In Tuesday night’s demolition derby of a debate, President Donald Trump did not even pretend to confront white supremacists. He didn’t pretend to respect the legitimacy of the election, either. So it was telling that after moderator Chris Wallace asked him the first-ever question about climate change in a general election presidential debate, Trump did pretend to support electric vehicles.
“I’m all for electric cars,” he said. “I’ve given big incentives to electric cars.”
In fact, Trump is not all for electric cars; he’s mocked them, and his policies have penalized them. He certainly hasn’t given big incentives to electric cars; he actually tried to eliminate the existing incentives. But while Trump’s 90-minute tornado of unfiltered insults and right-wing red meat suggested that he’s happy to run as an enemy of cities, the news media and racial sensitivity, he clearly would prefer not to be seen as an enemy of the climate.
That is a milestone in the history of climate politics. Global warming has been dismissed for years as a niche concern for the tree-hugging fringe, but not only has it become the kind of mainstream issue that even a moderator from Fox News deemed worthy of prime time, it has become the kind of hot-button issue that even a Republican president who used to call it a hoax manufactured in China feels the need to dissemble about. If hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, political lies are the tribute that unpopularity pays to popularity—and 2020 polling has found that climate science and climate action are both popular.
Green cars are especially popular; a survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that 82 percent of Americans support tax rebates for energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels. That helps explain why Trump claimed to be one of them, even though his 2020 budget would have eliminated a tax credit for electric vehicles that was enacted during the George W. Bush administration and expanded during the Barack Obama administration. Trump made fun of electric vehicles during a 2019 rally in Michigan—“Darling, where do I get a charge?”—and scoffed that “all-electric isn’t going to work” in a Fox Business interview. And his rollback of Obama’s tough fuel-efficiency standards, along with his efforts to relax clean air regulations, could be devastating blows to zero-emissions electric vehicles.
Wallace’s original question was whether Trump believes the scientific consensus about climate change in light of the fires burning in California; the president dodged it rather than repeat his recent assertions that the science can’t be trusted and the earth is about to start cooling. When Wallace pressed him to clarify whether he accepted that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, he grudgingly conceded: “I think a lot of things do, but I think to an extent, yes.” That made political sense, too, since the Yale survey found 72 percent of Americans believe global warming is happening, while only 12 percent don’t.
The survey found the public also agreed by a 61-29 margin that global warming will harm Americans, by a 56-44 margin that it’s already harming Americans, and by a 60-11 margin that the president should do more to address it—all of which helps explain why the president tried to tack towards the climate majority on the debate stage.
“We now have the lowest carbon,” Trump said. “If you look at our numbers now, we are doing phenomenally.”
America’s emissions are indeed lower in 2020, but that’s because of the coronavirus lockdowns, not because of Trump’s energy or environmental policies, which have had the consistent objectives of relaxing restrictions on polluting industries and promoting the mining and drilling of fossil fuels. Trump scrapped Obama’s Clean Power Plan that would have regulated carbon emissions—which, incidentally, had 75-24 support in the Yale poll—as well as rules limiting mercury, soot and other pollution from coal-fired power plants. As Biden tried rather inarticulately to point out, Trump’s administration has also ditched rules limiting methane emissions by oil and gas companies, accelerated permits for drilling, mining and logging on public lands, rolled back protections for wetlands, and made the United States the only nation to announce its withdrawal from the Paris climate accords.
Nevertheless, Trump tried to portray himself as a champion of clean air and water—or, as he put it, “immaculate air, immaculate water”—another nod to the power of environmental issues, especially among the suburban women who have been such a problem for his reelection campaign. The only specific environmental policy Trump brought up, aside from his nonexistent electric vehicle incentives, was his support for a global initiative to plant a trillion trees, which he misidentified as the Billion Tree Project. “It’s very exciting for a lot of people,” he said, although he didn’t really make it sound like he was one of those people.
Trump’s message was that he’s an environmentalist, but Biden is a radical environmentalist who would destroy the American economy with left-wing nonsense. Again, though, he had to resort to wild falsehoods to make that case. He attacked the Obama-Biden administration’s Clean Power Plan for somehow “driving energy prices through the sky,” even though it never went into effect. He accused Biden of wanting to spend $100 trillion on the climate, using a sketchy right-wing analysis of the Green New Deal that Biden doesn’t even support, and also of wanting to ban cows and air travel, another misleading reference to the Green New Deal, or at least to a list of talking points about the Green New Deal that Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s office released and then hastily retracted.
