by Ted Manna
AR Political Correspondent
Merritt Island, Fla.
September 9, 2012
IN FLORIDA, VOTERS ARE STIRRED BY SPARKS OF THE OLD OBAMA
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Summer vacation (for those lucky enough to still have them) is over, the kids are back to school, and now, we are finally entering the time when the political season gets serious and people start paying attention to the campaigns.
And our choices come down to either supporting a party that wants to turn the clock back to the 19th Century, or supporting a party that will keep things from getting worse without doing much of anything to make them better.
Viewed through this frame, it seems hard to believe that there are actually people who believe that the presidential contest between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama is a toss-up. I'm more inclined to believe political numbers guru Nate Silver, who says President Obama has a 72 percent chance of being re-elected.
But even if Obama is re-elected, I get this feeling that our nation is balanced on a knife edge and the future of not just our nation's but also the planet's survival is very much in doubt.
Yes, our leaders frittered away 20 years to avert the coming disaster that is climate change. But now things are so far gone that it is too late to do anything about it. As the President reminded us in his acceptance speech at the DNC in Charlotte, "climate change is no joke."
At a time when we need concerted and cooperative action to deal with living on a planet that will be hotter and less hospitable for human life, one party denies climate change exists and wants us to use more fossil fuels, while the other party is mostly silent and afraid to take the lead in dealing with the greatest crisis of our lifetimes.
President Obama and the Democrats would be preferable to Mitt Romney and the Republicans in dealing with climate change. But again, as is the case with so many issues, it's a choice between total disaster or a slightly less-worse status quo.
The total disaster looming is that many of the changes that climatologists once said wouldn't happen until the end of this century are happening now, or will happen very soon.
Given the probability that the world as we know it may look drastically different within a decade or so, you probably don't want to have people in charge who hate government, distrust science and thrive upon sowing hatred, divisiveness, and fear to advance their agenda.
That's where the Republican Party is at right now.
While President Obama has done more to deal with climate change than any president before him, his record is still weak compared to the level of action that is needed.
Still, it is telling that, in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week, Romney mocked Obama for saying in 2008 that his election would mark the moment that he would slow the rise of the oceans and begin to heal the planet. As the standard bearer of a party that puts private profit ahead of public good, you expect that.
But this is not the Republican Party of Teddy Roosevelt, Wendell Willkie or Dwight D. Eisenhower, or even the Republican Party of Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan. This is a party that has moved so far right that it is now incapable of cooperation and compromise, even in a time where that is precisely what is needed for the good of the nation and the world.
It's going to take a massive effort to prepare for a future of food and water shortages, resource wars, climate refugees, and weather that is routinely extreme. And we are running out of time.
It looks more and more like author James Howard Kunstler is right: The only party that is going to win in November is what he calls the Reality Party.
"Reality is everywhere," Kunstler wrote this week. "[It is] the only party with an agenda consistent with what is actually happening in the world.
"Reality doesn't need to drum up dollar donations from anyone.
"Reality doesn't have to pander to any interest group or subscribe to any inane belief system.
"Reality doesn't even need your vote.
"Reality will be the winner of the 2012 election no matter what the ballot returns appear to say about the bids of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to lead the Executive Branch of the government."
That's because in a nation where "anything goes and nothing matters," Kunster wrote that reality "has a different view of where this all ends and how it will work out."
Reality says that we cannot keep up the current pace of fossil fuel use and still expect to have a livable planet a decade or two from now.
Reality says that we cannot keep pretending that we can have limitless growth on a planet with increasingly finite resources.
Reality says we cannot have an economic system built upon fraud, where the wealthy and powerful can do as they please while everyone else pays the consequences.
And reality, as Kunstler observed, "is harder to stamp out than truth, which can be shouted down, papered over, fudged, outlawed, Etch-a-Sketched, exiled, and reviled."
Reality will arrive, sooner rather than later, and it is a force that is unstoppable and nonnegotiable. It's no longer a question whether we as a nation can handle reality, because it doesn't particularly care if we are ready for it. It's now a question whether our nation will survive reality.
AR Chief of Correspondent Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.