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Amazon has decided that its much-vaunted “second headquarters” will be split between Long Island City in Queens, and Crystal City, across the Potomac from Washington DC.
Amazon’s decision coincides with America’s political tumult. Its main headquarters is in Seattle, one of the most liberal cities in the most liberal of states. Its picks – New York and metropolitan Washington – are liberal, too.
Amazon could easily have decided to locate its second headquarters in, say, Indianapolis, Indiana. After all, Indianapolis was one of the finalists in Amazon’s search for a second headquarters, and the city vigorously courted the firm. Not incidentally, Indianapolis is a Republican city in a bright red Republican state.
Amazon’s decision wasn’t based on political partisanship, but it does expose the real political and economic divide in America today.
The world’s leading scientists issued a report warning of total planetary dystopia unless we take immediate steps to seriously reduce carbon emissions. Then, oil and gas corporations dumped millions of dollars into the 2018 elections to defeat the major initiatives that could have slightly reduced fossil fuel use.
Though you may not know it from the cable TV coverage, this was one of the most significant – and the most terrifying – stories of the midterms. For those who actually care about the survival of the human race, the key questions now should be obvious: is there any reason to hope that we will retreat from “drill baby drill” and enact a sane set of climate policies? Or is our country – and, by extension, our species – just going to give up?
Before answering, it is worth reviewing exactly what happened over these last few months, because the election illustrates how little the fossil fuel industry is willing to concede in the face of a genuine crisis. While the dominant media narrative has been about Democratic voters euphorically electing a House majority and yelling a primal scream at Donald Trump, the loudest shriek of defiance was the one bellowed by oil and gas CEOs. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that we have only 12 years to ward off an ecological disaster, those oil and gas executives’ message to Planet Earth was unequivocal: drop dead.
Why doesn’t the news media simply ignore Donald Trump? Or, at least, cover him far less? He thrives on the attention. Withhold your coverage and starve him of oxygen.
Liberals, frustrated by Trump and his dominance of the news cycle, often make this case to me.
Why don’t we in the media focus on other things, important policy issues, rather than on the last intemperate thing that Trump said or did?
I understand the frustration, but I also know that what people are asking is, on the one hand, impossible and on the other hand, particularly in print, already happening, but not necessarily being elevated.
There is no way for the media — define media however you will — to simply ignore a sitting president of the United States. That would not only be a dereliction of duty, it would also be folly.
As for the policy machinations, those stories are often covered, but they are rarely splashy news because by their very nature they are technical and bureaucratic.
The long-term future of the United States will not be decided in the nation’s capital. It will be decided in the states – and that’s where the biggest story of the 2018 election is.
For years, Democratic Party leaders and funders focused on the federal level as the place to win major reform, and all but ignored state legislatures. Where the left was not paying attention, the extreme right stepped into the breach.
During President Obama’s time in office, his party lost over 900 state legislative seats. Over eight years, the Republican party won control over two-thirds of the nation’s state legislative chambers. From there, the political right attempted a slow-motion revolution to rig the rules of the political process so that a minority party, cowed by its largest donors, could hold on to power.
It was a moment of the kind that changes lives. At a press conference held by climate activists Extinction Rebellion last week, two of us journalists pressed the organisers on whether their aims were realistic. They have called, for example, for UK carbon emissions to be reduced to net zero by 2025. Wouldn’t it be better, we asked, to pursue some intermediate aims?
A young woman called Lizia Woolf stepped forward. She hadn’t spoken before, but the passion, grief and fury of her response was utterly compelling. “What is it that you are asking me as a 20-year-old to face and to accept about my future and my life? … This is an emergency. We are facing extinction. When you ask questions like that, what is it you want me to feel?” We had no answer.
Softer aims might be politically realistic, but they are physically unrealistic. Only shifts commensurate with the scale of our existential crises have any prospect of averting them. Hopeless realism, tinkering at the edges of the problem, got us into this mess. It will not get us out.