Think of this as Volume 15, Number 35 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
The optimists win.
The media and most professionals ignore this law because they think it's a gloss, something you can put onto a campaign like lipstick on a pig. It's not. The side that exudes optimism from every pore, that has a positive agenda addressing pressing issues, almost always wins American elections.
The Obama campaign recognized this truth early-on, which is one reason why it was vitally important (in retrospect) that they stayed apart from the “netroots,” sites like DailyKos, Firedoglake and Americablog. It's not that these left-wing sites want to be pessimistic. It's just that living in the trenches of politics, day after day, is living in a sausage factory. It grinds you down, it gets you angry, it makes you pessimistic.
Most grassroots political movements, even of the Astroturf kind, are born of anger and pessimism. It's what the other side isn't doing, what “those people in power” are keeping from happening. It's very easy to say what you're against, it's easy to organize a protest. It's much harder to build something positive.
From a business standpoint it's not in the interests of Kos & Co. to be positive, however. On a day to day basis, it doesn't sell to activists. It's pointing your readers in a direction they are not inclined to go in.
Yet there is a positive change agenda sitting before us, waiting to be seized. As regular readers of this blog know, it starts with what I call the War Against Oil.
Warnings of environmental catastrophe have failed, because they are at heart pessimistic. They focus on sacrifice, on accepting less for ourselves and our children. We have lost a full decade following Al Gore. The experiment has been run.
Fortunately, technology has not stood still. We now have the tools we need to harvest the abundance all around us, at competitive prices, at declining prices. Companies like First Solar are already producing thin film solar for $1/watt. There are new systems coming out that can be printed, that use plastics rather than rare Earths. Wind farm efficiency continues to increase as this power source scales. Systems like biochar (burning in absence of oxygen) are now ready to go on-stream. Geothermal will grow once oil drillers see it as an opportunity rather than as competition.
Most important, America has more of the really cheap renewable energy – efficiency – than any other country. There's a flip side to having 25% of the world's energy use and 4% of the world's people. There's a lot of waste, waste that can be captured profitably, without inventing anything.
This should be at the heart of a new growth agenda. Instead of talking about cap-and-trade, let's talk about equalizing the price of burning and harvesting. Energy should be priced based on its full costs, including its waste and remediation. This is where environmentalists can be useful in the debate, because the Gulf of Mexico is still a sludge dump, and damage from carbon waste, in the ground and in the air, is still growing. Don't talk tax. Talk about equalizing prices, about paying for externalities. Instead of demanding subsidies, accept the costs of solar and wind externalities, which include possible risks to habitat and bird kills. We will pay for ours, but you must pay for yours.
Waste provides the capital to get the economy going again, and in a sustainable direction. Pay for waste, pay the full price for waste, and we generate the capital needed to create new jobs, to scale the new technologies, to change the world in a positive way.
The Administration has been helpful already. I love the new military program. It does more than provide capital to the space. It aligns our huge defense establishment with this new economy, and creates buy-in. The President's delivery of a higher fuel economy standard is another positive development. He hasn't bought into the War Against Oil as a rhetorical device, but his policy moves are right.
Politically, of course, this is a war only the left can win. The right is entirely in the pocket of the oil interests. The recent vote against fluorescent light bulbs proves it. But just follow the money. The Koch Brothers are huge investors in oil-and-gas. So are most of the rest of the Republican Party's bankers. How else can you explain Rick Perry, who is as one wag put it, the candidate for those who thought George W. Bush was too intellectual?
The way to victory is by getting behind a positive agenda for change. The issue of our time is economic stagnation. The War Against Oil provides a perfect framework for that struggle, and it's something liberals can get behind. It is, at heart, merely a reformulation of what they've been saying for years.
The issue is growth, the issue is jobs. Show how we get them, demand them, and win.