Is it all about power?

Folks in politics and who talk about politics often accuse others of just trying to gain power. I understand this notion, but I’m not sure what kind of power people are talking about most of the time. Money? Sure. I can see that. Decision-making? OK. Feeling like you’re somebody special? I can understand all of that. But it seems like, maybe for one group more than another, those goals put people on very strange sides of arguments.

Using “the environment” as an example. At least in today’s United States, democrats are far more likely to be in favor of policies that are intended to benefit the environment. If a politician is giving a speech advocating transitioning to renewable energy sources (except nuclear, strangely), it’s very likely that the politician is a democrat. When challenged, republicans will say that it’s about freedom or the free market or that they don’t believe that anything we do can have an impact on the environment (if they even believe that there is a problem with the environment), and they’ll almost always, at some point if the conversation goes on long enough, say that democrats just use this as an issue so they can keep their power. That’s so interesting to me, because it seems, to me, like the natural view of a human being, living on a planet, would be that it’s good to do things that are healthy for their environment. Do you want pollution or do you want things clean? Seems like the natural response would be ‘clean,’ right? Of course there’s a cost, and of course there are times when we say that it’s gross, but worth it. I’m not denying that, but the natural way to go here seems obviously ‘clean’ to me.

It’s not just the environment, it’s also things like immigration. Decades ago, republican candidates for president fought to appear the most conscientious when it came to immigration policy. Regan and Bush, during the primary, talked about how important immigration was for the country and how they wanted fair immigration policies, and how this would be good for the immigrants who come here seeking a better life, as well as for the businesses that rely on their labor and that need to sell products. It seems like a win-win, or it did back then. But not today. Today, if you hear a politician talking about restricting immigration, you can pretty much always win if you bet that the speaker is a republican. The natural response to, what should a nation do when somebody comes here looking for a better life, is probably welcome them with open arms. Of course there’s nuance there. Of course there’s some upper capacity of what a country can handle. Of course there will be people who don’t come here seeking a better life, but come here to take advantage of one thing or another, but, still, the natural answer seems to be, how can we help.

There are others, but at risk of wearing things out before getting to the crux of this, it makes me question what the ‘power’ move really is. Does somebody who takes the ‘natural’ answer do so in order to hold onto power? Or is it more the case that those who take the ‘unnatural’ side do so because it’s the only option they have that allows them to keep some power? If both parties were pro-environment and pro-immigration, what would be left to drive voters to republicans? I’m left wondering if the accusation that talking about race or the environment or immigration is just a way for democrats to divide us so they can stay in power is all just projection. Perhaps it’s really the right who take an anti-immigration, anti-environmentalism, racism-tolerant (or just racist) position for the sole purpose of being different from the democrats, so a second party can exist, and they can, through it, hold some power.

Of course it’s not so simple. I appreciate that. I imagine that this ‘natural’ position depends a lot on how the question is phrased. “Do you think it’s a good idea to allow babies to be killed or should we protect them even before they’re born” probably has ‘protect them at all costs’ as the natural answer. Yet, “should we allow women to control their own bodies and how they’re used” probably has ‘yes, of course’ as the natural answer. Likewise, “should we destroy businesses in ways that make no difference to the environment” probably has ‘no fucking way’ as the natural answer. I can see that…but the idea, perpetuated by many elected republicans and republican pundits, is that democrats have created a lie about the environment in order to frighten us into voting for them. It’s that finger-pointing that makes me wonder if the opposite is closer to the truth: that republicans have taken the side against the environment so they can provide a reason for us to vote for them, even if it means taking the ‘unnatural’ side.


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