The politics of energy, and everything else


The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

Earlier this week, my spouse asked me what I thought of President Obama’s just-announced approach to energy policy. His administration is apparently open to new, but limited, off-shore drilling for oil, including it in a package of other (in my reading) more important initiatives. This is a strategy I’ve already heard being vigorously criticized: his proposal, it is said, will only represent a drop-in-the-bucket solution for the huge energy problem our society faces; it’s the wrong approach; etc. Once again, it is suggested, he is deserting his base.

I see his strategy, coupled with other far more important proposals for things like increasing energy efficiency, etc., to be a very wise one. Rather than exposing weakness, he is, I feel, demonstrating strength. Rather than looking only at the short term, he is looking much further down the road. His position is the opposite of what many perceive it to be. He is pursuing a goal along the route of the possible, rather than the ideal.

He knows he is facing an opposition in the Congress which voted unanimously in opposition to a health care reform which included many elements they supported. Their unified “no” vote had only one principle behind it: to defeat (and hopefully weaken) the President. Now with passage of the initiative the truth is coming out, including the need of the opposition to re-calibrate its strategy, including trying to figure out how to refashion their unanimous opposition to the health care reform initiative into, somehow, making health care reform, including the bill which passed, seem like their own idea.

This is how the extremely hard ball game of national politics is played.

A while back I was commenting to someone about the reality I see in today’s Washington, and Obama’s approach to it. President Obama comes from an organizing background, I observed. “People don’t understand Organizers; Organizers understand people.”

Changing the rules of engagement in the rough and tumble and very nasty game of contemporary politics in this country is a very tall order. Most everybody who cares is accustomed to a certain way of doing the business of politics, and has difficulty understanding that there might be another way to approach solving problems that threaten our very society’s long-term existence.

Perhaps it would be nice to just throw out what has been in place for years, and take a totally principled position for a truly alternative national policy. Politically, that just won’t work. Too many of us really do crave a “drill, baby, drill” approach to energy (and most everything else). We want rights without responsibilities or consequences. The present is all that matters; the future is somebody else’s problem. About the only strategy that will work with a majority of our citizenry is an incremental approach, and that is, I believe, what the Obama administration is about.

I’m among those who think that our U.S. society is like a present day Titanic, racing full speed ahead into an iceberg and disaster, intentionally oblivious of the danger ahead.

Most of us don’t want to see that iceberg coming. At least there’s now someone in the pilot house working to change our course.

I’m glad for that.