Horwitz: Everything is at stake


Courtesy of Sunrise Movement/Twitter

Don’t take it to legislation, take it to the streets.

Avi Horwitz, Staff Writer

Over the next few weeks, Congress will either pass a robust reconciliation package that significantly improves working people’s lives and makes the first real investments in fighting the climate crisis or compromises away our futures. President Joe Biden will either travel to Glasgow, Scotland for the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) climate summit ready to reach a global agreement to reduce emissions or show up and leave empty-handed. What transpires over the next month will determine the trajectory of our lives. 

Last Friday, the New York Times reported that Sen. Joe Manchin opposes one of the key climate policies part of the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion per year reconciliation bill: The Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP). This program would incentivize the transition from coal and gas to renewables and is estimated to account for around one-third of the emissions reductions in Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda. Manchin’s opposition is unsurprising, considering he has seen profits in the range of $4.5 million from his son’s coal empire since 2010 and holds additional millions in coal stocks. 

Manchin is not the only radical, conservative Democrat holding back the president’s agenda. Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who has not held a single town hall in her entire term, is another roadblock. The same individual who mocked workers by giving an exaggerated thumbs down to a $15 minimum wage spends her time as an intern at wineries and fundraising in Paris instead of legislating.

The bill’s traditional “climate” aspects are not the only popular public policies Manchin and Sinema are holding hostage. The Build Back Better Act also includes funding for two years of community college, universal pre-kindergarten, paid family and medical leave and an expansion of Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision. 

With voters handing Democrats a trifecta—control of the White House and majorities in both branches of Congress—now is the time to deliver. If Democrats are unable to show that they can effectively pass the overwhelmingly popular platform they ran on, there is little doubt that they will get wiped out in the coming 2022 midterms. Under this scenario, the party will likely be locked out of power and will not have the chance to pass consequential legislation in the next decade, if ever again.  

Failure to pass their signature legislation will also have significant short-term consequences when the COP26 globe climate summit begins in Glasgow on Oct. 31. Nobody can expect other countries to take the United States—historically the largest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita—seriously if its delegation fails to show up with domestic policies already in place to curb emissions. Leaving Glasgow without aggressive, binding emissions targets is not an option. 

Our actions, not words, need to reflect this reality. Are we really going to let a couple of cartoonishly evil politicians sabotage our last shot to build the future we deserve? 

Just this past week, over 500 protestors were arrested as part of the “People vs. Fossil Fuels” week of action in Washington D.C. This indigenous-led mobilization called on Biden to declare a climate emergency and demanded an end to drilling permits. The same communities continue to put their bodies on the line for our collective survival.

It’s in stark contrast to our campus, where the level of apathy is astounding and transactional interactions rule the day. At Case Western Reserve University, it’s fairly uncommon for students to attend events that will not garner extra credit or pad their resumes. Let’s be clear: this is not an indictment of individuals, but the product of a deeply ingrained system that harms us all. Right now is when we need to push back on that most. Coming together for each other is how we win.

These next few weeks, everything is at stake. Rather than taking this moment to turn towards nihilism and defeat, it’s time to buckle down. Call and write to your representatives. Organize your family and friends, and meet me in the streets.