Biden, on the other hand, seemed delighted to discuss the substance of issues he sees as politically advantageous as well as globally consequential. When Wallace said he’d like to discuss climate change, Biden blurted out: “So would I!” He talked with a lot of passion, though not a lot of focus, about his role overseeing the Obama stimulus that helped bring down the cost of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources; about “weatherization” programs that could put unemployed Americans to work caulking windows and otherwise upgrading the energy efficiency of homes and businesses; and about his idea to pay the Brazilian government to crack down on the destruction of the carbon-rich Amazon. He also called for electrifying the federal government’s fleet of vehicles and installing 500,000 charging stations on America’s roads—a solution for the Darling-where-do-I-get-a-charge problem.
Wallace also challenged Biden about the fiscal and economic cost of his climate plan, which irritated many climate activists, but it’s a legitimate question that led to one of Biden’s strongest moments in the chaotic debate. He argued not only that his $2 trillion plan will provide millions of jobs in green industries and green infrastructure projects, a common Democratic argument, but that the cost of inaction would be far greater, since America is already spending more than ever on climate-driven floods, hurricanes, fires and droughts.
“We’re in real trouble,” Biden said. “Look what happened in the Midwest with these storms that come through and wipe out entire sections and counties in Iowa. They didn’t happen before. They’re because of global warming.”
Back in 2012, CNN’s Candy Crowley explained after a presidential debate that she considered including a question for “you climate change people” but changed her mind because “we knew the economy was still the main thing.” Eight years later, there’s increasing recognition from politicians as well as media bigwigs that all people are climate change people, and that there’s no way to isolate the economy from the energy that fuels and powers it or the climate disasters that increasingly threaten it. It’s hard to imagine that there will ever be another year of presidential debates without a climate question, and the worse the problem gets, the more pressure candidates will face to embrace the science and call for action.
That doesn’t mean that every candidate will make climate warriors happy with every answer. Trump never did acknowledge that climate change is contributing to California’s fires, arguing that the more pressing issue was bad forest management, which was a reasonable case to make. Biden made a point of distancing himself from the Green New Deal, prompting Trump, in a weird moment of off-message punditry, to declare: “You just lost the radical left.”
But Biden isn’t tailoring his message to the radical left. He’s aiming for the 63 percent of Americans who are worried about climate change, the 86 percent who support research into renewable energy, the 56 percent who say it’s important to their presidential vote. And while it’s obvious from his rhetoric as well as his record that Trump doesn’t truly care about the climate, it’s a reflection of the changing political climate that he felt the need to pretend he does.
LETTER: It's a myth that young people don't care about politics – North Shore News
We’ve all heard the myths that young people don’t care about politics. When post-secondary students come to the table to engage in political discourse and bring forward the concerns of our peers, we are often met with dismissive attitudes, and the assertion that if we don’t show up to the polls, we don’t get to criticize the way that things are.
These myths ignore some crucial evidence about students and our political engagement. Studies show that students are 15% more likely to vote than non-students in our respective age groups. In BC, the voter turnout amongst people aged 18-24 increased by 17.1% since 2009 according to Elections BC. The under 40 population now makes up the largest voting demographic, and our needs and concerns need to be fully considered by each party and every candidate this election. Students do care, and we do show up to vote. We are engaged in our communities, and are participating in an enormous undertaking by pursuing an education for the betterment of ourselves and our province.
Young people were the hardest hit by the pandemic in terms of job loss, meanwhile, many students were unable to get the financial assistance they needed through this economic downturn. Students are continuing to pursue their education in hopes of improving their situation and positively contribute to our communities, despite the fact that 75% of students have suffered significant financial hardship and will be impacted well beyond 2020.
We need to see our party leaders putting forward policies that not only consider the interests of students and how we have been uniquely impacted by the pandemic, but that properly recognize the diversity within the student experience. Students with dependents are navigating childcare and schooling during the pandemic while trying to complete their studies. Students living in remote areas that have poorer wifi connection are struggling to keep up with the demands on online learning. Student mental health was already declining, and is in serious jeopardy due to these exacerbating circumstances.
We call upon every candidate and each party leader to commit towards putting forward initiatives to support students as we move forward through the pandemic. The future is uncertain, but students are working hard to find solutions and support our recovery efforts. Students are not just the leaders of tomorrow, we are already working for a brighter future for our province.
