The establishment, which I guess I’m a part…knows as much about electability as a donkey knows about calculus. We always get it wrong. . .The voters are going to tell us who’s electable.
— Steve Rosenthal
History will recall that 2020 was the year climate issues finally mattered enough to voters to guide their hands when it came time to mark their ballots. Will history also record that the 2020 election resulted in the break-up of the Democratic party and that an underlying cause of the separation was the rise of the youth climate movement around the Green New Deal (GND)?
The battle for the Democratic nomination is a battle for the party itself, and it’s something of an age thing--OK? Ironically, a septuagenarian piper is at the forefront of a generational change in Democratic politics, while a 38-year-old former mayor is a moderate whose policy positions are more in keeping with the Democratic establishment. In between are a couple of billionaires, two senators, and a former vice president.
Unlike the 2016 election, climate change has become a prominent and distinguishing feature of the Democratic party’s message to voters. Although differing in degrees, every contender for the Democratic nomination has made the defense of the environment and the transition to a low-carbon economy a priority—one they vow to act on from their first day in office to their last.
House Minority Leader McCarthy (R-CA) has gone on record warning conservative Republicans that they are in danger of losing the support of voters under the age of 35 over the issue of climate change. To counter the Democrat’s talk of the Green New Deal and the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act released by Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Minority Leader called upon Republican House members to show they too care about the future of the planet by introducing their own brand of climate-related legislation.
The first tranche of McCarthy’s promised legislation has now been announced. Although modest by comparison to the magnitude of the problem and the Democrats’ CLEAN Future Act, the mere mention that Earth’s warming poses a problem is extraordinary given the denialist position of McCarthy and other Congressional conservatives just a few short months ago.
McCarthy and several House Republicans have led off their defense of the environment with a suite of proposals focused on carbon capture. Carbon capture is a natural or artificial process by which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and held in solid or liquid form.
History is likely to show that 2020 is the year climate issues finally mattered enough to voters to guide their hands when it came time to mark their ballots.
Recognizing that it is no longer prudent or wise to continue playing the denial card Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has been attempting to bring House Republicans in from the cold on climate change. It appears that his closed-door discussions with certain members of the caucus have begun to pay dividends. The Minority Leader, along with allies like Represent-atives Graves (R-LA) and Westerman (R-AR), is promising to release a Republican strategy for responding to the climate crisis over the next several weeks.
McCarthy’s change of heart is most likely attributable to polling numbers that show Republicans vulnerable on climate matters than to a sudden immaculate conversion. His pitch to colleagues has been “for a 28-year old, the environment is the Number 1 and Number 2 issue.” There are hard numbers behind the claim.
Frank Luntz, a well-respected Republican pollster, circulated a memo to congressional Republicans last summer telling them that 55 percent of young GOP voters are very or extremely concerned about the party’s position on climate change. Luntz also noted that 69 percent of all GOP voters are concerned that the party's stance is “hurting itself with younger voters.”
It’s much too early to predict the outcome of the November balloting—but is it too late to be worrying about the Democrats blowing themselves up before they have a chance of blowing the election?
Should Democrats mortally wound themselves during the nominating process and lose to Trump in November, any chance for aggressive federal climate action will be lost for at least the next decade. Moreover, if either of these two events happens, it is likely that progressive climate activists will have played a pivotal role—just as they would play an important part in defeating Donald Trump.
I’ve been repressing a nagging feeling about the 2020 elections for weeks now. It all came rushing to the surface as I happened upon an article that Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib (D) booed former Secretary of State Clinton during a live Sanders campaign event in Iowa.
Joel B. Stronberg
Joel Stronberg, MA, JD., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years’ experience, based in Washington, DC.