As written here, here, here and here, we could address our climate change as well as our economic problems if we could mobilize the country to fight climate change like we mobilized for World War Two. But how do we make such a mobilization happen? Such a mobilization is not even being discussed at the national level.
We can learn a lesson from a previous looming problem. In the early 1990s, a recession and overhang from the Reagan tax cuts were causing the deficit to balloon. The problem seemed intractable and solutions were unattractive to both political parties.
Nevertheless in 1992, deficit reduction became a major topic of the presidential campaign. In 1993 President Clinton signed into law a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that would lead to a surplus by 1999, far faster than anyone would have thought possible.
How did the discussion begin in 1992? It was not because of Bill Clinton – his announcement speech did not even mention the deficit problem. The people responsible for getting deficit reduction into the national dialog were Paul Tsongas in the primaries and Ross Perot in the general election.
I volunteered for the Tsongas campaign in 1991 and early 1992. In contrast to the sound bites dominating presidential campaigns, Tsongas put out an 83-page treatise called “A Call to Economic Arms: The New American Mandate.” He was the first democrat to declare his candidacy in April 1991, and he was widely viewed as having much less chance than other candidates like Tom Harkin, and Bob Kerrey. He ended up winning New Hampshire, Maryland, Utah, and four other states before finally dropping of the race.
In Spring, 1992, Ross Perot declared his candidacy for president. Again in contrast with sound bites campaigns, Perot ran 30-minute infomercials complete with graphs, flip charts and down to earth explanations of the deficit problem. Perot also lost, but not before forcing Clinton to incorporate deficit reduction into his plans. As a result, the stage was set for effective deficit-reduction action.
Tsongas and Perot proved that even without winning the Presidency, their straight-talking, serious candidacy could change the country. They did not base their campaign on political expediency. They based their campaign on their convictions and the desire to see their policy changes become real.
We need to do the same thing for war mobilization against climate change. Who will run for president in 2016 and declare war on climate change?