One View on the Paris Accord Pullout

Well, President Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords and the anti-Trump pundits are in a full tizzy about him doing exactly what he said he was going to do during his campaign.  You can debate the merits of the Paris Accords all you like, and you’ll find people on both sides of the issue, hotly touting their view as the one which will “save the world from a climate cataclysm” or will “finally put America first, dislodging it from being the world’s lapdog for punishing the neo-colonial forces of the world.”

I’d like to stay away from those arguments to look at this issue in a couple of different ways. Trump’s pulling out of the accord is President Obama’s fault. No, don’t get me wrong. I’m not using the Obama administration tactic of blaming the previous president for everything. Obama set the stage for a withdrawal by circumventing the way U.S. treaties are supposed to work. The U.S. constitutional lays out very clearly that treaties with foreign entities must receive Congressional approval. The Obama administration didn’t even attempt to pass the accord through Congress because he knew, as written, it would have never passed. So he signed it as an accord, approved only by the executive branch, which allows the next chief executive to rescind it at will. If it had passed through Congress, President Trump would not have been able to pull out of it without, again, Congressional approval. Perhaps the Obama administration thought that his legacy would remain due to a favorable election outcome in 2016. Well, we all know how that went. The Dems walked away with egg on their face. And now they have a non-binding Paris agreement which falls by the wayside because they didn’t involve Congress.

It’s easy to see why Obama didn’t involve Congress. He knew that the Republican controlled House and Senate wouldn’t have ratified it. But this was his greatest mistake. Ours is a republic, a pluralistic one, a two-party one, which requires compromise, give and take, back and forth wrangling in order to get anything done. Can that be frustrating at times? Of course, but that’s the way the Founding Fathers wanted it. Obama would have been wise to use this tactic in Paris. “Look guys, I’m with you on this. I really am. But you have to understand how my government works. If you want a lasting treaty on climate which is going to mean anything moving forward, we have to negotiate with our elected Congress. No, you’re not going to get everything you want. But if we don’t come together and find an agreement palatable for both parties, this accord could unravel very quickly with a different president who doesn’t hold my views.”

President Obama could have approached the Paris Accords like this. But he didn’t and so the U.S. pulled out. Just like that.

President Trump said in his pull-out speech that he would be willing to renegotiate the Paris Accords in order to find terms more acceptable for the United States. Here’s a response written in one of the articles about the pullout:

“While Trump said the United States would be willing to rejoin the accord if it could obtain more favorable terms, the three European leaders said the agreement cannot be renegotiated, ‘since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economics.'”

And this brings me to my second point of contention about this whole issue. According to these world leaders, “it” (it being the Paris Accords) is a “vital instrument” for our planet … blah, blah, blah. It. Only it. This whole explanation reeks of elitism which I hate more than anything else. Only the accord as they have negotiated it, as they have proposed it, as they have signed, IT and only IT can be “a vital instrument for our planet, societies, and economics.”

A re-negotiated deal could never do that?  Really?

It’s the same old “our way is the only way.” Now their way will unravel because they are unwilling to ponder different possibilities.

Moral of the story: this is politics. If you live in a democracy, you have to work with others. If not, you just have a series of short jaunts in various directions depending on who is in office.

The U.S. Government is Not Broken. And Here’s Proof!

Two weeks ago when the U.S. Senate voted not to pass any new gun legislation after the Orlando attacks, here are two of the social media posts which came across my news feed:

“An amazing victory for the 2nd Ammendment! (sic) Thank you Senate for doing one thing right”

“Our Republic works  for the lobbyiests (sic) with $$$ and screw the 90% of working stiffs who want change!”

Couldn’t get much different, right? So what can we learn from these two posts other than the obvious fact that both liberals and conservatives don’t know how to spell?

I think it teaches us this: we live in a democracy and it is working.

Is it flawed? Of course. Any government system run by humans will be flawed.

Is it biased? Of course, for the same reason above.

Could it be better? Of course.

But is it working? Yes.

And here’s why.

  1. The Senate voted. The majority vote determined course of action.
  2. People in favor of the Senate vote came out and praised the action.
  3. People opposed of the Senate vote criticized the action.

You may not realize it if you are sucked into the the 24-hour cable news cycle, but this is a beautiful thing. A system for allowing votes to happen and a system allowing protests to follow. The American Government may seem less than this because, perhaps, you as a constituent didn’t get what you wanted. But someone else as a different constituent did. In this particular case, the conservatives were happy, the liberals were not.

Fast forward to this past week and we see a reversal of fortunes. The Supreme Court decided 5-3 to overturn a Texas abortion law. The liberals praised the court for their progressive action which preserved a woman’s right to chose by giving her options. The conservatives railed against the ruling, stating that it will actually endanger the lives of women. Elected officials in the Texas legislature passed a law. Others took that law to court. The courts wrestled with the issues and the Supreme Court gave the ultimate verdict. Those opposing protested, and the Texas legislature will now have the opportunity to make a new law if they deem it appropriate.

This is all beautiful. It’s all part of our modern democracy. Nobody gets what they want on a consistent basis, and that’s a good thing.

There’s been a lot spoken over the last few years about how the Republican congress has been unwilling to compromise with the White House on certain issues. Republicans have countered that it is the White House that is unbending, taking matters into their own hands through executive order. And while there is some element to truth in the fact that Congress is not in a mood accommodating to compromise, this misses the much larger point. Compromise is embedded into the American democracy. Compromise comes at election time when the American people decide to go a new direction. Newly elected officials can then decide to break with the previous Congress and go a new direction. But the other side fights back, first through media and protest, and then at the next ballot box. It’s this give and take, this eternal struggle, this electoral compromise that makes America great and gives it a stable democracy unlike the world has ever seen.

So every time you don’t get what you want, you can’t scream “The System is broken!” Why? Because the system is not for you and your ideology. It’s for everyone and everyone’s ideologies. Does it make the American Government slow moving? Absolutely. Does it make it sometime infuriating? Without a doubt.

Opposing views. It’s what’s needed in a thriving democracy.

Happy 4th of July!

A Presidential, Federal, Capitalistic, Representative Democracy

What type of government is the United States of America?

A presidential, federal, capitalistic, representative democracy!

A mouthful, for sure.

Can’t we just say republic?  Nope!

Can’t we just say democracy? Serious lacking!

Can’t we just say federal? Think again.

All four of those descriptions are needed to truly understand how our government works because the forms of government are complicated and don’t easily overlap. Let’s take them one-by-one:

Presidential: This shows that the executive branch is a co-equal and separate entity from the legislative branch. The president is the head of the government, but not a member of congress (or parliament). This is a very important distinction.

Federal: This shows how power is divided geographically between the central government (federal) and the state governments. Some powers are specifically expressed and given to the federal government. Other powers reserved for the states. This is opposed to a unitary government where one central government makes all laws for everyone.

Capitalistic: This shows how the economy is organized. The government functions as a regulator of the economy but typically not an actually controlling any segments of the economy. This is different from a socialist government where many segments (healthcare, education, utilities) are owned and controlled directly by the government. Is this one changing in America? Yes, I believe it is in some respects.

Representative Democracy: This shows how we have a republic. Everyone has a vote and voice – but only through their elected representatives. Multiple parties are allowed to participate. This is in opposition to an authoritarian government which limits the number of people able to participate in politics.

So there you have it. To accurately describe the US Government, you should call it a presidential, federal, capitalistic, representative democracy.