Tom Steyer could be the cage-rattler that liberals (and the Earth) need

Everyone has heard about the Koch Brothers by this point, it seems, but less people have heard of Tom Steyer, who is the liberal election-alterer of the moment. He made his money via hedge funds in the Bay Area, and now backs Obama, but hates the Keystone Pipeline. (That’s a 1,200-mile pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico that critics, including Steyer, argue would do a lot of harm in terms of global warming.) Steyer’s big issue is climate change, so much so that he’s been called “The Climate Change Batman” by Business Week (on the flip side, The New Republic contends his strategy is bad), and he’s injected himself into different local races, like the Kochs: he jumped in the Massachusetts Senate race this past spring, for example.

In Washington, he’s sometimes viewed as a “climate change radical,” but here’s what’s important: John Podesta, who was an advisor to Clinton and is now a senior advisor to Obama, has gone and said this about Steyer and his role in potentially blocking the Keystone Pipeline to the Los Angeles Times:

“I doubt the president travels very much where he doesn’t hear about this now, particularly with core supporters,” Podesta said. “What he hears has got to make him take a few deep breaths before moving forward with it.”

Steyer “is good at organizing the people the president knows and cares about,” he added.

I don’t want to belabor this post because most of the links above have way better information than I could provide, and much of it is original reporting. Instead, I’ll say this: too often we look at the issue of “liberal” vs. “conservative” as completely defining, and then we think of that issue in terms of something like “This group likes welfare” or “This group has money.” At the end of the day, this is all bullshit. Regardless of how you feel about guns or wealth, we’re all people, and we’re all living on the same planet, and we’re all dealing with the same crazies and same crap, so we need to find common ground. Personal ideology needs to be checked at the door. Now, you used to see so-called “liberals” do that more, but now it seems like both sides of all the issues just like the rancor. It’s sad. What I like about Steyer is pretty simple: he’s taking an issue that could accelerate the demise of the planet and he’s putting money behind it — and money he admits was probably somewhat ill-gotten. He and his wife have a great life in a great American city, and that could easily be enough (it is enough for many). But he’s trying to pay it forward, and he’s doing it when he doesn’t have to. That’s admirable. Forget if it comes from the left or the right. Money means more than anything in America except potentially freedom, so if you have money, you should be using it for good, not possessions or hoarding it for your offspring. That’s my feeling, anyway. Steyer should be viewed as a great guy. Put the politics aside. He’s doing what people should do: finding an issue and using whatever they can to enact change on it.

Ted Bauer