Paranoia in the Platform: the GOP and Agenda 21

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    Cross-posted at Daily Kos

    We could spend hours debating what scares us most about the Republicans.  For me, it is unquestionably the conspiracy theories – which now have a place even in the official party platform.  

    Just check out the new plank in the GOP platform: “We strongly reject the U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of American sovereignty, and we oppose any form of U.N. Global Tax.”  Or as the RNC put it a little more expansively in a January resolution:

    The United Nations Agenda 21 plan of radical so-called ‘sustainable development’ views the American way of life of private property ownership, single family homes, private car ownership and individual travel choices, and privately owned farms; all as destructive to the environment.

    What (the heck) is Agenda 21, you may be asking?  It is a completely voluntary resolution agreed to by 178 nations in 1992 at the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in 1992 in Rio.  It outlines the concepts of sustainable development and ways to implement them at the national and local levels.  And…that’s it.  Known communist president George H.W. Bush signed it on behalf of the US at the time.  

    You can read it yourself here — but you may want to put a pillow on your keyboard first to avoid the risk of a concussion.  

    Out of this thin gruel of a perfectly normal, harmless and quite commendable UN resolution to treat the earth a little better and save a few natural resources for your kids and grandkids, Tea Partiers and John Birchers have spun a dark tale of attempted world takeover threatening your life, liberty and precious bodily fluids.  As the John Birch society puts it, with its usual calm restraint: “Agenda 21 seeks for the government to curtail your freedom to travel as you please, own a gas-powered car, live in suburbs or rural areas, and raise a family.”

    There’s some good coverage of this phenomenon on the Intertubes — see Stephen Lacey’s outstanding interview with Mark Potok of Southern Poverty Law Center about such conspiracy theories that force us to “spend our time fending off utterly baseless, fear-mongering conspiracy theories that prevent us moving forward in any way as a society.”

    Lloyd Alter at Treehugger also had a helpful guide to the people pushing this nonsense — and their not-so-secret ties to the Koch Brothers and Big Oil.

    For coverage of how Tea Party fanatics have been using their paranoia parties to obstruct actual environmental progress in communities around the country, see these stories in the New York Times and Washington Post.

    Yes, there’s always been a “Paranoid Style in American Politics.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Paranoid_Style_in_American_Politics]  But what is more unusual — and frankly terrifying for those who believe in common sense, rational governance — is the idea of one of our two national parties paying tribute to such insanity in its official platform.  If a platform is any indication of how this party will govern if elected, what should we expect to see as part of an anti-Agenda 21 national program?

    First, even the small amount of progress we have achieved in making America a less wasteful and environmentally destructive society will likely be reversed.  Forget about energy efficiency, renewable energy, recycling, smart growth, the works — that’s all communism now.  Second, if Republicans are this scared of the UN and frankly anyone outside our borders, forget about effective international action in a Romney-Ryan administration — we’ll be back to unilateralism and nothing else.  

    But even more disturbing are what happens when leaders govern out of fear and paranoia.  Too often, this has led to irrational policy and groups feeling empowered to take what they see as a fight for their lives out on innocent “others” who are scapegoated as evil threats to society.  It seems far-fetched to imagine that the kind of violence that in the past has been hurled on groups from Jews to Tutsis to intellectuals to gays would be visited in the near future upon environmentalists and even scientists.  But the kind of rhetoric the extremist groups are using against Agenda 21 sounds just too eerily familiar — you know, all that stuff about vast conspiracies for world domination, threatening you in your own home and community?

    It can’t lead to anything good.  And the Republicans will someday regret the alliance they have forged with some of the most extremist fringe groups operating in America today.