Moving Forward when Politics goes Backward

by Andrew Grandahl


With each passing hearing for president Trump’s cabinet nominees, it is difficult to not feel helpless, overwhelmed, and, well, like hiding under your blankets and never coming back out again. Particularly troubling is Trump’s appointee for Secretary of State, former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson. His appointment to one of the most powerful positions in the world poses very real threats to our environment, our national security, and the progress made over the last eight years within international politics. His conflicts of interest as an oil executive should be obvious: Exxon Mobil worked for decades to deny the science behind our understanding of humanity’s role in climate change. One’s mind is automatically brought back to the regressive, oil-obsessed agenda of the Bush administration, and all of the entrapments and folly that accompany such thinking.

This time is different though, we are not witnessing the long-term revival of such mindsets. What we are witnessing are the death-throes of neoconservatism.

Why do I think this? Because often, people need to be shocked into action. Whether it’s the election of a reality TV star to the office of the president, a climate-denier to head up the EPA, or congressional Republicans attempting to remove the healthcare of tens of millions of Americans, these actions all have one thing in common: they are extreme. And extreme actions, in this case, are a sign of desperation. The thinking of the Reagan-Bush era is not just antiquated, but extremely harmful. People know this, people are outraged, they are assembling, and they are speaking out, demanding change. As frustrating as it may be, these political shocks are what drive us out of complacency, and fuel bold initiatives to drive progress towards a better world. Sometimes, you have to go backwards to truly go forwards.

This is not to say that the Trump administration’s four-year reign will not do a great deal of harm. It’s simply that we are in a new era of how we access and spread information, how quickly we can assemble regardless of geographic distance, and how progressive ideologies are really beginning to come into the mainstream and be championed by millions. Trump’s election was, in a way, the revenge of the American conservative. Liberal America’s “revenge” is already gathering momentum, is already taking to the streets and political venues, and will not go quietly into the night. As much as we may fear what the next four years hold, let’s be even more excited for what the response will be. We are in uncharted waters politically, and sometimes, that can be a good thing.

On January 9, President Barack Obama had an article published in the peer-reviewed journal Science. It was entitled “The irreversible momentum of clean energy”. Our former President goes in depth as to why the clean energy revolution is unstoppable, backed up by irrefutable evidence that fossil fuel emissions and economic growth have finally been decoupled. Just a few days after the publication of that article, China announced it will be cancelling plans to build 103 coal plants, a stark about face from its stance on dirty energy just a few years ago. Last November, over 360 major U.S. companies including DuPont, Starbucks, General Mills, HP, Nike, Hilton and Unilever, signed an open letter asking Trump to adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement stating it would be hugely beneficial to economic growth and job creation. Let’s hope he listens. And in the meantime, be encouraged by the remarkable progress made in the public and private sectors in the past few years. As the evidence shows, it won’t be slowing down.

Andrew Grandahl is a guest blogger for eesi. You can reach him at