Opinion: The Republican Faustian bargain

Former President Donald Trump sits in Manhattan criminal court, May 21, 2024, in New York.

Former President Donald Trump sits in Manhattan criminal court, May 21, 2024, in New York. Justin Lane/ AP


Published: 05-28-2024 10:20 AM

Jonathan P. Baird lives in Wilmot.

Last week I saw a letter to the editor in this newspaper about Republicans. The letter said we are inundated with misinformation and name-calling. The writer explained that Republicans believe in God, America, families, safe streets, and an effective justice system.

Unfortunately, we now live in split-screen realities. The Republican Party I experience is a cult subservient to the whims of Donald Trump, an adjudicated sexual assaulter, who is currently on trial for 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Those records were about hush money payments he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about their one-night stand.

Trump was extremely worried that publicity about the affair with Stormy (and another alleged affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal) could have sunk his 2016 presidential run. The stories might have surfaced in the aftermath of the Access Hollywood “grab them by the genitals” tape. The effect could have been a knockout blow and it might have changed the ultimate outcome of the 2016 race.

One irony that has been insufficiently appreciated is Trump screaming “Stop the Steal” about the 2020 race against Biden while his action to catch and kill the Stormy and McDougal stories was the real steal. The 2020 race, as shown by over 60 court decisions, was a fair election. At a critical time, Americans were deprived of relevant information that shed light on the character of the 2016 Republican nominee. Whatever the jury decides, this was most certainly election interference.

In 2016, I was not a fan of Hillary Clinton. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire primary but it must be acknowledged she was the candidate who was cheated in the general election. The Democrats haven’t screamed about that but maybe they should have. The slogan “Stop the Steal” has more relevance for 2016 than 2020.

I would argue that what now defines the Republican Party, at least the dominant MAGA wing, is identification with the Jan. 6 insurrection. Trump has persisted with his election denialism, still maintaining the fiction he won that election. He says, if elected, he intends to pardon the Jan. 6 insurrectionists.

Trump refuses to commit to accepting the 2024 election result. All the Republican candidates auditioning for vice president engage in the humiliating ritual of mimicking Trump on not committing to democracy and abiding by election results. They hope slavish devotion to the would-be dictator will give them the inside track to the vice presidency.

I would have said opposing democracy is the worst thing about the MAGA Republicans until I heard a little reported story that appeared in the Washington Post on May 9. At a Mar-a-Lago meeting with fossil fuel executives from Exxon, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum, Trump reportedly promised to gut environmental regulations if the oil and gas industry raised $1 billion for his 2024 presidential campaign.

Trump promised to increase oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, remove hurdles to drilling in the Alaskan Arctic and reverse new rules designed to cut car pollution. He also promised to scuttle a Biden administration decision in January to pause new natural gas export permits which have been denounced as “climate bombs.” He promises “Drill baby drill” from day one if he is elected.

As described by Christina Polizzi from Climate Power, Trump was “putting the future of the planet up for sale.” Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, “Trump is willing to literally destroy the planet for $1 billion.”

Talk about a Faustian bargain. Trump thinks climate change is “a hoax” but it is hard to wrap your head around the perversity of his advocacy. To restate the obvious, human beings depend on a habitable planet. There is an overwhelming consensus among scientists about the climate emergency and the need for immediate environmental protection. It is far worse than most people realize but somehow it is not taken seriously.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change offers the gold standard assessment of the state of the planet. In its most recent 2023 report, it detailed the devastating consequences of rising greenhouse gas emissions around the world. We see it in rising sea levels, more extreme weather events and rapidly disappearing sea ice. We also see it in heat waves, wildfires, ocean warming and coral bleaching, biodiversity loss, droughts, flooding and permafrost melting.

The world, the United States included, cannot afford a business-as-usual approach to climate. The unwillingness to eliminate fossil fuels as quickly as is feasible creates more dire climate scenarios that will plague our collective future.

The tragic reality is that Trump is not a Republican outlier. His anti-science views are mirrored in the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 which eviscerates climate programs and increases reliance on fossil fuels.

Whether or not Trump’s pay-to-play billion-dollar scheme is criminal, it is a species of moral depravity. At a time when the planet cries for a long-term perspective, the Republicans are ready to sell out our future for cash.

The Iroquois have a Seventh Generation Principle that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future. Our Republicans are the polar opposite.