We could be looking at the worst oil spill in living memory off the Gulf Coast, coming right on the heels of Obama's decision to allow off-shore drilling, which should have come as no surprise to people who were paying attention during the 2008 election season.
There are a lot of people to point fingers at here. You could blame Obama for giving in to pressure in order to save his electoral landslide (and the mandate that came with it). You could blame John McCain, Sarah Palin, Michael Steele, and the rest of the right-wing noise machine for hawking so shamelessly on a wedge issue. You could blame the media for not fully disseminating the numbers on off-shore drilling: That whatever the impact on the environment (which we have now witnessed), a country that uses 25% of the world's oil and only possesses 3% of it cannot drill the way to energy independence.
I blame us.
During the election, sixty percent of voters said that they favored offshore drilling. Suddenly, in the wake of a financial crisis that caught McCain side-by-side with Phil "there's no real recession and people who say there is one are whiners" Gramm on the most important issue of the year. "Drill, baby, drill." became the only substantive issue where the Republican Party was on the same side as the people. So of course they hammered on it, despite the fact that it wouldn't make us any more self-reliant than Obama's much-ridiculed tire guage.
Which isn't to say that I'm letting Steele and Palin off the hook for hawking-- or Obama for folding. By ultimately favoring off-shore drilling, both sides did the truth and their constituents a grave disservice, and there ought to be accountability for it.
But in a democracy, the people rule. It's possible to be at odds with popular opinion in some matters and still win elections, and in fact it's the duty of a statesman . But when a supermajority oppose you on an issue with as much exposure as offshore drilling had in the 2008 Presidential election, it's hard to ignore it.
I don't think we believed it when we were told that drilling was safe. The information was out there.
I think we just didn't care.
The people I spoke to during election season who were pro-drilling weren't basing their position on a cost-benefit analysis. A number of them ridiculed me for caring about the risk to the environment at all.
Those of us who do give a shit about the consequences of our energy consumption need to find a new way forward, because "punch the hippies" is a disturbingly viable political strategy in this country.
And the clock is ticking.