By Phil Brown
Americans are living under an oligarchy. The fact that Americans are governed by a ruling elite, in contrast to a democratic system, is a conclusion that has been objectively proven to the point of near-absolute certainty.
One can point to income inequality and campaign finance, policy outcomes contrasted with citizen positions, or many other metrics to see this. The forecast is gloomy, and the temptation to give in to cynicism has never been higher. How can we possibly hope to better ourselves and our society when the keys to change have been taken out of our hands?
But the antidote to cynicism can be found in the newspapers and internet headlines, and in the small towns and farms in our very own Great Plains of Nebraska. Barack Obama, the embattled lame-duck President of our nation, officially put down the dying dog of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline project on Friday.
The XL project was a desperate move from a foreign corporation in the death throes of fossil fuel dominance, and it’s the kind of project that would stand as proof of the ogilargarchal regime we currently find ourselves under if it had gone through. And when it came to Nebraska, every obstacle in front of it was dissolved. Then-governor Heineman bowed and scraped to the foreign corporation, regurgitated it’s doubtful rhetoric about economic growth, and handed the Canadian interest carte blanche to tamper with the Nebraskan landscape in whatever way it saw fit. The pipeline project seemed inevitable back then, even though land-owners, Nebraskan farmers and small-town dwellers, struggled to see what good it would do them.
The project, touted for its economic benefits, would have provided virtually no permanent jobs for Nebraskans. It threatened to forcibly remove Nebraskans from their land, and posed the looming danger of environmental contamination in the ground under their feet. It was the textbook definition of politicians legislating in favor of outside interests, of corpora-tions. And indeed, TransCanada had succeeded with few issues in uprooting Nebraska with the first Keystone pipeline.
But rather than give in to the cynicism, the sense of inevitability, or swallow the rhetoric that was fed them, Nebraskans stood firm, and their ultimate triumph is a lesson to all of us about the ultimate power of popular movements.
It’s more or less certain Obama’s Friday decision wouldn’t have come without Nebraska’s resistance. Indeed, he initially rejected the corporation’s application on the grounds that Nebraskan issues hadn’t been settled, although he hedged with an invitation to apply again.
Now, it seems, he’s less wary of rejecting a Canadian in-terest, not threatened perhaps by the more liberal Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But regardless, it was Nebraska that may have provided the tipping point. The State Department waited for Nebraska’s lead on a series of legal battles between the Canadian conglomerate and the Nebraskan landowner’s interest, a series of delays that seem to have provided the Obama administration with the political capital needed to make the final decision.
The Keystone XL pipeline extension will haunt the state for years in the form of continued legal action, and Nebraskans should not expect TransCanada to take the slight likely. They will probably try to re-apply with whichever President is elected in 2016. But Nebraskans have been given the gift of hope: the hope that the people can stand against anyone and win. And it’s up to us to simply take that gift.