What are your thoughts? Send us a letter via email by clicking here or post a comment below.
Managing a Team with Conflicting Political Views – Harvard Business Review
Politics around the world seem to be getting more and more divisive, and it’s impossible for the topic not to enter into our everyday conversations — including those that happen at work. When people on your team have differing views, those conversations can often get tense.
As a manager, what should you do? Should you ban political talk? What sort of ground rules can you lay down for these conversations? And how can you make sure you don’t harbor grudges against colleagues who don’t share your beliefs?
What the Experts Say
In a typical election years, managing a team with opposing political views is not easy or straightforward. But this polarized, pandemic-weary period has made the task even more complicated, says Tina Opie, associate professor in the management division at Babson College. In the U.S., the high-stakes presidential race, combined with the Covid-19 health emergency and continued social unrest over racial injustice, is “affecting employees as people, and it’s also affecting how they show up at work,” she says.
Even the most dedicated workers may find it difficult to compartmentalize their jobs from what’s happening in the political arena. “It’s on their minds, and since people spend the majority of their waking hours with their colleagues,” it’s inevitable that it will seep into their everyday conversations, Opie says.
Your challenge as a manager is to make sure that as passions run high and viewpoints clash, the workplace remains respectful and productive, says Emily Gregory, a vice president at VitalSmarts, the leadership training company. “A manager’s job is to create an environment where people feel safe to contribute their ideas and experiences,” she says. Here is some advice on how to do that.
Set an example.
Leading a team of people with dissimilar political stripes requires a “robust understanding and appreciation of different perspectives,” says Opie. In that way, it’s similar to managing a team comprised of employees from different cultures, races, genders, and backgrounds. Party allegiance is another element of diversity. A certain degree of conflict may be unavoidable, but it doesn’t have to be uncivilized. You set the right tone and tenor for how your team members relate to one another.
Gregory recommends laying the groundwork during meetings by modeling inclusivity, encouraging divergent views, demonstrating respect for others, and showing a willingness to challenge your own assumptions — not just on political topics but about anything on which the team disagrees. Acknowledge the taxing political environment and appeal to your team members’ compassion. Remind them that even if “someone on the team is voting differently” from them, “they can still care for and deeply respect that person,” says Gregory.
Don’t ban political talk.
It may be tempting to make your workplace a politics-free zone in the interest of team cohesion and unity, but at a time when nearly 60% of American employees say they have engaged in political discussions at work, banning political talk is impractical and counterproductive, according to Gregory. “Putting down barriers about what people can and can’t say hurts team culture more than it builds it,” she says. “Topics shouldn’t be off-limits.”
Prohibiting political conversation could also backfire, says Opie. “Some people already feel they are rendered invisible because of what’s happening” on the national stage, and if you, the manager, make certain topics off limits, it could be viewed as sanctioning ignorance and even aggression. So many of today’s big issues concern social justice, equality, and “basic human rights — which are larger than politics.”
Don’t force it.
Of course, not everyone will be interested in having political discussions. Talking about politics or certain politicians “could be a trigger for some colleagues,” says Opie. Make clear that these conversations should only happen between team members who are willing and eager to participate, and no one should be dragged into the discussion, even if they were willing to talk about it previously. These interactions require curiosity and humility — and some days for whatever reason, some people might not be able to summon the interest and restraint, says Gregory. Make sure employees know they can delay the conversation indefinitely, too.
Establish rules of engagement.
Even with you modeling the right behavior, your team may not be skilled at having these types of conversations. “It isn’t your job to teach your team members about politics, but it is your job to teach them how to talk about tough issues,” says Gregory. Even in a poisonous political atmosphere, she believes it’s possible for people from opposite sides of the spectrum to have “positive, productive, and relationship-enhancing conversations.” Some ground rules are necessary, says Opie. “You don’t want employees to feel unsafe discussing certain topics.” As the manager you need to:
- Emphasize respect. “In functioning teams, there’s a baseline level of respect, but in high-charged conversations, people can sometimes lose sight of that,” says Gregory. As the manager, be proactive in maintaining courteous and considerate interactions, says Opie. Don’t tolerate name calling or interruptions. Keep an eye on flickering tempers. And be prepared to act if conversations cross the line between healthy debate to bitter acrimony.
