Getting rid of nuclear weapons will require a broad consensus of the public. This political reality has implications for how we pursue nuclear weapons activism.
No politician or political party will be able to take a step as large as getting rid of nuclear weapons on their own. If one party were to pass a no nukes law on a party line vote against the objections of the other party, the other party would simply undo the law the next time they were in power. Real sustainable change in our nuclear weapons policy will require broad agreement across the political spectrum.
What this means for nuclear weapons activists is that, whatever our own personal political leanings might be, we need to take care not to alienate those who lean in another direction. Whatever side of the aisle we call home, we’re going to need those on the other side to get rid of nuclear weapons.
The Gun In Our Mouth
The following example may illustrate why taking the usual partisan political shots at those in another party is not a serious act of nuclear weapons activism.
Imagine for a moment that I show up at your home for Thanksgiving dinner with a loaded gun in my mouth. I’m sure you’ll agree that this would not be an appropriate moment to have a debate about gun control laws, the 2nd amendment to the Constitution, the NRA, or those groups which oppose the NRA. In such a situation the proper focus would of course instead be to get the gun out of my mouth as soon as possible.
I’ve offered the above example because nuclear weapons are a gun in the mouth of our entire civilization. And so, just as in the example above, it isn’t appropriate or useful to apply our usual patterns of partisan political squabbling to an existential crisis which threatens all of us equally.
What Is The Appropriate Approach For Nuclear Weapons Activists?
Nuclear weapons activists should focus on the nuclear weapons threat, and not any politician or political party.
So for example, if someone, or someone else, proposes spending tons of money to update the nuclear arsenal so that it will last another century, we can and should oppose such a proposal. But we should oppose such proposals without demonizing whoever made the proposal.
Yes, demonizing one’s opponents is a time honored tradition that goes all the way back to the founding of America. Such political conflict is routine and normal.
But nuclear weapons are not a normal issue. They aren’t just one more topic we can take to cable news and the Internet to squabble about. Nuclear weapons are instead a hair trigger loaded gun in the mouth of everyone on every side in every party.
No single person or political party will be able to remove the nuclear gun on their own. We either do it together, or it doesn’t get done. And in that case, everyone in every party loses. The only way any of us win on this issue is if we come together, while there is still time.
So What About Trump?
And what about the Democratic candidates for the Presidency?
Well, when it comes to nuclear weapons, all of the above seem more or less the same. None of our political leaders seem to express much interest in nuclear weapons, and to my knowledge (correct me if I’m wrong here) none have called for their elimination.
While this state of affairs is very unfortunate, it comes with the silver lining of making it easier for nuclear weapons activists to address our message in a non-partisan manner to everyone in every political party.