From Kevin Williamson at National Review, Progressivism, Democracy, and Climate-Change Action
Because progressives are at heart utopians, they have a difficult time acknowledging tradeoffs. On Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays, climate change is the most important consideration in the world. On Tuesday, Thursdays, and every other Saturday, the top issue is “democracy,” vaguely and inconsistently defined. In fact, Democrats care so much about democracy that they have shut down the democratic process in the democratically elected legislature in Texas in the name of “democracy.” Instead of tradeoffs, progressives embrace a practically mystical model of the unity of all virtues. And so it is practically impossible for the Left to think intelligently about the tradeoffs involved. If you doubt that, read this transcript of Ezra Klein trying to lead a discussion on the question “What If American Democracy Fails the Climate Crisis?” You’ll notice that the headline question never really even enters the conversation.
We use the word democracy as though it signified something sacred rather than merely procedural. But it does not make democracy any less precious to forthrightly recognize that it is one value in a world of values that are sometimes complementary and sometimes rivalrous. Progressives ought to be grappling with the fact that one of the things they put forward as a nonnegotiable and absolute good — democracy — is at odds with something they insist is an existential threat to human civilization — climate change.
Rather than deal with that honestly, progressives have fallen into a number of obvious alternatives: hysterical moralizing, in which those who do not concur with their agenda must be denounced as moral monsters, because there can be no honest disagreement; aggressive indoctrination, in which affirming various aspects of the climate fides as a precondition of participating in educational or business life, including the cynical ploy of indoctrinating children as a means to getting at their parents; “lying for justice”; and, of course, using the levers of the state to subvert inconvenient democratic realities.
The most likely solution to this conundrum will be found — very likely — in the words “science says.” Progressives have long struggled with the tension between their desire, often genuine, to be democratizers and their desire to give experts (however unreliably identified) a larger role in the administration of public affairs. The democratizing aspects of progressive reform often end up being catastrophic for democracy — see the sorry state of radically democratized contemporary political parties and shed a quiet tear for the smoke-filled room of old — and government-by-expert is a hit-or-miss affair — remember that during the “global cooling” scare there were people talking about covering the polar ice caps in soot or taking other radically invasive measures to bring up the temperature of the planet. All sorts of bad science and pseudoscience — eugenics, the grain-based diet, “scientific” racism — have enjoyed expert support at various times.