While U.S. voters head to the polls today – and everyone from Fox to Politico to your uncle on Facebook becomes a pundit trying to predict the results – the outcome is already crystal clear: polluters have won again, handily.
With the advent of now limitless corporate donations polluting the democratic process thanks to the Supreme Court’s insane ruling on Citizens United, dirty energy interests, Wall Street fat cats and lobbyists will run America for the foreseeable future.
Corporations have long enjoyed the advantage of spending a tiny amount (compared to their enormous profits) to influence the entire political system, buying future access and favors that pay off for years to come, simply by driving contributions to their favored candidates in every contest from local zoning board races to governors to U.S. Senators.
But thanks to Citizens United, corporate influence is now far more invasive and impactful. Polluters can freely run attack ads and vicious smear campaigns against climate hawks, deploy their front groups to mislead voters on everything from health care to global warming, sponsor ballot initiatives to kill clean energy progress, and generally play fast and dirty with zero accountability for their actions.
The result: the tragic collapse of American democracy, in the words of my friend and former boss Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (For a bit of solace this election day, check out David Robert’s excellent interview with Bobby at Grist detailing why all is not yet lost in the war against carbon cronyism.)
I’ll conceed readily that Citizens United isn’t the only problem threatening U.S. democracy. There’s also the matter of participation, or lack thereof, among the public. It doesn’t help matters that less than half of eligible voters in the U.S. typically cast a ballot in midterm elections. So at least make sure all your friends and family get to the polls today – and encourage them to remain active in holding their leaders accountable. Elections are just step one in the process.
Putting on my own pundit hat for a minute – hey, everyone’s doing it – I predict voters wil beat down outrageously obvious polluter-funded initiatives like California’s oily Prop 23 and Prop 26, and ignore the insanely loud shouting of Christine O’Donnell supporters to deny her a seat in Congress – perhaps chiefly for the fact that she has zero experience or qualifications to be there, but also because of her stupefying denial of science and reason.
But let there be no doubt about it. A lot of the anti-science candidates – whose antics on the campaign trail have made for humorous, if horrifying, spectacle – are about to become anti-science lawmakers with a vote in Congress. That spells disaster for climate and energy policy, and all other legislative efforts that rely on a respect for facts and a willingness to negotiate.
The anti-science caucus is coming to a Congress near you, and we have polluters and wealthy corporate fat cats largely to thank for it.