Taking a leaf from the conservative book

The NY Times Book Review section of May 12th has an interesting review of potential relevance to those of us who favor (but do not optimistically anticipate) major systemic reforms of the growth-fixated consumer capitalist society and our global ecological crisis.

The book reviewed, The Federalist Society: How Conservatives Took the Law Back from Liberals, may be too late to give us pragmatic lessons but if you are not a defeatist it offers some interesting guidance.

The reviewer, Jeffrey Rosen, remarks on how "economic conservatives, social conservatives, Christian conservatives and libertarians, many of whom disagree with each other on significant issues, (but who) cooperate in advancing a broad conservative agenda", as the book’s authors Michael Avery and Danielle McLaughlin write.

Cohen says the authors achieved their many legal victories "by persuading the competing factions of the modern conservative movement to set aside their ideological differences and to converge around a constitutional methodology known as ‘originalism’ — the idea that judges should interpret the Constitution as understood by its framers and ratifiers".

While Cohen says the book does not offer a plan or model for taking the law back from "liberal orthodoxy," there is no question that it was a successful strategy.

What immediately comes to mind is the continuing fragmentation of liberal and leftist groups (usually focused on a single issue) who variously hawk their campaigns for peace, workers’ rights, environment, economic equity, and social justice, and with little success it should be said.

The failure of the liberals to develop a coherent guiding philosophy and a set of principles equal to "originalism" for social, economic and legislative reform can be traced in part to the existence of the Democratic Party, which was expert in talking the talk but on virtually all counts never walked the walk. The alignment of Obama and the Democrats with Wall St., its scornful rejection of even discussion of universal single payer health care, and its obeisance to the oil and nuclear industries all testify to the naivete of liberal voters and party members, who lambasted Ralph Nader’s presidential candidacy even though it was the only campaign in memory to directly attack corporate capitalism, Wall St. and globalization. The ugly and vicious smears of Nader by The Nation, the Center for American Progress and the usual liberal toadies are hard to forget and harder to forgive.

But let’s assume that liberals can potentially unify around some common principles. What would that be? Would it be social and
economic justice? Peace? Jobs? And how would they arrive at these? I would like to suggest that ecology and evolution are the logical and consistent concepts that unite the various environmental factions, if not those who still think social justice must take precedence.

There are animal rights groups, vegetarians, food safety/organic food groups, groups opposing genetically modified foods, renewable energy groups, wilderness advocates, population control, ocean fisheries protectors, fighters against pollution of air, water and soil, and those concerned about endangered species.

What unites them against corporations, polluters and the "anthropocene" gangs are the precepts of ecology…. biological and ecosystem-based concerns. Is it too much to ask of those with a narrow focus such as animal rights or ocean protectors or renewable energy to try and understand the ecological and evolutionary concepts that underlie their own battles? If the protection of living species, habitats and ecosystems is not perceived as the all-encompassing and imperative objective of activists, what IS? And if these groups and movements are unable to understand the connection of their issue to the preservation of the very fabric of life, a fabric woven over millions of years by evolution that is now being shredded, do they understand that failure to acknowledge this connection dooms THEIR movement as well as all the others?

What I am saying is that there has never been a more urgent moment for ecological thinkers and activists to persist in their path and
increase their efforts to educate these other liberal factions on the overriding ecological crisis, a crisis which renders or will render
shortly all narrow concerns null and void. Unless the environmental liberals put aside their petty single -issue focus and place their
issue in an ecological context, they are doomed to oblivion. The U.S. Green Party is the perfect example of this failure. It’s time to head off another failure and force the liberals to come to the table and get their heads straightened out. The first step will be to definitively

separate from the Democratic Party. That’s the easy part. The hard part is recognizing the futility of their isolated actions and deciding to end this isolation. Not hanging together means hanging separately.

–Lorna Salzman


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