The argument that wary progressives should fall in line behind
So far argument No. 1 is holding. Every red-faced bullying speech that Trump gives makes clearer our national peril. But argument No. 2 is weakening with each day that Clinton stays silent about the drama unfolding on the high prairie, where native Americans are bravely resisting the further destruction of their water and land.
At the Standing Rock Sioux reservation straddling the border between North and South Dakota, the Army Corps of Engineers seems poised to give final permission to run a pipeline under the Missouri River, a pipeline that would carry oil from North Dakota's Bakken Shale. It was originally supposed to cross the river near Bismarck, but as officials pointed out, a spill there would imperil the water supply for the state capital. So now it will imperil the water supply for one of the nation's poorest census districts, the Sioux reservation.
Worse yet, digging the pipeline corridor requires destroying Sioux burial grounds and sacred sites. In fact, last week, hours after the tribe had supplied a federal court with a list of those sites, the company building the pipeline brought in bulldozers and did its best to obliterate them. (Some speculate that it used the court list as a roadmap.) And when native protesters — or protectors, as they've styled themselves — tried to get in the way, the company sicced guard dogs on them. The photos are dead ringers for Birmingham, 1963.
And not a peep from the woman who would be president. (Well, one of the women. The other, Green party candidate
It begins by saying "We have a profound moral and legal responsibility to the Indian tribes — throughout our history we have failed to live up to that trust." It insists, "As Democrats, we will constantly seek to ensure that American Indian communities are safe, healthy, educated, innovative, and prosperous." It recognizes the "right of all tribes to protect their lands, air, and waters." It adds with apparent sincerity that "we will manage for tribal sacred places, and empower tribes to maintain and pass on traditional religious beliefs, languages, and social practices."
Each of those statements is made laughable by what's happening right now with the Dakota Access Pipeline. It's the next chapter in a very old story — 500 years of broken promises. Clinton can't stop it — but she can speak out, and if she did so perhaps the Obama administration and the Army Corps would wake up and realize that it's 2016, not 1840.
She could even do it without damaging her electoral prospects — every map of the November election shows that the Dakotas are solid red, so there's nothing to lose.
Except, perhaps, the largesse of the fossil fuel industry.
It's clear that Clinton would like to run out the clock on this election; she figures that Trump's obvious incompetence will guarantee her victory. But sometimes things happen. The fight at Standing Rock is a big damned thing. It's a Flint-in-the-making, and it's also a chance to for once do right by the continent's oldest inhabitants. Surely Hillary Clinton can rise to the occasion. Can't she?
Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at