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Chip Ward: The Evolution of John McCain

September 22, 2008

Chip Ward

Despite the media feeding frenzy, we still may be asking ourselves, “Just who exactly is Sarah Palin?” Mixed in with the Davy-Crockett-meets-SuperMom vignettes — all those moose hunting, ice fishing, snowmobiling, baby-juggling, and hockey-momming moments — we’ve also learned that she doesn’t care much for her former brother-in-law and wasn’t afraid to use her office to go after his job as a state trooper; that she was for the “bridge to nowhere” before she was against it; that she’s against earmarks unless they benefit her constituents; that she can deliver a snappy wisecracking speech, thinks banning books in libraries is okay, considers herself a pit bull with lipstick, and above all else, wants to drill the ever-lovin’ daylights out of every corner of her home state (which John McCain’s handlers have somehow translated into being against Big Oil, since she insisted on a marginally bigger cut of the profits for Alaskans).

Oh, and — not that this is very important to Americans or the planet — she now thinks that global warming might possibly be human-made… sorta… though she didn’t before, despite the fact that the state she governs is on the frontline of climate change. And, of course, she’s a classic right-wing, fundamentalist Christian: against abortion — check; against same-sex marriage — check; against stem-cell research — check; favors teaching Creationism in public schools — check.

It’s that last item, her willingness to put Creationism up against the teaching of evolutionary science in the classroom on a he-says-she-says basis, that’s far more revealing of just who our new Republican vice presidential candidate is than we generally assume. It deserves the long, hard look that it hasn’t yet gotten. Most Democrats and progressives tend to think of the teaching of Creationism as a mere sidebar item on their agenda of political don’t-likes, but it’s not. Sarah Palin’s bias towards Creationism is a window into her political soul and a measure of John McCain’s hypocrisy.

It’s possible that the public has been fooled into thinking of McCain as a “maverick” when it comes to his party’s abysmal record on the environment, but his selection of Palin as his running mate sends quite a different message. In fact, he’s potentially put future generations on a “bridge to nowhere” (or perhaps to the fourteenth century). Whether we know it or not, we should now be duly warned: The Palin nomination is the equivalent of launching a “surge strategy” in the Republican war on the environment.

The Republican Holy War on Nature (Continued)

For the past eight years, the Bush administration’s assault on environmental quality has been so deliberate, destructive, and hostile that the usual explanations — while not wrong — are hardly adequate. Yes, Republican animosity to government regulation is long-standing. Yes, they believe in the power of an unrestricted marketplace to shape our collective behaviors. And yes, they emphasize property rights over notions of the commons and have often been comfortable sacrificing wildlife, air, and water quality in the pursuit of profits. In addition, despite recent claims, they are indeed the party of Big Oil. But none of this quite explains the Bush administration’s shameful record on the environment. In the final analysis, the only explanation that fits the nightmare of the last eight years is this: It has been on a holy war against nature — and the nomination of Sarah Palin is essentially an insurance policy taken out on its continuation.

The idea that the environment matters is ingrained in Americans, even those who don’t think of themselves as environmentally inclined. Democrats and Republicans alike have learned the hard way that the decisions we make about what we allow into our air, water, and soil gets translated into our skin, blood, and bones. We now sense that we all live downwind and downstream from one another, and that it is prudent to practice restraint and take precautions when making environmental decisions.

This unspoken consensus is one of the great accomplishments of the modern environmental movement. The policies of the Bush regime have been shocking and shameful exactly because they fly in the face of these shared values and beliefs. Only when we grasp that the narrow Republican base both Bush and McCain pander to no longer shares these basic values and beliefs, does their war on the natural world make sense.

If you believe that a look-alike God made the world for you to dominate and use, that you are among God’s chosen few, and that He will provide for you no matter what you do to your surroundings, then you are likely to see yourself as above the natural order. If you believe that the world will be ending soon anyway, that you will be “raptured” while non-believers are “left behind” (as fundamentalist Tim LeHay so vividly describes the process in his bestselling novels), then precaution and restraint are moot. Remember, more than 60% of the nation’s 60 million evangelicals believe that the Bible is literally true, every last word of it, and more than a third believe the end of the world will occur in their lifetime.

That’s why a pro-Creationist stand is no sideline issue, but the litmus test that reveals whether a politician shares the religious right’s ideology…

Read the rest of this post at TOMDISPATCH.COM

Chip Ward is a former public library administrator in Utah, where the separation of church and state is always unclear. As a grassroots activist, he led several successful campaigns to make polluters accountable. He wrote about his various political adventures in Canaries on the Rim and Hope’s Horizon.

Copyright 2008 Chip Ward

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