That’s one scary bunch of Americans

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once commented that living next to the United States was like being “a mouse in bed with an elephant,”

In a guest speech to the U.S. Congress, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once commented that living next to the United States was like being “a mouse in bed with an elephant,” not necessarily afraid, but “sensitive to every twitch and grunt.”

Given this humorous truism, it’s worth listening to the “twitches and grunts” coming out in the platforms of the two parties vying for control of the American future. The Republicans released their platform recently at their national convention. Just what do they intend?

Naturally, platforms are rife with partisan language and puffery, but their messages, though scant on detail, are clear enough.

Notably the platform simply does not mention Republicans’ many proposed intrusions into social policy—their nonsensical proclamations about “legitimate” rape, their (mostly male) interference into women’s reproductive rights, and their repeated attempts to repeal Obama’s health care plan.

Energy seems the most pressing preoccupation in the United States. The Republicans devoted more than half of their election platform to energy subjects. Here, various claims stand out.

Republicans proclaim themselves as the party of “sustainable jobs and economic growth,” promoters of “traditional conservation” responsible to “future generations.” They encourage a broad energy strategy (referring to both conventional and green energy approaches). Theirs will be a “market-based approach” in which there is “no place…for activist regulators.” To Republicans, “the most powerful environmental policy is liberty.”

Although numerous phrases pay lip service to “wise development of resources” and “advanced technologies,” one might note that among Republicans’ largest financial supporters are mining corporations that remove whole mountain tops for coal (leaving grotesquely polluted landscapes resembling the moon), energy companies determined to burn carbon fuels far into the future, and oil firms determined to drill nearly everywhere, including in places that for decades have been seen as too environmentally sensitive or risk-laden—Federal lands (including parks) and offshore.

Because to orthodox Republicans climate change does not exist, they will oppose “any and all cap and trade legislation,” long thought to be one of the most effective possible mechanisms for lowering carbon emissions.

Part of their energy strategy includes America’s “neighbors to the North and South,” referring to Mexican and Canadian oil as part of “our American God-given resources!” Really? Even Stephen Harper, a Romney soul mate if there ever was one, might have something to say about that.

The platform’s assertions leave much to the imagination. Supporters might envision hard-hatted, industrious workers and idealistic entrepreneurs happily cooperating, slicing red tape, batting away pesky opponents, and creating a promised land of wealth and opportunity. Opponents imagine more oil spills, a planet continuing to heat (more extreme weather events), and crony capitalists divvying up the remains of America’s wealth among the billionaire class.

In one of its few concessions to science, the platform quotes cumulative evidence that the American environment “is getting cleaner and healthier” (a natural result from regulations the Environmental Protection Agency has imposed over the past four decades.

What do you know! Although it is not mentioned or credited, regulation works!) However, Republican legislators have repeatedly stated their intention to strip both money and regulatory power from the EPA. Anti-pollution regulation is inconvenient to industry.

The Republican Party has changed dramatically over the past 20 years, mostly for the worse.

Unfortunately, the party seems increasingly dominated by the same type of bandits who plundered the nation under George W. Bush, shoveling tax cuts to the wealthy while promoting militarism abroad and union-busting austerity for the working class at home – a plutocracy run wild.

American liberty to Republicans is not freedom from poverty and bankruptcy, from fear, from exploitation, from ignorance; liberty is freedom to drill, to mine, to pollute, to buy, sell and exploit completely unimpeded by social conscience.

One wonders what the Democrats might offer, for Republican twitches and grunts are truly frightening. Might the Canadian mouse fear “legitimate rape?”

Al Lehmann is a retired teacher living in Terrace, BC

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