We don’t get very many comments here at Tom’s Turn—please comment!—so when we do, we pay attention. To this one, for example, from Brenda Hixenbaugh:
"Considering the track records of certain officials, isn’t it time that we get people elected who are directly connected to all of this planet’s and our needs? Surely there are a great number of environmentalists who are qualified for all of these jobs, up to and not excluding the presidency?"
A very good question. The answer, of course, is yes and no. Politics, as they say, is the art of the possible, the art of compromise. As my mentor, Dave Brower, always said, environmentalists ought to be nearly absolute in their policies and positions and leave the compromising to the politicians.
Yes, of course we must put the very best possible people into offices from top to bottom, but we must not be surprised when they begin to backslide. Politics is an ugly business in the end—horse trading, quid pro quo, deal-making.
And the pressure is almost unimaginable—pressure from corporations wielding vast wealth and influence, pressure from interest groups with a thousand conflicting agendas. Just look at Obama and Clinton—their environmental platforms look pretty darn great (especially compared with what we’ve had to endure for seven-plus years)—until you get to coal. Obama has coal interests in his home state and Clinton found a way to equivocate on mountaintop removal mining.
High-minded people who go into government do so at their peril. It ain’t easy. And we, the pure of heart, must stay vigilant and alert to help our friends who do make that decision avoid too many damaging compromises.
I’ve known one fellow (I’m sure there are plenty of others—send a comment and nominate some) who went into government and kept his soul intact. He is Huey Johnson, the founder of the Trust for Public Land, who was the Secretary of Resources when Jerry Brown was governor of California. That’s a pressure-packed job if there ever was one, but so far as I know Huey never put a foot wrong.
So yes, Ms. Hixenbaugh, vote for the strongest environmental candidate you can, but before you decide to run for office or urge your friends or heroes to do so, know that it’s a fabulously difficult and lonely job.