The Polarized Views of Political Parties
In the United States, issues often polarize between political parties. Democrats and Republicans form sides in what can only be described as political and social gridlock. Often the party platforms are really voice boxes for special interest groups and corporate lobbyists. These groups and companies form a backdrop of hidden agendas that will use a variety of means for advancing their arguments. No issue exemplifies this reality better than the continuous debate between environmentalists and big business, specifically oil companies vs. environmental groups.
There has been, since the 1980s, a continuous controversy concerning the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. This controversy has been caused by pressure from increasing dependence on foreign oil. Proponents of drilling in the arctic cite economic reasons for their support, even though this action is only temporary in its ability to sever dependence on foreign oil (Raven, 2010). In opposition to this plan, environmentalists argue that the damage to the ecosystems would be severe and permanent. As well, they argue that the drilling would only stave off foreign oil dependence for about a decade (Raven, 2010).
Oil companies and Republican politicians share a strong stakeholder interest in having the arctic refuge opened for drilling. Republicans desire to be free of foreign oil dependence because it would reduce energy budget costs. At the same time, oil companies realize that their product only has limited time before it runs out and in order to maintain profit, they must take advantage of all available resources. Oil companies dump huge amounts of money into Republican campaigns and lobby incessantly to push their agenda in government.
In opposition to these groups, the environmentalists (who are largely Democratic) have a large stake in saving the refuge as it is protecting a large part of the ecosystem and the food web (Raven, 2010). Thus, environmentalists are protecting the environment from permanent damage for a temporary solution. Some of the groups pushing the Democratic agenda include environmental groups such as Greenpeace and animal rights groups.
The issue of expanding oil drilling shows a true disparity in party politics. In order to push their agendas Democrats and Republicans resort to propaganda and even at times huge lies.
Republicans downplay the effects of ecological damage and even in some cases deny the problems associated with continued dependence on fossil fuel. An interesting note to this reality is that partisan differences on the issue of environmentalism have only been a recent problem. “For example, from the early 1970s until the mid-1990s, support for increased spending on environmental protection by self-identified Democrats was typically only around ten percent higher than for self-identified Republicans" (Dunlap and McCright, 2008).
In the 1990’s Republicans began to question not just environmental policy but environmental science in general. This questioning of science and the methodologies used to measure climate change was further exasperated by Al Gore’s release of “An Inconvenient Truth”. In advertently this movie may have increased polarization of the Republican and Democratic viewpoints. Gore’s film while disturbing did contain large exaggerations and even some false information. The inaccuracies of the film caused a greater divide in party politics as Republicans attacked the film condemning it as a falsehood and large exaggeration (Dunlap and McCright, 2008).
The backdrop of special interest groups and corporations driving political parties seems to be creating an environment of no consensus. Republicans and Democrats cannot seem to find a balance in decision making that in the earlier decades was possible. A growing resentment between platforms seems to bar even the most reasonable of arguments. For instance, global warming is not a myth, the planet is getting warmer and it is caused by fossil fuel emissions. Even against the view of the world’s leading scientists the Republican view has continued to grow in favor of climate change being a myth (Pruden, 2010). Democrats are guilty of this same form of stubborn thinking in which all reason seems to be thrown out in lieu of propaganda. Again Al Gore’s movie cites how people will die as the result of heat waves and droughts. But the effects of climate change are hardly known (Dunlap and McCright, 2008).
What is frustrating is that there are viable solutions to this problem. For instance, bio diesel can be used to run cars along with gasohol and other plant and waste oil fuels sources. While these sources are not a complete solution, they do however present a way to lower oil consumption. As dictated by poles, most Americans are willing to alter their lifestyles and to adopt new greener technologies but the party politics seems to bar any reasonable commitments to new solutions (Dunlap and McCright, 2008). One must question if parties truly speak for the national interest or if they merely have become a political fixture? With the advent of the Tea Party there seems to be a growing revulsion to the standard two party system.
The solution to issues such as continued oil exploration really begins with a rejection of current party politics. To blindly accept a stance based upon party position lacks critical examination. Voters need to become more aware of the agendas of supporters driving party politics and begin to make informed decisions when voting. In the case of opening the wildlife refuge the issue has become so clouded in propaganda that it is difficult discern what the truth is regarding oil dependence. But from a critical standpoint fossil fuels are a finite resource which is running out. To continue to mine these resources at the expense of the environment just to burn them seems to lack common sense. At the same time democrats must begin to realize that polarizing against every environmental issue lacks forethought. For instance, a hard-line stance against nuclear energy might be a mistake since the actual reactors produce clean energy. To resist this solution because of the waste byproduct produced forces the continued use of fossil fuels. Yet these arguments continue with no sense of resolution in the future.
Raven, P.H. (2010) Environment and Ethics 7e Ch11 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. pp, 255–256
Pruden, W. (2010) The red-hot scam unravels The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/feb/16/pruden-the-red-hot-scam-begins-to- unravel/
Dunlap, R. E. and McCright, A. M. (2008) A Widening Gap: Republican and Democratic Views on Climate Change Environment Magazine http://www.environmentmagazine.org/Archives/Back%20Issues/September- October%202008/dunlap-full.html