Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Green conspiracy theories to explain the failure of Democrats to mention Climate Change in their responses to President Trump’s Climate Free State of the Union speech.
Democrats Lack A Bold National Climate Change Plan In The Trump Era, And It Shows
The party’s rebuttal this week to the president’s State of the Union address ignored what should be a progressive core issue for the party.
By Alexander C. Kaufman
When Republicans began crusading last year to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, progressive Democrats ― and centrists with 2020 presidential ambitions ― countered with a push for Medicare for all. The proposal, though unattainable in this political moment, outlined a clear vision for the party and offered voters a sweeping sense of what is possible.
If you think the partisan divide over health care is intense, it’s even worse when it comes to climate change. Republicans are the only major political party in the developed world to question the scientific realities of manmade global warming as a platform issue. Yet Democrats, at least on a national level, remain scattered, without a strategy to deal with what they regularly call the most pressing issue of a lifetime.
At no point was this more clear than on Tuesday. In the first of two back-to-back snubs, Democrats on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works spent comparatively little time grilling Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on climate change during his first appearance before the panel since his confirmation nearly a year ago. They chose instead to focus on local pollution issues.
Later that night, four out of five rebuttals to President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address ignored climate change. Only an aghast Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) inveighed: “How can a president of the United States give a State of the Union speech and not mention climate change?”
Democrats’ kids-gloves approach to climate change is baffling in 2018. Last year was the second-hottest on record. Hurricanes and wildfires devastated densely populated coastal areas and huge swaths of the West, causing a record $306 billion in damages. And a historically unpopular president spearheaded an all-out assault on climate science, instigating witch hunts and censorship in agency ranks, showering polluters with taxpayer money and vowing to withdraw from a global emissions deal signed by every other nation on Earth, even Syria and North Korea.
One obstacle could be Democrats’ acceptance of fossil fuel donations. Exxon Mobil Corp. doled out less than 9 percent of its $2.1 million 2016 election spending to Democrats. The American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s main lobby, spent $748,100 on Democrats in 2016 ― at least 15 times more than any previous election year ― yet the contributions still paled before the $3.1 million Republicans received. But those donations helped secure dependable allies in Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).
On Wednesday, 350.org hosted a Climate State of the Union, where Sanders became the first senator to sign the group’s new pledge to reject all fossil fuel donations.
“When Democratic politicians stop taking oil money and they start realizing the oil money is just poisonous, that will be a big help,” said RL Miller, president of Climate Hawks Vote, a super PAC. “As long as they are taking money from the oil industry, it’s very hard for them to get out in front of bills that may have a negative impact on the oil industry’s bottom line.”
This has been an interesting week for the climate movement.
Leading Democrats and Republicans ignored climate change in key speeches. Greens turned on Bill Nye, one of America’s most consistent high profile climate advocates, because he attended the State of the Union as a guest of NASA administrator nominee Jim Bridenstine. Exxon Mobil released a report which concluded that climate action will have negligible impact on their business.
In past years people have consistently ranked climate at the bottom of their list of priorities. If even the Democrats can’t be bothered anymore with flogging the climate dead horse, I suggest climate change may have just dropped off the bottom of the list.