Feature:Opinion

Greens, reds and cheeseheads

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Chris Horner
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      Chris Horner

      Christopher C. Horner serves as a Senior Fellow at CEI. As an attorney in Washington, DC Horner has represented CEI as well as scientists and Members of the U.S. House and Senate on matters of environmental policy in the federal courts including the Supreme Court. He has written on numerous topics in publications ranging from law reviews to legal and industrial trade journals to print and online opinion pages, and is the author of two best-selling books: Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed (Regnery, 2008) and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism (Regnery, 2007), which spent half of 2007 on the New York Times bestseller list.

There is not much mystery in the fact that Big Labor and Big Green are both hard-left. The labor and green political coalitions are called “watermelon” for a reason, even by their members.

I’ve explored this for several years. In my book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism, Chapter 1 is “Green is the New Red.” Chapter 6 in Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep you Misinformed — titled with all the subtlety of an SEIU thug — goes into further detail, and in Power Grab, I drill down into the partnership as melded by Team Obama, in a chapter titled “Obama’s ‘Baptist and Bootleggers’: Unions and Greens Selling Out America.”

It simply is what it is. In America, these two groups are also the biggest hustlers for getting out the vote, manning phone banks, leafleting, and providing the Democrat Party with Astroturf. And amid the Madison, Wisconsin, rabble-rousing now metastasizing to other state capitals, their coalescence is as glaringly in-your-face right now as we have ever seen it.

They push left-wing policies, policies that everywhere have led to net job loss and economic harm but that have benefitted particular, parochial interests. Organized labor’s interest is growing its membership, not the overall workforce. And jobs resulting from federal employment or spending are de jure or de facto union jobs, thanks to Davis-Bacon and the like. That’s bad for us, but good for them.

In his piece in the Wall Street Journal, John Fund notes, “It is deeply symbolic that this epic battle over the direction of government is taking place in the Badger State. Wisconsin was the birthplace of the modern progressive state in the early 20th century under Gov. Robert ‘Fighting Bob’ LaFollette, who championed progressive taxation and the nation’s first worker’s-compensation system. In 1959, Gov. Gaylord Nelson made Wisconsin the first state to grant public employees collective-bargaining rights.” (emphasis added)

The day before, Paul Taylor’s Eco-Politics column was titled and explored how “Enviros back unions in Midwest budget battles.” In it he noted:

As progressive nonprofits, an odd amalgam of green groups and labor organizations has emerged in the Midwest state budget battles. Eco-groups such as the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, Blue-Green Alliance and the Union of Concerned Scientists are marching lockstep with traditional blue-collar unions. These include the United Steelworkers, Communications Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, AFL-CIO’s Plumbers and Pipefitters and Laborers International Union of North America, as well as dominant government employee unions. The “greens” and their big labor collaborators want to kill state attempts to cut unsustainable spending.

Both recalled for me the non-coincidence of then-Sen. Gaylord Nelson being the father of Earth Day, which is held on April 22, a date that we are told was randomly chosen. In his excellent book, my CEI colleague Iain Murray nailed the point:

[T]he instinct to broadly and aggressively apply the tools of Marxism — central planning and government control — lives on. The instinct is the same as it was when Marx articulated it in the 19th century, but the old justification just doesn’t fly. Free enterprise has proven itself not to oppress the working man, but to free him.

If the working man is no longer oppressed, the central tenet of Marxism no longer applies, but surely there must be another victim of capitalism to take its place? Women and minorities have advanced themselves under free enterprise just as surely as have the working man, and so they are not ideal candidates.

Luckily for the Left they have a victim ready on the shelf. This time it is one that will not exercise free choice in rejecting the ministrations of those who claim to speak for it. In the leftist’s world view, the worker has been replaced by “the Environment.”

