In a brief statement that sounded more like a negotiating tactic than a concession speech, Senator Bernie Sanders announced he's staying in the race for the Democratic nomination for president—at least for a few more days. The statement followed bruising primary losses in states like Michigan, Texas, and Virginia that he needed to win to prove his electability.
Sanders qualified his remaining in the race at least through the head-to-head debate with former Vice President Biden scheduled for Sunday, March 15th. The debate is in advance of the St. Patrick's Day primaries in four states critical to a Democratic victory in November. Together, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, and Arizona, account for 577 delegates—over a quarter of the 1991 votes needed to win the nomination on the first ballot.
The Senator has no illusions about his probable defeat at the hands of Biden and the Democratic establishment. His willingness to engage Biden in the Sunday debate and forewarn him of what he intends to debate him about is, for all intents and purpose, an attempt to negotiate consolation prizes for the progressive wing of the Democratic party in a very public forum.
Sanders is right--he will never be in a better position to impact the Democratic platform on which Biden and the party will run in the 2020 elections. Although Sanders's socialist democratic agenda should find favor in each of the four upcoming primary states because of demograph-ics, he handily lost to Clinton in all of them in 2016.
The Republic died today. Or maybe yesterday, I can’t be sure[i]. I had thought that the U.S. was going to be able to survive the reign of Donald Trump. Now, I wonder.
What changed my mind was the decision of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of the House Committee on the Judiciary v. Donald F. McGahn, II (House v. McGahn or McGahn). The facts of the case are straightforward.
McGahn, a former White House counsel, was ordered by Trump not to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on the matter of Russia’s interference into the 2016 presidential election and the Special Counsel’s findings of fact concerning potential obstruction of justice by the President. (emphasis added)
The Committee, after months of negotiations, subpoenaed McGahn, who continued his refusal. The Judiciary Committee petitioned the U.S. District Court of D.C. to compel McGahn’s appearance.
The administration argued in court that a duly authorized committee of Congress acting on behalf of the House of Representatives could not invoke judicial process to compel the appearance of senior-level aides of the President to receive sworn testimony.
The administration further maintained that a federal court cannot exercise subject-matter jurisdiction over any such subpoena-related stalemate between the Legislature and the Executive branch, on separation of powers grounds. (emphasis added)
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.
The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge
or jury in a public nuisance case[i].
If ever there was a case that called out for judicial intervention and a court to answer the call, it is Juliana v. US and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. And yet, after four and a half years of filings, a divided three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals told the 21 young plaintiffs in Juliana, they didn’t have standing to pursue their case. All three judges on the panel were ap-pointed to the federal bench by President Obama.
Over the past two decades, the number of climate-related law cases has been on the rise. Why is not difficult to discern.
The failure of political leaders—particularly at the federal level—to heed the growing body of scientific evidence that demands aggressive action to stem the rise of global temperatures has forced climate activists to seek judicial intervention. The courts are proving difficult to convince, however, for reasons having nothing to do with the science. In fact, the opposite is true. Most of the judges who have heard Juliana and other recent cases, as described below, have expressed a solid belief in the causes and consequences of Earth’s warming and the urgent need to defend against it.
Juliana is one of a group of novel theory law cases. The suits vary in the redress requested and the legal strategies employed. For example, cases like Juliana look to expand the public trust doctrine and make a habitable environment a protected right under the due process clauses of the US Constitution.
…not all meritorious legal claims are redressable in federal court.
More than four years ago, 21 youthful plaintiffs asked a federal court to rule a habitable environment a protected right under the US Constitution. On January 17, 2020, a divided three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals told them they didn’t have standing to pursue their case and that there was nothing the court could do to redress the legitimate harms they had suffered:
Reluctantly, we conclude that such relief is beyond our constitutional power. Rather, the plaintiffs’ impressive case for redress must be presented to the political branches of government.
Early on, Juliana was often reported with a wink and a nod giving the impression that it was a feel-good human-interest story about kids. As it survived one legal challenge after another, the case came to be recognized for what it could be—the most important environmental case of all time equal in stature to Brown v. Board of Education (school desegregation), Roe v. Wade (a woman’s right to an abortion), and Obergefell v. Hodges (the right of men and women to marry those they love even if of the same sex).
Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have released a detailed “memo” as a prequel to climate legislation they will be introducing under the torturous title of The Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s Future Act (CLEAN Future Act or Act).
The Act’s goal is to ensure that the United States achieves net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution no later than 2050. Lurking behind the provisions of the proposed legislation are the political motives of its Committee authors—all of whom are Democrats.
The Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ), has indicated that the whole idea of the draft legislation is to build consensus. With whom do you suppose Pallone would like to build such consensus? I’ll give you a hint—it’s not with Republicans. Not that the chairman would refuse Republican cooperation were it to be genuinely offered.
If you guessed the hoped-for consensus partners are the progressive Democrats in Congress, like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), you get a gold star on your permanent record. The CLEAN Future Act can be properly viewed as the answer of establishment Democrats to the Green New Deal.
We have met the enemy, and s/he is us.[i]
For much of the decade of the 2010s, I’ve spoken and written about climate change—calling it the greatest threat facing the nation. I was wrong.
The greatest threat is our collective unwillingness to bridge the gaping and deepening divide that separates Republicans and Democrats. As our nation’s climate has grown warmer, our politics have turned colder. (See Figure 1) Where the federal government was once considered a part—albeit an imperfect one—of needed solutions, it is now considered a primary problem.
There is no national policy issue on the table today that does not reflect and suffer from the increasingly hardened differences between the nation’s major political parties.
The political division reflects two opposing Americas—of almost equal electoral strength. The federal government remains in gridlock at a time when concerted action is needed to address climate change and other of the nation’s pressing problems.
As we begin the 2020s, it is critical for Americans—all Americans—to step back for a moment and take stock of what the national body politic has become. As Lee Drutman writes--
National politics (in the US) has transformed from a compromise-oriented squabble over govern-ment spending into a zero-sum moral conflict over national culture and identity.
We no longer trust each other or our institutions, and our collective mistrust is playing out in ways that undermine and upset the balance between the branches of government and the regard paid to them by the governed.
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.