- Promote self-reflection. Many discussions about political issues can go wrong because “we don’t bother trying to understand each other,” says Gregory. “We end up being more interested in proving the other person wrong than listening.” As the team leader, help your team members move past this inclination, says Opie. Inspire them to seek common ground. “Ask, ‘What do you find attractive about the other side’s position or argument? And what concerns you about your argument?’” Your aim, she says, is to “try to find some wiggle room.”
- Seek to understand. “Our political values are shaped by our life experiences,” says Gregory. In order for these conversations to be as constructive as possible, you and your team members must “seek to understand others’ experiences and what led them to their beliefs,” she says. Encourage vulnerability by asking your colleagues to “humanize the people they disagree with.” These conversations can sometimes be messy and uncomfortable, but they also often result in moments of enlightenment.
Call out inappropriate comments.
One of the biggest challenges arises when someone makes an insensitive remark or says something antithetical to the values of your team culture and organization, says Opie. Whatever you do, don’t ignore it. As the leader, “speak up and take a stand,” she says. Gregory concurs. You need to “signal to the group that the comment was inappropriate,” and follow up individually with the person who said it so you don’t give tacit permission for people to speak that way. While it may sound harsh, it’s important you make clear that what they said was offensive and hurtful. Gregory suggests talking to the employee in private and saying something like, “Our organization values diversity and inclusion, and we are going to promote and develop people in alignment with those values. Your comments [about a certain political topic] makes me question whether you have the competencies needed for growth in this organization.”
Talk one on one.
Managers also need to be thoughtful about how the volatile political climate is affecting their employees — particularly on teams where political allegiances vary. The Covid era has made work a lonely place, says Opie. And if you’re in the political minority, the experience is all the more isolating. “If your colleague is feeling upset about the [decision by a grand jury not to charge any police officers with killing Breonna Taylor] and no one brings it up, she might feel ignored. She might wonder, ‘Does anyone care? Do they understand?’ As a manager, you need to bridge that gap,” she says. Focus on connecting with and caring for your employees. Opie suggests you ask, “How can I help you feel heard?” Your goal is to reach out and demonstrate that you “recognize your employees as human beings.”
Foster open-mindedness in your team…
“We are living in self-reinforcing echo chambers,” says Gregory, where we often imagine that others see the world precisely as we do. As a result, many of us make incorrect assumptions about others’ political leanings. The risk is that we end up alienating people because they hold a different view. You need to nurture open-mindedness and urge your team not to jump to conclusions. Remind colleagues that working side-by-side with someone who sees things differently can often be a boon to personal growth. “When we start to disengage with people — when we say, ‘I choose not to have relationships with people who believe X’ — we forego the opportunity to learn about how other people think and to influence them,” says Gregory.
… and hold yourself to the same standard.
Talking about your political views with a team member is complicated by the power dynamic: You’re their boss. Opie recommends “treading carefully.” In the case where a direct report doesn’t share your political inclinations, you mustn’t abuse your position by holding their views against them even on a subconscious level. “You don’t want them to feel that they’re going to be negatively evaluated” due to your different stances, she says. Try to keep an open mind, adds Gregory. “Acknowledge that other people can have different viewpoints” and still be decent human beings, she says. “If you can’t see shades of gray, you’re going to have a hard time being a manager.”
Seek outside advice.
It’s not easy to “develop and maintain a cohesive workplace” amidst a hyper-partisan political atmosphere, says Opie. There’s no shame in asking for help. She recommends “connecting with other leaders and managers to learn about how they’re handling these heated situations.” They may offer advice, insight, and ideas that hadn’t occurred to you. Even after Nov. 3, the challenges of running a team with divergent views are likely to remain. “Regardless of who wins, organizations need to think about how they are proactively developing guidelines and discussions for how employees debrief” and process the election, Opie says. “In this charged climate, it will be necessary.”
Principles to Remember
- Be a good role model. Embrace inclusivity, demonstrate respect for divergent views, and be willing to challenge your assumptions.
- Encourage your team members to seek to understand others’ experiences and what lead them to their political beliefs.
- Tread carefully with direct reports whose politics differ from yours. You don’t want them to feel that they’re going to be negatively evaluated due to your differing stances.
- Ban political conversations. It’s impractical and counterproductive.
- Shy away from calling out inappropriate remarks. Otherwise you have given tacit permission for people to speak in insensitive ways.
