Don T-ixote is still tilting at windmills, and it's going to be a big part of 2020 campaigns
Past Republican presidents have demonstrated disdain for environmental regulation, but none of them have seemed to be as purely angry with the planet as Donald Trump is on a daily basis. In just the last two weeks, Trump has attacked water conservation, energy conservation, and renewable power—all while displaying an absolute disgust with the idea that there’s any part of Earth worth saving.
Donald Trump is a man who has never met a blade of grass he didn’t feel should either be covered in concrete or trimmed to a fairway. Other Republicans might have enjoyed retreating to the semi-wilderness for some fishing, brush-clearing, or blasting friends in the face with a shotgun, but Trump has no inclination to wear his rayon slacks anywhere that has not be carefully coiffed before his arrival. It’s no wonder that Trump can talk about forests being “raked,” as if that’s a genuine, possible thing. Trump hasn’t seen a real forest in decades—unless he’s glimpsed one from 30,000 feet up.
In addition to lacking any reverence for the natural world, Trump sees that world as a failure—a waste. That there is land out there that has not been mined, pumped, flattened, plowed up, paved over, and freed of every hint of its original form is simply offensive to him. And, as The Washington Post reports, Trump is taking his contempt for all things natural and his disgust with everything that attempts to preserve the last trace of a healthy environment and turning them into cornerstones of his campaign.
While Trump’s flush, flush, flush “ten or fifteen times” moment at the White House might have seemed to be the bottom of the trough for both ignorance and discomfort when it came to his anti-environmental message, Trump proved that his golden shovel can always dig deeper. He managed it this time with a speech in Florida in which he went to war with one of his favorite opponents—windmills. In that speech, Trump performed such mental acrobatics that he made that other guy who tilted at windmills seem utterly rational.
Trump’s real war with windmills seems to be mostly connected to his long-running battle to prevent the Scottish government from permitting a series of offshore mills to be built within sight of his golf property in that country. Trump lost that fight. But ever since, he’s seemed supereager for a rematch.
In the United States, that’s meant Trump doing everything he could to promote both coal and methane in the electrical marketplace. He’s removed regulations for coal slurry ponds, despite major accidents; rolled back restrictions on emissions from coal-fired power plants; and allowed coal mines to freely dump waste into streams and rivers, even when they are critical water supplies for nearby communities. He’s forced through—or attempted to force through—pipelines over the objections of residents whose land those pipelines cross, and removed limits on fracking and methane leaks, even as individual wells have spewed more gas in three weeks than most nations do in a year.
Despite all that, the windmills are winning. Both wind and solar continue to get cheaper and easier to put into operation, and to make up an ever larger part of the nation’s overall electrical production. Trump may “dig” coal—though he certainly would never actually dig coal—but his “digging” has only helped shove a few extra millions in Bob Murray’s pocket as the whole industry gets set to shut down.
Trump’s claims about windmills—that manufacturing them creates a tremendous amount of pollution, that they create jobs in China but not in the United States, that they slaughter bald eagles by the millions, and that they “look horrible in ten years” are all simply lies. Which isn’t surprising. And also may not matter.
Because, as the Post notes, Trump’s attacks on environmental issues seem to have nothing to do with the environment, and certainly nothing to do with facts. They’re more about pounding the same note that Trump hammers when he talks about “political correctness.” It’s the same vein Trump taps when he appeals to racism. And sexism. And plain old hate.
Don Quixote’s horse was named Rocinante. It was part of the joke: the knight riding into battle on a steed whose name was simply “plow horse.”
Donald Trump’s horse is something close to ignorance and hate, unthinking anger and greed. He’s not pushing plastic straws and incandescent bulbs and coal-fired plants because he thinks they’re great. He thinks they all represent a chance to shout “Fuck you” at everyone who cares. And he believes that he has 63 million people who will join him in that scream.