Thursday, September 22, 2016

Millenials, If You Believe in Global Warming, Vote for Hillary (Not Gary Johnson)

A recent Quinnipiac University poll shows Hillary Clinton losing support among younger voters. In that survey, though Clinton enjoys the support of 41% of the electorate nationally, only 31% of voters aged 18-34 give Clinton as their choice in a four-way race. These younger voters are not rallying to Donald Trump, he exhibits a comparable gap between his national support and that among younger voters.  Rather, it would seem that a large segment of the youth vote that helped carry Barack Obama into the White House is contemplating defecting to Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee. He polls 29% of voters aged 18-34, a number far above his aggregate support of 13% among the national electorate at large.

This is counter-intuitive, as polls consistently show the environment to be among the concerns that most motivate younger voters, especially the crisis of global warming. Gary Johnson has managed to create the superficial impression that he is an environmentally conscious candidate. This is in part a function of his personal biography- he is an inveterate outdoorsman and seasoned mountain climber. He has suggested in interviews that he might be open to a "carbon fee" to reduce emissions. But a Johnson presidency, if it ever happened, would set back the fight against global warming by decades.

The Libertarian Party that nominated Johnson is a hotbed (no pun intended) of anti-global warming skepticism. A recent survey taken by the party of its own members found that a plurality agree with Donald Trump that "this whole global warming thing is a hoax." In his report of the survey's results, the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party, Wes Benedict, noted, "My natural inclination is to distrust politicians' proposals that grow government. I also distrust the scientists who live off government grants and benefit from generating hysteria over global warming." His attitude exemplifies the ideological stance of the party as a whole.

For all his attempts at bamboozling younger voters into believing otherwise, Gary Johnson is very much in lockstep with his party on the issue of global warming. He immediately drew intense fire from his co-partisans for his expressed willingness to consider a "carbon fee," and began backpedaling on that pronouncement. More troubling, when asked  in an LA Times interview whether he supports the Paris Agreement, the first effective international protocol that unites the world in the fight against global warming, Gary Johnson predictably dodged the question. His answer gave no position on the accord itself, only some pablum about the power of market forces to protect the environment that might have been lifted from the Libertarian Party platform.

Hillary Clinton suffers from the perception, during a time in which voters on all parts of the political spectrum want to see significant change, that she represents continuity. But on the issue of global warming this conventional wisdom overlooks the fact that we are in the midst of a profound change in US environmental policy that must be fostered and perpetuated if ecological catastrophe is to be averted. The Obama administration invested enormous effort and political capital into negotiating the Paris Agreement, a hugely significant reversal of the fossil fuel-friendly policy of the George W. Bush administration. For all the criticisms of this accord as not having gone far enough, it is the most robust and effective global policy response as yet formulated to the problem of global warming. Given the time frame in which action must be taken, the Paris Agreement is the best and last foundation on which the world has a chance to build moving forward. If the Agreement were scrapped now (say, because a President Johnson or a President Trump reneged on America's commitment to the accord), there is little chance that an effective response, coordinating all of the nations that would need to sign on board, could ever be negotiated again. In this sense, for an environmentally conscientious voter a vote for Hillary Clinton, who will affirm and build on the Paris Agreement, is wiser even than a vote for the Green Party nominee Jill Stein, who effectively advocates jettisoning the accord and going back to the drawing board, a recipe for political disaster.

Millenial voters are those for whom the issue of global warming is most urgent, as they will live to see the worst impacts of environmental degradation if the greenhouse effect is not redressed. For a millenial to vote for Gary Johnson is a vote against one's own interests on a scale that is difficult to exaggerate. Hillary Clinton may be a career politician and a member of the Washington establishment, but in this election cycle, for someone concerned about the mounting crisis of global warming, she is the only choice for President of the United States.


Anonymous said...

Any millennial knows that Hilary would combat climate change effectively and I don't think that has anything to do with them voting for Gary Johnson. My fellow millennials liked Bernie very much and a lot of them are still upset about how the DNC screwed him over in favor of Clinton. Bernie's platform highlighted all the problems with Hilary and millennials right now are trying to "take revenge" by not voting for her and has Trump not been a complete idiot, they probably would've voted for him too. I don't think anyone is stupid enough to think that Johnson is going to become president (the guy can't even be in the debates) but people are still voting for him Trump supporters are.

Madman of Chu said...

Thanks for the feedback, Anonymous. I understand this motivation, but it doesn't make a vote for Gary Johnson any wiser. No one is going to be hurt by a vote for Gary Johnson (whoever casts it) more than millenials, because if it has any real impact it will result in either a President Johnson (as you say, not likely) or a President Trump. President Trump would be a catastrophe in many ways, but the most egregious would be in how he would scuttle international efforts to ameliorate climate change. Voting for Johnson to avenge Bernie epitomizes the old saw about "cutting off your nose to spite your face."