- Lose sight of how this politically turbulent period is affecting your employees as people. Focus on connection. Ask, how can I help you feel heard?
Advice in Practice
Case Study #1: Establish ground rules for discussion; be open to others’ perspectives.
Over the course of her 25-year career, Susy Dunn has managed a number of teams that had divergent political views. For the most part, her employees have learned to agree to disagree.
“In the end, it’s all about handling conflict with respect and empathy,” says Susy, the chief people officer & chief of staff at Zapproved, which makes software for corporate legal departments. “It’s about how you step outside yourself to think about others.”
A recent experience stays with her. In 2018, Susy’s team — which is in charge of the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts — organized an event on racism and classism, at which Ijeoma Oluo, the author of the book, So, You Want to Talk about Race, spoke to employees. Many workers were enthralled and energized by the book’s ideas; they began sharing articles on white privilege and organizing discussion groups.
This year, as the Black Lives Matter movement and issues surrounding systemic racism became a focal point in the national dialogue, internal conversations around privilege started again. Some colleagues bristled. “Some stepped forward and said they felt uncomfortable and excluded,” says Susy. “They said they were being made to feel ashamed because they were white.”
Together with the company’s CEO, Susy met with employees to listen to their perspectives. “Our purpose was to bring people together and to create a safe space to have a difficult conversation.”
Susy’s team laid out the ground rules in line with the company’s values: Assume good intent, listen with empathy and curiosity, show respect, and be thoughtful. If things got heated, they would pause and regroup for another time.
Employees told personal stories about their lives and explained their perspectives. People were open and honest.
When it came time for the CEO and Susy to speak, their message was clear and unapologetic: “If we are going to be asked to prioritize between the comfort of the dominant group over the justice of a marginalized group, we will select the justice of the marginalized group.”
It was an “aha moment” for everyone, she says. “People got it.”
But Susy also says she recognizes that those who felt uncomfortable had a point, too. “They said they wanted to tune out politics and focus on their work,” she says. “We realize that people need to be able to opt in to certain conversations.”
To that end, they created Slack channels dedicated to diversity and equity content. But employees who don’t want to be a part of the dialogue, doing have to join in.
Susy says she is proud of how the team came together. “It was a tough but constructive conversation.”
Case Study #2: Check in with employees one on one and don’t make assumptions about how they lean.
Aimee Pedretti, a senior manager at Mammoth HR, vividly recalls how the results of the 2016 presidential election played out in her office.
“The morning after, you could feel the tension,” she says. “Some people were upset and crying, and there were others who, even if they were not expressing jubilation, it was clear they were satisfied with the outcome.”
For Aimee, the experience was eye-opening. While she hadn’t necessarily talked politics with each and every one of her colleagues, she had assumed that most people at her company, headquartered in Portland, OR, held similar political values. “I realized the importance of not making assumptions about people’s opinions,” she says. “Not everyone shared the same political beliefs.”
She remembers taking solace from the company’s leadership. “Things were heated, and emotions were running high — similar to what’s happening today,” she says. “When I think back on those days, I remember messaging from our CEO. He acknowledged that it was pivotal moment for all Americans. It was comforting to feel that management cared about how the election was affecting us.”
The CEO also reminded the team of its company values regarding equality and inclusion. “That really helped level-set us and bring us back to reality: Even if we didn’t all see eye-to-eye on politics, we were all committed to the same purpose and organizational principles.”
Today, amidst another turbulent political season, that lesson has served her well. Aimee says she is “focused on her team’s wellbeing,” and regularly checks in with employees one-on-one to make sure they’re coping alright.
“Things are so divisive right now outside of work,” she says. “As a leader, it’s important to acknowledge there is a lot of fear and distress about the election regardless of which political party you belong to.”
She says she’s also more sensitive about the way she engages with colleagues in conversations about politics — and no longer makes assumptions about how they lean. She tries to lead by example: She demonstrates respect for others’ opinions and an openness to different perspectives. “Managers need to make sure their people feel safe and respected,” she says. “No one should have to stifle who they are.”
Recently, Aimee gathered that she holds very different views from some of her colleagues. “In these cases, it’s important to separate the person from their political positions,” she says. “Managers need to be transparent about how they’re assigning work, how they’re promoting people, and how they’re treating people.”
Sometimes, she says, it’s easier to engage on neutral topics like pets and hobbies. “There’s no need to force a political conversation.”
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