The transition was seamless, because of a long history of co-operation between Marxists and environmentalists. Earth Day is held every year on April 22nd, a date deliberately chosen because it was Lenin’s birthday. R.J. Smith, the veteran champion of free-market environmentalism and private conservation, told Human Events:

“It is no accident it is on Lenin’s birthday, April 22,” he said. “It wasn’t a coincidence. I knew some of the kids involved. They thought, ‘What better day than Lenin’s birthday because capitalism destroys the environment?’ Most environmental ecologists believed the source of environmental degradation was the selfishness of capitalist owners. So we had to have a socialist system with a manager instead of an owner. Some of the constitutions of Communist states expressly forbid pollution….” (Joseph A. D’Agostino, Conservative Spotlight: RJ Smith, Human Events, Oct 29, 2001)

Now is as good a time as any to remember that green is the new red, even as the old red stages its very public death throes (we can only hope). The parallels are not accidental, they are inherent. Both the labor movement and the environmentalist movement are about what the president has called “fundamentally transform[ing] America.”

Chris Horner is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

  • xoff

    As Gaylord Nelson’s biographer, I’m always amused and a little astonished to see someone repeat the Lenin-Earth Day claim that was debunked 40 years ago. None of “the kids involved” chose the date; Gaylord Nelson did. Here’s the story, from his bio, published by the University of Wisconsin Press:

    The right-wing John Birch Society did not like the date Nelson had chosen. April 22 was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin, and Earth Day was nothing but an ill-disguised attempt by radicals to honor the revolutionary Communist leader, they claimed. “Subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them,” a Mississippi delegate to a Daughters of the American Revolution convention warned. Nelson had chosen the date as the one that could maximize participation on college campuses. He determined that the week of April 19-25 was the best bet. It did not fall during exams or spring breaks, did not conflict with religious holidays such as Easter or Passover, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather. More students were likely to be in class, and there would be less competition with other events mid-week, so he chose Wednesday, April 22.

    Nelson had no idea it was Lenin’s birthday, but he did some research and had a response ready when the question came up, as it did with some frequency. With only 365 days a year and 3.7 billion people in the world, every day was the birthday of ten million living people, Nelson explained. “On any given day, a lot of both good and bad people were born,” he said. “A person many consider the world’s first environmentalist, Saint Francis of Assisi, was born on April 22. So was Queen Isabella. More importantly, so was my Aunt Tillie.”

    • flips

      Ha! Thanks xoff, for calling out the lunatics on their conspiracy theories.

      Sad to see how the once-venerable GOP has been taken over by the Zombies of the old John Birch Society.

      William F. Buckley must be rolling in his grave.

  • truebearing

    The environmental agenda hurts the union agenda, but only at the bottom of the pile, the rank and file worker. The union is willing to sacrifice any individual member, or members, for the cause of solidarity, but it is solidarity with the oligarchy of the left that they are concerned with, which includes the High Priests in the Environmental Religion. The workers are expendable, as the union has proven in Wisconsin by gladly letting workers get laid off rather than lose some of the power of collective bargaining.

    In any collectivist scheme it is always the little guys that are required to “take one for the team”, yet the morons in the unions of America march on, oblivious that they are cannon fodder. So much for social justice and equality.

    It seems that the unions are used by the Marxist brain trust as both revenue sources and instant sources of injustice and social outrage. The Environmental Religion is the pseudo moral cloaking device that the Marxists wrap themselves in, giving them a noble smokescreen behind which they can demonize opponents and mask their true agenda, unrestricted power.

    Marxists have always had a deep affinity for Procrustean Method as a way to impose their rigid ideology onto a population, and the unions, and the Environmental Religion are no exception, lopping off scientific truth, destroying entire segments of the economy, or amputating jobs in order to make reality conform to their warped mold.

  • AtomicAsphalt

    It’s refreshingly ironic to see these pompous union thugs marching arm-in-arm with their “green” allies, when in reality it’s the “greens” who are singlehandedly destroying the very jobs these unionists perform…at least in the private sector. That explains everything you need to know about the American unionist mindset. The “brotherhood” will march to the beat of its leadership, even when it’s been led off the side of a cliff.

  • MerryJ1

    Nice little “Aha!” moment in reading this article: “Free enterprise has proven itself not to oppress the working man, but to free him… (and her, and minorities) …”