The partisan brawl amid massive blackouts that plunged Texas into days of darkness illuminated one thing, at least: the need for a new social philosophy on the Right.
In short, millions have been left without power during an unrelenting winter storm because of an overburdened power grid. At the center of this is the ironically named Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees the power grid that covers most of the Lone Star state.
Many Republicans and Democrats appear more interested in scoring points against each other and casting oeillades at pet projects than in solving the immediate problem or working to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), for example, is using the crisis to argue that all of this could have been avoided had Americans simply embraced the Green New Deal.
“The infrastructure failures in Texas are quite literally what happens when you *don’t* pursue a Green New Deal,” she tweeted. “Weak on sweeping next-gen public infrastructure investments, little focus on equity so communities are left behind, climate deniers in leadership so they don’t long prep for disaster.”
Of course, it’s not true that “green” energy would have shielded shivering Texans. Wind turbines froze just as easily as did the equipment at gas wells. But for AOC, the question of whether the Green New Deal actually would harden America’s electrical infrastructure is irrelevant. The policy itself is all that matters because it would redound to its creators and beneficiaries a new degree of power and control over every aspect of our lives.
On the other hand, Tim Boyd, the recently retired mayor of Colorado City, Texas, exemplifies everything wrong with the conservative ideology that informs GOP thinking.
In a long, error-ridden screed on social media, Boyd denounced his constituents as freeloaders for expecting the government to which they pay taxes to keep the lights on. “If you have no water you . . . think outside of the box to survive and supply water to your family,” he wrote. “If you were sitting at home in the cold because you have no power and are sitting there waiting for someone to come rescue you because your lazy [sic] is direct [sic] result of your raising!”
Boyd takes bootstrapping to a new level. While it is certainly prudent for individuals to be prepared for disasters, framing functioning infrastructure as a “handout” is not only political suicide but anti-social. No one and certainly no party that drinks this deeply from the “free market” well is capable of governing, let alone creating and maintaining community. At a certain point, the question is not, “Why do we pay taxes?” but “Who wants to live with people like this?” Democrats are actually right to point out that Republicans had the opportunity to winterize Texas’ power grid after freezing weather caused blackouts in 2011. The GOP dismissed infrastructure investment then as needless spending, just as Boyd dismisses the plight of Texans as needless moaning.
What Ocasio-Cortez and Boyd, Democrats and Republicans, have in common is that they are “idiots” in the classic sense. To the ancient Greeks, the word “idiot” derived from ídios, meaning “of one’s own.” Thus, the idiot was he who did not participate in public affairs, but only attended to his own interests.
Our lawmakers and leaders occupy fantasy worlds where the solutions to all of life’s problems are as simple as regulating more or less—and that is when they are not merely paying cynical lip service to ideals to mask ulterior motives. In either case, neither is willing or able to see beyond their own anti-social delusions and lies. Public affairs becomes theater, a vehicle for self-aggrandizement and special interests. For this to change, our social philosophy of politics must change.