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The Republican's Climate Lies Are Starting To Backfire
This is what happens when you don't represent your voters.
The Republican Party isn’t known for its deep care of the environment. In recent times, it’s more known for its blind free-market ideology, post-thruthisms, anti-science rhetoric and cosying up to extreme right-wing Christians. As Trump has shown, this dogmatic approach can work. But, its effectiveness is waning, as a recent election showed. Republicans failed to gain any significant traction in the election. Their decision to overturn Roe V Wade already weakened their position, as 61% of Americans think abortion should be legal. So, they doubled down on their anti-climate attitude to scoop up more votes. It dramatically failed. But, they should have known it would fail from the get-go, as most Americans are pro-climate action, so why did they take this divisive approach? Well, their campaigns aren’t aimed at the voters. Instead, they are directed at the real wielders of American “democratic” power. Let me explain.
Firstly, let’s look at how these GOP candidates tried to use an anti-climate stance in their campaigns. In New Jersey, the GOP candidates escalated unfounded attacks against offshore wind. In Virginia, the GOP candidates pushed back against the state’s electric vehicle mandates. In Kentucky, the GOP candidates attacked their Democrat governor for complying with “radical environmentalists who want to kill coal.” An interesting stance considering several studies and independent bodies have shown Coal power is one of the leading causes of climate change and has the highest rate of human mortality of any energy source, whilst being a weak driver of the economy compared to alternative power sources.
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These campaigns all failed. Democrats won again and again during last Tuesday’s state elections. It was far from a blue landslide, but needless to say, the Republicans failed to gain any significant traction.
But, when you look at the statistics of what the American population wants, it’s easy to see why.
Take New Jersey, for example. A recent randomised poll found that 78% of New Jerseyans believe in climate change, and 72% of them think that climate change is a serious threat to New Jersey. What’s more, 80% of those eligible to vote want the government to protect them from the effects of climate change. In fact, 70% of New Jerseyans said the Earth’s changing climate is important to their vote in the upcoming midterm election. So, a Republican shouting falsehoods about the negatives of offshore wind will hardly garner widespread support in the state.
But it isn’t just New Jersey. This pro-climate action stance is held by most Americans nationwide. Pew research has found that two-thirds of Americans think the government should do more to stop climate change through actions such as large-scale tree planting, tax credits for carbon capture businesses and stricter fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. Surprisingly, more than half of nationwide Republicans share this view when polled!
So not only are these Republican candidates proactively failing to capture marginal voters, but they are also alienating the majority of their own voter base. The polls are crystal clear that what these candidates are doing is democratic suicide through apparent pig-headed ideology.
But is this really what is happening? You see, we are treating this like these politicians are trying to appeal to the general public and garner support directly. But that is no longer how American democracy works. Instead, it seems like they are actually appealing to the real puppet masters at play. Namely, political donors and the media.
Let’s start with funding. The Republicans’ largest political donors are all from the oil industry. For example, from 2021 to 2022, Koch Industries gave them $27,375,317, Occidental Petroleum gave them $8,052,913 and Chevron Corp gave them $7,591,109, along with plenty of others. And that wasn’t even an election year! Overall, 80% of oil industry political funds go to Republicans. For that money to continue to flow, these companies want to see pro-fossil fuel legislation and anti-climate action rhetoric being pushed.
If the Republicans intend to mount a successful presidential election campaign or even a state-level campaign, they need this funding. Without it, they would be at a significant disadvantage to the Democrats, who would have more funds to spend.
As such, these anti-climate action Republican candidates are likely spewing what their backers want them to or are actively campaigning to gain more funds from them by showing they could be a solid ally for the oil industry and worth the investment.
But, to win an election, you need more than just funds. You need the media on your side, manipulating the public to adore you and championing your policies, whilst actively undermining criticism against you.
