Robert Reich: The GOP And The Crises Of Climate Change And Democracy – OpEd


I wasn’t planning to say anything more about the Republican debate (minus Trump) but I can’t resist pointing to what I considered the lowest point out of many low points. 

It came when the candidates fielded a pre-taped question by a young person named Alexander Diaz, who spoke about how the climate crisis is “young people’s number one issue,” and asked “How will you as both president and leader of the Republican Party calm the fear that the Republican party doesn’t care about climate change?” 

Before turning the question over to the candidates, Bret Baier, one of the moderators of the debate, asked the candidates to raise their hands if they believe “human behavior is causing climate change.” 

Almost immediately, Florida governoer Ron DeSantis shot back: “We’re not schoolchildren, let’s have the debate.” Then, instead of talking about climate change, DeSantis lashed out at Joe Biden for his response to the deadly Maui fire. (DeSantis’s criticism was utter rubbish, of course. Biden has been very much involved in the Maui fires, with federal disaster assistance and ongoing briefings, culminating in his visit several days ago.)

DeSantis later insisted he never raised his hand in affirmation. 

As Florida faces increasingly powerful hurricanes and storm surges, as well as threats from sea level rise, DeSantis has supported projects to build seawalls and improve drainage systems But he has refused to acknowledge the role of global heating on these disasters, scoffing at the “politicization of the weather” and pushing bills banning Florida cities from adopting 100% clean energy goals. He also barred the state’s pension fund from considering the climate crisis when making investment decisions.

After DeSantis’s attempt to avoid talking about climate change last night, Vivek Ramaswamy, a 38-year-old entrepreneur who presents himself as a non-political outsider who can tell the truth, then piped up: “The climate-change agenda,” he declared, “is a hoax.”


Donald Trump, who did not attend the debate, has done whatever he could to impede climate action. As president, he rolled back nearly 100 climate regulations, according a New York Times tally, and backed out of the Paris Accord. 

Meanwhile, rightwing groups have been working with the Republican Party to boost the fossil fuel industry while undermining the energy transition. Project 2025, a $22m endeavor by the climate-denying thinktank the Heritage Foundation, has developed a presidential proposal that lays out how a Republican president could dismantle US climate policy within their first 180 days in office. The proposal was made in collaboration with several former Trump officials. 

Friends, the twin crises of the climate and democracy are intertwined. Climate change threatens life on earth. But without a working democracy, there’s little we can hope to do about it. The Republican Party — with Trump in the lead, and DeSantis and others trailing behind in the GOP presidential primaries — seems dedicated to destroying both.

This article was published by Robert Reich’s Substack

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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