I apologize but I’m going off-script today. With the actions since the start of the year, numerous conversations and debates with friends, and much self-reflection I started writing about some thoughts that I’ve had. Surprisingly, I find myself consistently coming away feeling positive about the future even while feeling negative about today.
Ignore or read as you want, as always. This one is even more for me than the normal posts here. I just had to get this off my mind.
What’s going on?
With President Trump pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement last week, I find myself torn over what it really means for me. I’ve been trying to keep an open mind throughout the year but it has become more and more challenging.
Like many others across the US, 2017 has been a bit of a strange year with a leader in charge who seems to be so completely opposite of trying to build any bridges. Say what you will about Obama, Bush, or Clinton, but all of them tried to strike a balance at times and not go out of their way to antagonize the party opposite them. Trump has often seemed to go out of his way to antagonize people that don’t completely agree with every action he makes.
Fundamentally, America is a place where people are allowed to disagree with each other. If nothing else, America has always been a place of change and transformation. Any idea is allowed to have an opportunity to thrive – even those that are fairly outrageous to the majority in charge. The biggest change over the last few years has been with people being less open to listening to opposing views.
Let’s take Climate Change as a good example for this discussion.
For awhile now, polls have shown the largest groups (and usually a significant majority) of Americans believe that humans have had a direct impact in causing global warming (1, 2, 3 sources for those that are going to want to argue). Separately, you will rarely find anyone in America who believes we should be polluting like China is currently where people in some of their major cities cannot even go outside without wearing masks. So even the people who may not believe that humans cause climate change at least believe that some level of pollution is bad.
However, online (where so many of the debates end up now) there is a seemingly black and white division between people who believe that climate change is a hoax and people who believe climate change could bring about the end of the world in a foreseeable and not so far off future. Add to this that somehow climate change has become a politically partisan issue tied to everything from macroeconomics, tax reform, job growth, “fairness”, and globalization.
In the past, progress on issues was made by finding some middle ground where everyone can agree. In this case, it could easily be: too much pollution is bad. Over the past decade plus this has been the government position. Let’s not make any wholesale changes at any one time, let’s just push for improvement with targets. Often the government actually lags behind many states in their targets which allow for a good check that it is in a good place.
With the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement (a non-binding agreement with no legal or regulatory controls built in), the President of America is basically saying that all targets to keep us from having too much pollution are bad. It’s a step back in the discussions that had been moving us all forward.
What is America to Me?
To me, America should be a place where change is commonplace. I have no issue with the House and Senate going back and forth on whether to repeal/replace Obamacare or how to go about tax reform. At the end of the day, they will ultimately do what they have always done and compromise based on a desired to get reelected. If the debate doesn’t happen, then many of their constituents will question their leadership. Already we can see from the on-going debate that the general population better understands what Obamacare is and isn’t.
Already we can see from the on-going debate that the general population better understands what Obamacare is and isn’t. Has the approach been perfect? Of course not, the President has done everything that he can personally do to undermine the insurance marketplace to force an Obamacare collapse outside of legislative action. He’s rigging the game to his advantage but he’s still not getting his way.
America will survive because ultimately we have the opportunity every 2 years to change our government if we don’t like the direction things are going. I have faith that Americans, while stubborn and sometimes individually foolish, collectively come to good decisions when given time and opportunity.
Ultimately, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement may actually work in the favor of those that believe human actions contribute to global warming because it will galvanize people to action. Already we can see cities and states stepping up to hold to the standards set in the Paris Agreement and sometimes even pushing further.
No single President or Congress can destroy this country. Some days it may seem or feel like they can, but they can’t. We’ve been through a lot since our founding. We will go through worse in the future.