Climate Pact Pullout Reveals Trump’s True Base

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President Donald Trump announces his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement in the White House's Rose Garden on June 1. Joshua Roberts/Reuters

They came from Exxon Mobil, Apple, Unilever. Titans of industry. They begged. They pleaded. They cajoled and threatened: Elon Musk said he would quit advising the Donald Trump. As late as Wednesday night, Ivanka and Jared’s friends were still laying out a Hail Mary pass scenario in which the president would stay in the Paris climate pact at the last minute and give all the persuasion credit to the first son-in-law, thereby perhaps placating the investigatory hounds from hell on the young man’s trail.

In the end, the titan’s pleas, Ivanka and Jared’s social future in Manhattan and the future of the planet mattered far, far less than Trump’s base. His real base. Not the coal miners or oil drilling roughnecks or even the evangelicals, who think if the world is melting, well, God Will Sort It Out.

Related: Trump’s vow to replace Paris climate accord won’t work

Casual Trump watchers still believe that he’s pulling out of the climate pact because he shares with those low-information groups the notion that climate science is a Chinese hoax—and/or that he doesn’t really believe that but is cannily playing to the blue-collar, black-fingernailed coal mining and resource-extractor roughneck community that supposedly helped put him in office.  

Or, if you’ve abandoned Enlightenment-era rationality, he’s just the antichrist, sent to destroy the planet.

“It’s astounding when you actually think about the calculus: trash the planet, ruin our international alliances, go against his family and weaken competitiveness—all to play to the base,” an environmentalist who lobbies Congress said last night.

Sure, that base cheered at rallies when he promised to “cancel” the climate agreement. But it doesn’t make sense to do all that for a small group of coal miners, roughnecks and “low-information voters” who could be swayed in the next election with some voter suppression or targeted fake news and misleading ads.

But it does make sense to do all that—and more—for powerful corporate entities and superwealthy multinational businessmen who can make or break him financially, and probably every other way it is possible to break a fragile, endangered politician like Trump.

What the Great Paris Pullout actually reveals is Trump’s true base. They are known colloquially as “the Yacht People,” and they are very unlike the men and women who show up at Trump rallies. They don the red hat only for laughs.

Billionaires like Carl Icahn and the Koch brothers (who supposedly loathe Trump but are getting exactly what they have been working at for decades) and their Russian oligarch analogues can’t wait for the administration to gut climate and pollution regulations at home and abandon international sanctions abroad so they can get back to the business of drilling and selling crude oil and other fossil fuels, unfettered by the “losers” in the bureaucracy.

Joining that core of powerful influencers are their myriad millionaire Mini-Me’s who own smaller, independent oil and gas extraction concerns in places like Texas and Oklahoma, the latter being the home state of Trump’s climate-change-denying “Environmental Protection” Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt.

Besides the known billionaires among his inner circle of advisers, one good place to start looking for Trump’s true base is Pruitt’s donor list. Here you’ll see Devon Energy, the nation’s eighth-largest oil and gas concern and Oklahoma’s largest. Devon has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into lobbying against regulations—and financed Pruitt’s various campaigns.

Last month, The New York Times reported that Devon had become the first polluter to pull out of an environmental protection agreement with the U.S. government—days after Pruitt was confirmed. The Trump effect has lobbyists for the carbon-spewing industry and other polluters stunned and ecstatic.

“Not in our wildest dreams, never did we expect to get everything,” Kathleen Sgamma, president of Western Energy Alliance, a Denver-based association of independent oil and gas companies, told the Times. “We were kind of used to getting punished.”

Trump’s true base is well connected and powerful enough to have planted op-eds just in the past five weeks in a variety of U.S. news outlets, disseminating dubious and debunked figures cooked up by well-financed right-wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation. Those reports predicted that the Paris pact would hurt the U.S. economically and that Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan—the U.S. contribution to the pact’s goals—would reduce the nation’s gross domestic product by $2.5 trillion by 2035. Fact-checking website PolitiFact labeled that false. Research funded by financial institution Citi estimated the global cost of climate change in terms of GDP to be $72 trillion.

Trump’s real base has the power and money to peddle to the gullible false information about helping the working class while advancing what Daniel Drezner calls its Hobbesian worldview. Thomas Hobbes was an English political philosopher who advocated a strong central state and painted a picture of human life that is “nasty, brutish and short” in the ungoverned, stateless world.

Ripping up a global climate agreement fulfills the “wildest dreams” of the feudal princes of modernity. By the time Trump’s “base” catches on to what he’s doing for his real base—a handful of millionaires and billionaires with short-term gains in mind—everyone except the Yacht People could well be underwater.