This is where one man in particular comes into the equation. Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch owns a vast plethora of media outlets, from Fox News to the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, along with even more international written and visual media. He isn’t a hands-off owner either. He actively ensures editors and producers are publishing and airing angles, which he agrees with. Every bit of media that comes from his vast empire is carefully curated to manipulate vast swathes of the population to his whims.
As such, if a candidate, no matter how low in the pecking order, can garner support from Murdoch and other similar media moguls, they can ensure positive coverage on some of the most consumed media in the country and even get them to defend them against scandals or even hide legislation they support that the general public will not. For example, Fox News killed the Stormy Daniels story to protect Trump’s 2016 election. As it happens, Murdoch was an avid supporter of Trump until his 2020 election loss. As this coverage is what the vast majority of people base their vote decisions on, this is a crucial part of winning a modern American election.
But here is the thing: Murdoch and many other media magnates are heavily invested in the oil industry. Murdoch, in particular, is up to elbows in Genie Oil & Gas and a few other major oil and gas companies. It’s understandable why, as they are vastly profitable companies which are heavily subsidised by the government (making them stable and more recession-resistant). But Genie Oil & Gas doesn’t just operate in the US; they are heavily involved with Israeli oil projects. In fact, Murdoch himself is a strong supporter of Israel as well as a supporter and friend of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. No wonder his media outlets have been so pro-oil and pro-Israeli despite the ungodly damage both are currently doing.
To get favourable coverage by Murdoch’s empire and other similar media moguls, you need to push rhetoric they agree with and want to promote in order to manipulate the masses to support their interests. Ronald Reagan did this, and his team credited Murdoch and the New York Post for his crucial victory in New York in the 1980 United States presidential election.
But, back to the present day. These Republican candidates know their positions, policies and rhetoric aren’t aligned with the democratic voice of their party, let alone the country. But they aren’t targeting them. Instead, they are on the campaign trail to raise more funds and amass media support necessary to reach office. This means pandering to the upper echelons of the 1%, who, in return for pushing their interests, will use vast amounts of funds and nationwide flattering news coverage to manipulate the general public and get these paid-for representatives into power.
If you are thinking, “This is deeply undemocratic. I thought we lived in a free country?!” Then, I apologise for breaking the illusion.
But you can take solace in the knowledge that this isn’t just happening in the US. Pretty much all modern Western democracies are orchestrated like this.
Take my home country, the UK, for example. One of the main reasons Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997 was Murdoch. Blair shifted the Labour Party away from its earlier socialist policies and towards a pro-business free market central position that Murdoch was looking to capitalise on. The Tories led the polls, but the party was rife with scandals and ineptitude, which Murdoch was concerned about. Blair had several meetings with Murdoch, and afterwards, his newspapers suddenly championed Blair. The polls swung in Labour’s favour, and Blair won. During his tenure as Prime Minister, Blair kept close ties to Murdoch, ensuring positive coverage of his government, and in return, he pushed Murdoch-approved legislation. This relationship became so fruitful for Murdoch that he repaid Tony by making him a godfather to one of his daughters.
To say that such a relationship constitutes corruption is putting it mildly. At the very least, it undermines our democracy and is deeply morally bankrupt. And similar cases are happening all over the Western world with different politicians and different media moguls.
But, this house of cards is falling down, as these recent US elections show. There is only so far you can manipulate a populace before they become disenfranchised. Particularly if the lies you have fed them become apparent. Climate change is doing just that, as many Americans are now realising just how serious a problem it is thanks to recent extreme weather. What’s more, our media is slowly becoming decentralised. This has opened up the doors to spurious misinformation spreading faster. Alex Jones comes to mind. But it is also slowly taking the sting out of these media moguls’ influence, as fewer people are willing to consume their tainted products. It’s also forcing more people, particularly the younger generations, to approach the news with a critical mindset, making such manipulation harder.
There is still a long way to go before our democracies become more democratic, and politicians actually represent their voter’s wants and needs. But, hopefully, the process of dismantling this backwards establishment is already happening.
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