That is no longer the case. The Sierra Club, the nation's leading environmental organization, is facing the very real prospect of being destroyed by a hostile takeover by right-wing operatives.
As I've reported previously, a trio of anti-immigrant candidates currently seeks election to the club's national board. None of the three is a club member, but all three are nationally prominent names with self-evident mainstream credentials. All three, however, are running under the banner of a faction calling itself "SUSPS," formerly Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization, which is essentially a front organization for anti-immigrant groups with extensive ties to white nationalist and supremacist organizations and activities.
(Mary Ratcliff has also posted extensively on this at American Street and Pacific Views. And for a roundup of the nature of these anti-immigrant groups, see my previous post on immigration as a nexus in the overlap between the mainstream and extremist right.)
Yesterday, the Center for New Community -- a nondenominational faith-based group based in Chicago that monitors right-wing extremism -- released a thorough report on the issue, examining the backgrounds of the three candidates as well as that of the campaign itself:
The report is largely evenhanded, but ultimately concludes that there is a deeply troubling agenda at work in this board election. Take, for example, its ultimate finding about Richard Lamm, the former Democratic governor of Colorado who in recent years has gone off the deep end on immigration:
- Should a man of Richard Lamm's public stature be held accountable for the political views of the people who edit the journals where his writings are published? The question is symptomatic because it goes to the matter of a very special kind of "tolerance": the evident tolerance of the "population control" wing of the anti-immigration movement for the racism and bigotry of their colleagues in the nativist/white nationalist wing of the movement. The attitude would seem to be anything goes -- so long as they are against immigrants. The point here is not to say that Lamm would agree with Lutton's views on race. The point is rather that a man who is so narrowly focused on immigration and population issues that he is willing to maintain a strong and cordial professional relationship with editors whose views do not differ substantially from David Duke's on issues of race, may not be an ideal choice for Sierra Club board.
The report's final conclusion is worth reprinting in full:
- Simply pointing at the SUSPS candidates and labeling them as front people is not nearly enough. What is at stake in this election is how an organization like the Sierra Club, already doing vital work on a dozen different fronts, is going to confront a crucial issue of social justice -- which may be a microcosm for how we will all confront it in the years to come. Both the United States and the world have ultimate resource limits that we will likely reach in the next few microblinks of geologic time. The question is not "should we be moving toward population stabilization as a country and as a species," for the obvious and uncontroversial answer is that we obviously should. The question is about the justice -- and even the practicality -- of attempting an America First-style immigration policy that seals off the borders and denies the increasing interconnectivity of the planet.
In other words, do campaigns and policy positions like those of the SUSPS people -- however well intended -- ultimately do anything more than inflame white nationalist passions and fuel the fires of divisiveness that they claim so hard to be against?
The Sierra Club cannot afford to elect leadership which is unexamined on this crucial if complex issue of human justice. If the SUSPS takeover attempt is successful, the influence, budget and resources of the Sierra Club will be diverted to an ideological cause that reflects neither environmental realities nor cherished democratic values. It will abruptly alter how the Sierra Club impacts the world -- for the worse.
Indeed, it could very well drive a stake through the heart of the Sierra Club.
I can tell you that I am one of the club's monthly donors and will be voting in the election. And if this faction wins election, not only will I withdraw my support for the club and cancel my membership, but I will do the best I can to urge everyone I know to do the same. Lending financial support to any club with leadership like this is simply something I can't condone.
And I'm fairly certain I won't be alone.
[For more information, check out the Groundswell Sierra site, where information on the takeover and what you can do about it is available.]