Trump and Paris: Spite as a Guiding Principle


Jonathan Chait comments on DJT’s decision to leave the Paris climate agreement.  The interesting observation here – for me, at least – is the “why?” part.  Every factual statement Trump made in arguing for the pull-out is simply false.  The agreement does not give China and India the advantages he claims.  Coal is on the wane because it has been displaced by cheaper and cleaner alternatives, and coal jobs – which have been disappearing for 100 years – will not be brought back by this.  Green energy is actually creating jobs, which Trump’s actions may scuttle.  Etc, etc.

No, this is a more elemental decision.  Josh Marshall talks about how it was driven by “rage and fear,” and he’s not wrong about that.  I think “spite” captures it well, too, and also describes the glee Trump and many of his followers get from hearing the cries of anguish from those of us they live to hate.

Is this any way for grown-ups to conduct themselves?  No one in the administration can be accused of having any concern for the earth, but maybe they could give some thought to our nation’s credibility in future interactions with the rest of the world.  No?

Here’s Jonathan Chait (heavily excerpted – click through for the whole thing).  More readings below…

Everything Conservatives Said About the Paris Climate Agreement Is Already Wrong

The Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement will not end the global effort to limit the effects of climate change. In the immediate time frame — say, Trump’s first term — it will have little effect, and may even spur a backlash as the rest of the world redoubles its commitment to action (China and the European Union have already taken steps to do so). It will, however, slow and impair international diplomacy. The next American government that tries to negotiate on climate change will be handicapped by the suspicion that it won’t abide by its commitments, undercutting American leadership and making it more difficult to secure cooperation from other countries.

The question is, what purpose does this serve? What economic or philosophical policy goal is advanced? The answer is that it satisfies the same elemental partisan tribalism that has allowed Trump to hold together his party.

The dominant spirit of conservative thought — or, more precisely, verbal gestures that seek to resemble thought — is not even skepticism but a trolling impulse. The aim is not so much to reason toward a policy conservatives would favor as to pierce the liberal claim to the moral high ground.

I am highlighting it [i.e., the particular, representative conservative column Chait is citing] because it’s close at hand (having run yesterday) and captures the predominant (though not, of course, universal) style of argument on the subject. It contains a defiant refusal to take the policy questions seriously, combined with a gleeful reproach of the urgency with which liberals view the issue. A crude tribalistic impulse overrides any reckoning with the problem. The proximate issue in conservative minds is not climate change itself but the fact that liberals are concerned about all these things. Disintegrating ice shelves, extinctions, or droughts are abstractions.

It is similar to the predominant response to liberal terror over the prospect of handing the most powerful office in the world to an impulsive congenital liar with authoritarian tendencies. Conservatives on the whole devoted less attention to pondering the risks Trump might pose to their own country and party than enjoying the liberal tears.

“Everybody who hates Trump wants him to stay in Paris,” argues conservative activist Grover Norquist. “Everybody who respects him, trusts him, voted for him, wishes for him to succeed, wants him to pull out.” Here is an argument that approaches, even if it does not fully reach, complete self-awareness: The Paris climate agreement is bad because it is supported by people who oppose Trump. Therefore, the opposing position is the correct one.

If the liberal global elites have established a policy architecture to minimize the threat of climate change, weakening that policy architecture is its own reward. There is not much more to it than that.

Spite as a guiding principle.  Voters in the world’s greatest democracy should hold ourselves to higher standards than this.


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