THE GIANT IS AWAKENING
Having spent forty years traveling the country, and having run for president in the 2020 campaign season, I’ve seen an interesting trajectory. American consciousness seems to me like a sleeping giant now waking up.
For decades our government has been giving our democracy like a gift to unfettered corporate forces. They’ve allowed corporate lobbyists and lawyers to literally write and rewrite our laws, surrendering the government’s authority and responsibility to protect the people from corporate overreach. From chemical companies that knowingly put forever-chemicals into their products knowing the harm they would do, to oil companies that knew the dangers of climate change decades before they admitted it, to pharmaceutical companies who withhold life-saving drugs from a population desperately in need of them, to defense contractors who price gauge our military and exert undue influence on our foreign policy, huge corporate entities now rule - and in many cases, tyrannize- the world.
What is different now? The giant is awakening. A critical mass of citizens on both Left and Right are now realizing what has gone on here. For the last forty years the American people have been played.
Do I say these things to simply throw a bomb into the conversation, to be a chaos agent, to disrupt the system for no higher purpose? Not at all. I could keep my mouth shut, acquiesce to the prevailing tenor of our times and simply join the mass sleepwalk to disaster. In many ways, I would have a more peaceful life. But I don’t choose to acquiesce, and I don’t think others want to either. The archetype of this moment is the ride of Paul Revere, warning people that dangers lie ahead…unless.
That “unless” is the purpose of my presidential campaign. This is the 11th hour but it isn’t midnight yet. We can still make the changes that need to be made, but only if we do not tarry. We must respond to the urgency of the challenges that confront us. Incremental changes; elite arguments that the ubiquitous suffering of the majority of people is somehow less important than, say, tax cuts for the very rich; are a luxury we cannot afford. It is time for a great turning … a new beginning … a season of repair.
There are three categories of response to the times in which we live.
1/ Don’t change anything because everything is basically OK and anything that has to be fixed will fix itself. (What iceberg?)
2/ Make incremental changes here and there and hope for the best. (We’ll still hit the iceberg but a little bit later and at a slightly different angle)
3/ Recognize we’re headed straight for the iceberg and turn around right now. (A wise, responsible, conscious economic u-turn)
With citizens along the East Coast of the United States literally choking on smokey air that comes over from wildfires in Canada, the alarm bells are ringing. We must ramp down, not ramp up fossil fuel extraction. We must create a new, more powerful global collaboration to confront the dangers of climate change. We must begin an immediate just transition from a dirty economy to a clean economy. As president, I will declare a climate emergency and make this happen.
With the capabilities of AI increasing at exponential speed, we must not stand by powerlessly while it begins to threaten not only our jobs and economy, but - were it to go rogue, and it absolutely could - even our survival. It is time for an intense conversation among governments, tech leaders, and ordinary citizens, to create the appropriate guardrails to make sure AI does not become a Frankenstein’s monster over which we have no control.
With the realities of war in Ukraine and the risk of military confrontation in the South China Sea now staring us in the face, it is absolutely imperative for a US president to begin a serious effort to create a more collaborative foreign policy. We must transition from a war economy to a peace economy, and create a U.S. Department of Peace. We must learn to wage peace, diminishing our focus on military solutions and strengthening our focus on diplomatic and peace-building solutions. We must dismantle the military industrial complex and reclaim the unwarranted power that defense contractors wield on our foreign policy.
None of this can happen quickly, but neither can we allow things to move too slowly. The 2024 election cycle is one that will determine the fate of our country, our democracy, and in many ways our species, for years to come. I hope you will join me in creating a new conversation and forging a better way, that America might once again become a light unto the nations.
A couple of days ago we celebrated the 79th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy. I’m a bit of a WW2 buff, and one of the most powerful stories from that occasion is the behavior of Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of all Allied forces and the leader of the expedition, upon hearing the weather assessment the day before the landing. Although meteorological capabilities at the time were nothing near what they are now, weather experts did know that the following morning, at exactly 6:30 AM, there would be enough light to allow the first landings to begin, yet enough cloud cover to allow some protection from German defenses. While not perfect - no weather condition would be - there would not be another such opening for two weeks.
The weight on Eisenhower’s shoulders was tremendous. He knew that the invasion would turn the tide of the war, for better or for worse. And even if it was successful, he was leading more men to die in a single military operation than had ever been true before. He also knew that every day they waited was a day that weakened Allied chances for success; Hitler still thought they would be landing in Calais and there was no telling when he would figure out the truth. Also, every day gave the Germans more ability to build up their defenses along the coastline.
Eyewitnesses to the meeting that day report Eisenhower sitting stone-faced at the head of the table, his advisors having reported on all relevant matters regarding military preparedness and weather. They say the room was silent, you couldn’t hear a pin drop. Then, within two minutes, Eisenhower said with calmness and resolve, “Okay, let’s go.”
That is leadership. That is strength. And now it’s our turn.