September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story:"Agenda Interrupted"

,"Our nation can be viewed as a nation with two agendas: the populist agenda and the Bush agenda. The populist agenda received considerable attention in the 2000 campaign and afterwards, at least in words if not in action. Preserving the social safety net for the elderly, addressing the problems with our nation's healthcare system, improving education and environmental protection, and economic justice for workers and families. These were--are--issues many Americans care about. Often undermined, these issues were wiped from the American agenda on September 11th. Not so the Bush agenda. The crux of the Bush agenda was--is--simple: 1. Cut taxes. 2. Drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 3. Confront Iraq. September 11th changed the rationale in support of Bush's agenda, but not the agenda. Bush's agenda, already moving along with weak opposition, seemed to gain momentum with the rightward shift in U.S. politics effected by the terrorist attacks. But a rightward shift in politics cannot persist because the populist agenda needs to be addressed sooner or later. Voters will demand it. Consider drilling for oil in ANWR. At an arctic bird ecology workshop in Alaska, one month after September 11th, there was a new sense of inevitability about drilling in ANWR. The rationale for drilling wasn't suddenly better; the opposing voices just felt politically weak. But the populist agenda of protecting some of our pristine environments and supporting a more balanced energy plan persisted. The U.S. Senate this spring blocked drilling in ANWR, and wildlife activity on the refuge will continue, for now, without competition from Big Oil. September 11th changed us in many ways. It stalled the populist agenda. But it cannot remove from an agenda issues vital to the wellbeing of our society, our environment, and future generations.

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