Midterms 2018 climate politics are polarized, but democrats can still move forward – vox gas national average 2008


Proponents of the former strategy make the reasonable point that no comprehensive federal climate change legislation (or federal legislation of any kind, really) is possible without at least some Republican cooperation. Every major environmental law of the last several decades has passed with bipartisan support. And Democrats are unlikely to have a filibuster-proof Senate supermajority any time soon.

Proponents of the latter strategy respond: Well, that’s nice, but it’s just not happening. Republicans have have made their opposition to serious climate action extremely clear, repeatedly, and they are only getting more ideologically extreme. In recent years, tangible climate progress has happened where (and only where) Democrats are powerful enough to force the issue. The unilateral model is the only model showing any success, albeit not nearly enough. gas x strips side effects Jerry Brown, getting ’er done at the state level. Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Since compromise and cooperation are off the table for the time being, the only way forward, they say, is for Democrats to go for broke. That means: fully champion decarbonization, make it a winning political issue, cobble together coalitions at the state and city level, and eventually force Republicans who want to compete for young or POC voters (should they ever again want to do so) to come to the table. Make them scared not to. That might work; persuasion hasn’t, and won’t.

Among the losers was Florida’s Carlos Curbelo, the leader on the GOP side of the caucus, who had even proposed a carbon tax bill. He lost (by 1 percentage point!) to Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who racked up several endorsements from climate hawks. They made the calculation that a Democrat with a reliable vote for clean energy is more valuable than a Republican whose commitments on climate change are mostly symbolic and who has no hope of prevailing in his party. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Among its other effects, the loss of all these GOP quasi-moderates dims the prospects for bipartisan cooperation on, say, carbon taxes, like the much-discussed carbon tax proposal from the Climate Leadership Council, backed by several (retired, moderate) Republicans. Such prospects were not particularly bright to begin with; now you have to squint to see them.

All of this reflects larger political trends. gas house gang The remaining moderate Republicans in the House are moderates because they run in purple districts. But that makes them the easiest ones to pick off, while the true believers remain in office. “When Republicans lose elections,” Brian Beutler writes at Crooked Media, “the ones swept out of office tend to be from closely divided districts and states, which means those who survive are, on average, more reactionary than the previous class of Republicans.”

“Every incentive points the same way,” Beutler writes. “The answer to every strategic doubt is always to lie more and stoke more ethnic division in order to protect tax cuts and corporate deregulation.” The tax cuts and favors for wealthy donors ensure that the movement well-financed; the lies and ethnic division serve as cover for the tax cuts and favors. wholesale electricity prices by state It’s a self-reinforcing cycle and electoral defeats alone will not dislodge it.

Second, there are lots of Democrats with bold clean-energy ideas among the incoming freshman class. Rising superstars Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Antonio Delgado in New York, along with Ilhan Omar in Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib in Michigan — a notably young and diverse group — are part of a growing bloc of Dems supporting the latest big climate idea on the left: a Green New Deal, a large-scale package of government investments in clean energy jobs and infrastructure. (At Huffington Post, Alexander Kaufman has a good story on this topic.) Noted Green New Dealer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Rick Loomis/Getty Images

As my colleague Umair Irfan wrote, Dems won seven governorships away from Republicans, with candidates who ran on clean energy. Jared Polis in Colorado, J.B. Pritzker in Illinois, and Janet Mills in Maine all ran on plans to target 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 (Polis by 2040!). Stephen Sisolak in Nevada (who supported the state’s successful initiative targeting 50 percent renewable energy by 2030), Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico, and Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan all beat Republicans with clean energy as a key part of their agenda. Michigan’s new governor, Gretchen Whitmer. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Climate hawks who favor bipartisan cooperation have fewer and fewer Republicans to talk to, as the last remaining moderates are picked off. The GOP climate caucus is in danger of becoming spectral, mostly existing in think tanks, advocacy groups, and op-ed pages. Trump’s unstinting support for fossil fuels is federal Republicanism for now, with shrinking exceptions.

Dems have always approached climate change from a defensive crouch. gas leak chicago Even now, every time one of them opens their mouth about it, the first thing they say is some version of “I believe it’s real.” This is not a preface they use in comments on, say, Social Security, or the housing market, or Yemen. We all know those things exist. Why would you bother to say so unless you viewed it as an open question, an ongoing debate? Unless you were trying to convince yourself?

At the very least, there will be no substantial climate or clean energy legislation, so House Dems shouldn’t pretend otherwise. This isn’t to say they shouldn’t develop or propose legislation — more on that in No. 3 — but they shouldn’t fool themselves that it’s passable. They can block legislation, but they can’t hope to pass any, so there will be none.

With control of the House comes control of key committees. New Jersey’s Frank Pallone, a noted skeptic of Trump’s efforts to bail out aging coal and nuclear plants, will now lead the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. electricity images cartoon Arizona’s Raúl Grijalva, a long-time environmental champion, will chair Natural Resources. New York’s Nita Lowey will have Appropriations. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Zach Gibson/Getty Images

With control of committees comes subpoena power for investigations. Trump’s collusion with industry has already proven a minefield of corruption; there are still Pruitt scandals to investigate, along with newer Zinke scandals. And there are plenty of questions to be raised about the administration’s attempted coal bailout, its meddling with EPA science, and the process whereby it axed regulations on everything from methane to coal ash to carbon dioxide.

States control electricity distribution systems and several have already embarked on innovative plans to modernize their grids and utilities. They also control their own fuel-economy standards, with the option to join California’s more ambitious targets. They can empower cities to encourage density and multimodal transportation. They can start the long work of shutting down fossil fuel production and distribution.

So there’s no need to pre-compromise, to concoct some bill designed to please the imagined good-faith fiscal conservative. electricity worksheets There’s no need to accept crusty myths about balanced budgets and “pay-fors” and the sanctity of markets. There’s no need to bend over backward to line up a few token Republican sponsors, to impress the nation’s editorial pages with how bipartisan it all is. Those kinds of concessions gain Democrats nothing — no credit, no respect, no leverage, and certainly no legislation — so they should stop making them.

As I said, the energy on the young left today is around a Green New Deal, a large-scale program of national investments in clean energy projects and jobs, perhaps coupled with gradual drawdown of fossil fuel production. The details remain fairly nebulous (I’ll be looking into it more soon), but the idea behind it is simply that climate change is a true national emergency and requires an emergency response, a mobilization of national resources that is, in Jimmy Carter’s words, the moral equivalent of war.

With federal legislation off the table for the time being, the next few years mark a crucial opportunity for the left to step back, shake off the cobwebs of old ideas and the shackles of old failures, and do some blue-sky thinking about what climate policy ought to look like in the 21st century. It’s important to develop a courageous, inspiring vision of a sustainable future, even as everyone slogs through the current muck.