in the works that we hope you’ll appreciate this summer. And more immediately, I need you all to understand just how high the stakes are for these next 17 months. Our democracy, our freedoms, and our future survival are on the line.
With President Donald Trump and his administration of apparatchiks hell-bent on destroying our (“small d”) democratic system from within, and with them and their fossil fuel industry allies determined to contribute to the (even) larger global climate crisis rather than do anything to solve it, it’s more imperative than ever that the American people fully understand the nature and the gravity of the crisis we’re living in. And beyond that, we the people must equip ourselves and each other to make fully informed decisions on how to solve this crisis.
It’s not easy being green, but it’s a big deal for us to figure it out.
Last month, former Vice President Joe Biden and his campaign landed into some hot water (again) over the leaking of their proposed “middle ground” on climate action. Yesterday, Biden finally released his rebooted climate action plan that promises “net zero emissions” by 2050. His plan to get there includes a mix of sound environmental policies, such as smarter urban planning and $1.7 trillion worth of investment in renewable energy and other earth-friendly infrastructure, and “half-measures”, such as keeping the door open to the expensive risks of nuclear power (that we already know much about here in Nevada) and the unproven “solution” of carbon capture. While some environmentalists fear this plan will still lead Biden down the path to some ineffective “middle ground”, they’re at least commending him for recognizing the need for a bigger, bolder “Green New Deal” to take on both the climate crisis and the equally dangerous crisis of growing economic inequality.
But of course, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) already began rolling out plans to address both crises four months ago. In the past four months, she’s been explaining how her proposed “wealth tax” of 2% on estates worth at least $50 million and 3% on estates worth $1 billion can pay for expansion of our social safety net, from tuition-free public college to universal child care and a “Green New Deal”, thanks to the estimated $2.75 trillion it will raise in ten years. And yesterday, she explained her new “economic patriotism” plan to rebuild the nation’s manufacturing base by shifting the federal government’s goal from cheap imports to valued exports.
Back in April, Warren began to offer details for her “Green New Deal” with a plan to end fossil fuel extraction on federal public lands and instead develop more renewable energy resources on appropriate lands. Yesterday, she expanded upon this with a new ten-year, $2 trillion plan to research, develop, and use American-made clean energy technology. For Warren, this lives up to the promise of the “Green New Deal” by reinvesting in communities left behind by the last four decades of globalization while also taking more aggressive action to meet or exceed United Nations guidelines for carbon emissions reduction.
In the coming days we’ll do a deeper dive into more of the candidates’ climate plans, but I wanted to use Biden’s and Warren’s respective proposals to illustrate the debate that’s happening now over how to secure a better future. In the past two years grassroots progressive activists have led “The Resistance” to Trumpism, and they’ve since inspired candidates like Elizabeth Warren, fellow U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), and Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) to go bigger and bolder. These candidates now seem to be having an influence on Biden and the other moderate candidates inching in a somewhat bigger and bolder direction. Regardless of who wins the Democratic presidential nomination next year, activists continue to point to the actual facts on the ground as they move the candidates towards bigger, bolder action.
Let’s bring this closer to home
As we noted in Part 1 and Part 2 of our Nevada Legislature recap series, the Legislature took some steps in a more progressive direction by passing some climate action, voting rights, civil rights, criminal justice reform, and workers’ rights legislation that Governor Steve Sisolak (D) has already signed or will sign soon. Yet at the same time, Sisolak and Democratic legislative leaders punted on other critical matters, from expansion of access to affordable health insurance to fulfilling decades-old promises to “adequately fund” public education.
In 2017, the emerging threats from the nascent Trump administration got progressive-minded Nevada voters pining for a Democratic Governor who could provide more “Resistance” here at home. Two Clark County Commissioners, Steve Sisolak (D) and Chris Giunchigliani (D), saw opportunity and jumped in. One had a moderate record on the Commission, while the other was long beloved amongst local progressive activists. Yet ultimately, Sisolak moved his rhetoric and policies closer to Giunchigliani’s to win the primary, and that leftward shift didn’t hurt him one bit in the general election.
In some respects, Sisolak did follow through on those promises he made on the campaign trail, as we’ve seen with his embrace of reproductive rights, gun violence prevention, and criminal justice reform legislation that would have been unimaginable for past Democratic Governors to sign, let alone promote. But by otherwise governing more as the “traditional pro-business centrist” the state’s “stakeholder” establishment leaders are accustomed to wheeling-dealing with, Sisolak may be winning praise from these “stakeholders” for sticking to the “pro-business centrist tradition”, but he and the state are still facing challenges like a possible teacher strike (though that situation is even more complicated than it initially appears), an ongoing housing crunch, and continuing suffering amongst our residents over a decade after the onset of the “Great Recession”. And for all that “pro-business centrist” posturing, Sisolak got zero Republican votes for a payroll tax extension that historically had bipartisan support, and he’ll instead have to contend with a lawsuit thanks to former Governor Jim Gibbons’ (R) gifts that keep on taking.
Finally, notes on lessons learned (and really, lessons we need more folks to learn)
So what exactly is the moral of this story? If nothing else, we should remember this: When we face challenges, we’re better off addressing them head-on and working to solve them than attempting to ignore or avoid them. When far too many in our society tried ignoring and/or avoid our systemic social and economic injustices, we ended up with President Donald Trump.
A long list of prominent Republican crossover endorsements wasn’t enough to defeat Trump last time, so I have my doubts as to whether rebuilding such a list will help any Democrat defeat Trump next year. And already, we’re seeing many of the same mistakes from 2016 being repeated in 2019 with excuses being made for abuses of power, obsessing over “optics” instead of seeing challenges for what they truly are, and the continuing pursuit of “middle ground” when a core tenet of Trumpism is the refusal to cede any ground.
So perhaps instead of fretting over who’s “electable” or what “polls well”, we should ask ourselves why we’ve fallen into this meta-crisis of crises and how we want to solve these crises. And perhaps instead of pursuing “middle ground” with dangerous extremists, we should ask how to build common ground with more of our fellow citizens who just want a better life for themselves and future generations. Perhaps this may not sound “pragmatic”, but witnessing the past ten years of Nevada’s political status quo has me asking whether continuing the national status quo is truly the “pragmatic” way to go.