Skip Navigation

Why Democrats Lose on Global Warming

December 1, 2017

The last time global warming came up in Congress, in 2010, most of the members who voted for it lost their next elections.

Waxman-Markey

Robinson Meyer’s November 15 article for The Atlantic, titled “Democrats Are Shockingly Unprepared to Fight Climate Change,” is an important article because it accurately reports some of the history of the debate over global warming in the United States. For example, Meyer writes:

In June 2009, Waxman-Markey passed the House. But as that summer wore on, the bill’s prospects floundered. By August, the Tea Party rose to command more media attention, and public opinion turned against Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—focused on passing what would become the Affordable Care Act—declined to take the climate bill to the Senate floor. By the middle of the next summer, Waxman-Markey was effectively dead. Only a few years after it opened, the window to pass climate legislation had already shut.

Meyer’s account doesn’t explain why the Tea Party adopted global warming skepticism, why “public opinion turned against Democrats,” and why members of the Senate convinced Reid to call off a vote on Waxman-Markey. The Heartland Institute and one man, Arthur Robinson, played major roles in all three developments.

Starting in 2007, Heartland began distributing what would eventually be millions of copies of books, brochures, and videos explaining why man-made climate change was not a crisis. It ran over $1 million in ads challenging Al Gore to debate his critics. (Gore never did.) Heartland focused much of its efforts on the nascent Tea Party movement, providing its leaders with free publications, speakers, and other types of support.

In 2009, Art Robinson was going from office to office in the Russell Senate Office Building handing out and discussing a hefty directory of signers of the Petition Project, some 31,000 scientists opposed to legislation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. He met with senators and their senior staff and patiently explained how the left had hijacked the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and EPA. A brilliant scientist and disarming communicator, Robinson converted scores of people.

Meanwhile, Heartland’s Sandy Liddy Bourne, often accompanied by others from Heartland or allies from Americans for Tax Reform, was going door to door in the Senate with copies of the first volume in the Climate Change Reconsidered series. Senate staff have told us repeatedly that this publication plus Robinson’s directory of scientists, delivered at exactly the right moment, made a big difference in Senate deliberations. No other nonprofit group or individual was so successful in opposing Waxman-Markey.

Meyer also reports,

Even in defeat, Waxman-Markey cost the party dearly. More than two dozen congressional Democrats who had supported the cap-and-trade bill lost in the 2010 midterm election. The casualties included Rick Boucher, a 14-term veteran of Congress whose district included much of southwest Virginia’s coal country. Boucher had negotiated concessions for local coal companies into Waxman-Markey, but this could not save his seat. Ten House Democrats, including Boucher, voted for Waxman-Markey and against the Affordable Care Act. Six of them lost their seats in 2010.

This is the history many members of Congress remember and newcomers need to be reminded of: The last time global warming came up in Congress, in 2010, most of the members who voted for it lost their next elections.

Later in the article, writing about Democrats’ current climate change efforts in Congress, Meyer writes,

There are only two bills that come close to serving as a flagship bill. The first is the 100 by ’50 Act, released in April by Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “100 by ’50” is an ambitious economic-planning package that would require 100 percent of American electricity to come from clean or renewable energy by 2050.

The bill’s release was timed to the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., and McKibben attended its unveiling. It represents the triumph of the 350.org wing of the environmental movement, blocking future fossil-fuel investment and directing plenty of funding to help historically at-risk and marginalized communities. But the 100 by ’50 Act debuted to a fizzle and Sanders, its more prominent cosponsor, spends little time discussing it publicly.

Yup, that’s what happened. They thought by tying this legislation to the People’s Climate March, it would get a big media bump and political momentum. But the march was quickly identified with the emerging “resistance” movement, with meaningless and sometimes violent protests, and with identity politics gone wild. It mobilized the 20 percent hard-left anti-Trump base but turned off the other 80 percent of Americans. The bill got little attention and was quickly forgotten.

Meyer makes a rare admission by a MSM liberal writer:

... Democratic voters still don’t care about climate change very much. Like other Americans, most of the party’s electorate experience it as a “low-intensity” issue. Though a majority of Americans in every state believe in climate change, very few people use climate policy to decide whom to vote for. Even Democrats say that a candidate’s proposed climate policy matters less when making a voting decision than his or her proposed policies about jobs, health care, the economy, education, income inequality, and terrorism.

This is true about Democrats, but not about Republicans. Climate change is not a “low-intensity” issue for Republican voters because they rank it low on lists of “major problems facing the country.” Just listen to the crowd reactions whenever Trump talks about “energy abundance” and his pro-energy, pro-environment, and pro-jobs agenda. By ranking climate change low on their list of problems facing the country, Republican voters are telling pollsters they want less – dramatically less – action on global warming than what politicians have given them in the past. They are practically shouting “Stop doing this!!” And the MSM’s take on this is to say it’s a “low intensity issue.” Who’s the “denier” now?

This is another rare and honest admission:

If Democrats win unified control of Congress and the White House in, say, 2020, history suggests they will get a sliver of time to commit any kind of new policy to statute before public opinion turns against them. During that window, dozens of issues will compete for law makers’ attention.

Democrats, Meyer is saying, can win if they exaggerate and pander to public ignorance on issues like health care and global warming, but once elected and their “solutions” to the fake problems are put on the table, they immediately start to lose public support. Maybe if they were honest during their campaigns, and then did what they promised they would do, their “window” would be more than a “sliver of time.” Trump’s window, for example, is four years wide, maybe eight. Just sayin’.

Near the end of his article, Meyer writes,

There is, as far as I could find, no think tank putting a bill [on climate change] together or thinking through legislative language. I could barely find professional Democrats planning how a future offensive on the issue would look.

Of course! This is what you would expect if Democrats were merely using fear of catastrophic climate change to get the support of low-information voters, and had no interest in genuinely addressing what they knew to be a fake problem. This is Sherlock Holmes’ dog that didn’t bark. It’s a damning admission of insincerity on the part of liberals. Pity that more people aren’t paying attention.

This last admission by Meyer reminds me as well of a scene near the end of Michael Crichton’s terrific novel State of Fear where environmental activists are shutting down their offices and moving on to some other issue they can exploit, even before the public realizes it was all just a scam. For the environmentalists in State of Fear, It was never about science or truth or even protecting the environment, only power and keeping a job. And so it is today with the Democratic Party and its many front groups and stenographers in the legacy media.

Author
Joseph Bast is the CEO of The Heartland Institute, a 33-year-old national nonprofit research center located in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
jbast@heartland.org @JosephLBast
Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming: Joseph Bast

Related News & Opinion View All News