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This morning, many Americans feel sick. The country they thought they knew doesn’t seem to exist. Many of them are worried in a way they never have been before. I share a lot of those worries.But what now?

 

 

 

 

Here’s my immediate answer: No task has become more important than persuading a much larger number of Republicans that the health of the planet matters for their children and grandchildren too.

Yes, of course, there are other vital issues, especially the constitutional and civil rights that Trump has at times disdained. And, yes, Democrats need to begin plotting their comeback for 2018 and beyond. Yet we also need to recognize that the climate is like nothing else.

 

 

Most issues are part of the historical push-and-pull of politics. One side makes gains; the other can reverse them later.
The state of the planet is different. We can’t unmelt the Arctic or magically remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere. We make decisions today that future generations must live with. Already, we’re beginning to live with the consequences of climate change: Coastal flooding, heat waves and droughts have all become more frequent and damaging.

The potential future consequences — the likely future consequences — are awesomely frightening.

 

 

 

 

To take Trump and the Republican majorities in Congress at their word, they don’t care. But here’s the thing: Eventually, they or their successors will care. The damage from climate change will not spare Republicans. It won’t spare anyone.
Nothing matters more than finding ways to accelerate the arrival of the day when more Republicans do care.

For legal scholars, it means looking for the arguments and precedents to persuade Justice Anthony Kennedy that the government’s recent steps to reduce pollution are indeed constitutional (as scholars have so successfully done on other issues). Once Trump fills the Supreme Court’s open seat, presumably with a hard-core conservative, Kennedy becomes the swing vote on the climate.

 

 

 

 

For Democrats and climate activists, it means looking for other versions of Kennedy: Republicans, at the national and state level, who have a healthy fear for the planet’s future or who can plausibly be won over.
And for the rest of us, it means trying to understand many Americans’ skepticism about climate change. It is misplaced but honest. Most Americans are not shills for energy companies and their short-term profits. Yelling ever more loudly, or swamping them with ever more scientific detail, seems unlikely to do the trick.

Figuring out what can work — and what the rest of us can do about the planet in the meantime — is the most productive way to channel the heartsickness and anger that so many people feel this morning.

 

 

 

 

The full Opinion report from The Times follows, including Maureen Dowd, Frank Bruni and other Op-Ed colleagues writing about the shock of last night.

 

 

 

Ross Douthat, on Trump: “So we must hope that he has the wit to be more than a wrecker, more than a demagogue, and that his crude genius can actually be turned, somehow, to the common good. And if that hope is dashed, we must find ways to resist him — all of us, right and left …”

 

 

 

 

Roxane Gay: “We need — through writing, through protest, through voting in 2018 and 2020 — to be the checks and balances our government lacks so that we can protect the most defenseless among us, so that we can preserve the more perfect union America has long held as the ideal.”

 

 

 

 

Paul Krugman: “Is America a failed state and society? It looks truly possible. I guess we have to pick ourselves up and try to find a way forward, but this has been a night of terrible revelations, and I don’t think it’s self-indulgent to feel quite a lot of despair.”

 

 

 

 

Tom Friedman: “How do I explain Trump’s victory? Way too soon to say for sure, but my gut tells me that it has much less to do with trade or income gaps and much more to do with culture and many Americans’ feeling of ‘homelessness.’”

 

 

 

 

David Leonhardt
Op-Ed Columnist
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