Can Hurricanes Harvey and Irma bring Democrats together?

Citizens cleaning up in Sebring, FL after Hurricane Irma

During the recent disastrous Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, one thing has stood out: Americans came together to help each other in life and death situations, both on the ground and through generous donations to those in need. In most cases, those providing such help didn’t know the people they were helping, much less their political persuasions. Compared to such inspirational American spirit, the current intra-party squabbling on the Democratic side, colloquially between the “Bernie people” and the “Hillary people,” seems to pale. Perhaps, therefore, this is a good opportunity for both sides in the squabble to have a reset, and to focus on what’s really most important.

Last year, as Hillary Clinton was winning the Democratic Party primaries and there was plenty of fighting between her supporters and Bernie Sanders‘ fans, we proposed “issue-based unity” to bring both sides together. The idea was to try to focus on issues on which both sides largely agreed, especially as to the ultimate goals even if there was disagreement as to the mechanics of achieving such goals. Examples of these issues included LGBT rights, climate change, voting rights, gun safety laws and universal healthcare. Now, in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, one of these issues that immediately comes to mind once again is climate change. Even before this hurricane season, 66 percent of Democrats worried “a great deal” about global warming/climate change according to Gallup, which places climate change at the top of issues of great concern. Now that number is probably even higher. We are repeatedly hearing from scientific experts that climate change, at minimum, is making hurricanes more intense. While climate science is of course quite complicated, which is why we must rely on the experts, one aspect is pretty simple: hurricanes are fueled by warm oceans or seas, and climate change (or global warming”) heats up oceans and seas.

It’s also true that climate change is an issue on which Democrats, progressives and liberals agree to a great extent. Moreover, the advantage we have over those great Americans who helped each other both physically and financially during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is that we know we already have many political beliefs that tie us together. Accordingly, instead of letting conservatives practice the Shock Doctrine on us by ramming through long-held conservative ideas (such as relaxing environmental laws and regulations) to deal with the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, let’s have a liberal shock doctrine and fight for more steps to tackle climate change and try to weaken future hurricanes. We just might gain perspective and solve some Democratic intra-party fighting along the way.

Photo by John Carkeet, used under Creative Commons license.

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