The blame game has already begun.
One exasperated administration official on Thursday lambasted the environmentalists – led by the Environmental Defense Fund – for failing to effectively lobby GOP senators.
“They didn’t deliver a single Republican,” the official told POLITICO. “They spent like $100 million and they weren’t able to get a single Republican convert on the bill.”
No doubt that is a quote from somebody in the Rahm and Axelrod camp.
But while I certainly think that enviros made mistakes — see Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming? — I agree with CAP’s Dan Weiss who told Climate Progress today:
In my 30 years of environmental advocacy, this has been the most sophisticated, political savvy, vigorous legislative campaign. The Environmental Defense Fund undertook heroic efforts to convince reluctant senators of both parties to support investments in clean energy jobs, reduce oil use, and cut pollution.
The inability to achieve support from Republican senators was due to their feality to their leadership, big oil, and dirty coal, and not for lack of effort. Senators of both parties who supported global warming legislation in previous Congresses should be ashamed that they were AWOL in 2010.
I would go further.
It is absurd to think that environmentalists could deliver Republicans — the GOBP doesn’t count environmentalists among their constituents. Maybe they could have delivered the Maine Senators, but Cantwell give Collins an out. Snowe remains a puzzle.
The enviros strategy was to “deliver” key constituencies needed to enable a bill and move those who (might) have some political clout with the GOBP. I think those working to push a climate bill did a pretty good job of bringing in the business community, electric utilities, national security types, and so on.
Indeed, the enviros messaging strategy delivered the public — not that I think that the public ever needed much persuading to support climate action and clean energy jobs, but a pushback against the massive disinformation campaign of Big Oil and the special interest polluters was needed.
That’s why the climate bill always showed a +10 or +15 point edge in public polling — even when people were asked if they would be willing to pay higher energy prices — whereas the health care bill was running -10.
- Yet another major poll finds strong public support for global warming action, “even if it means an increase in the cost of energy”
- Overwhelming majority support strong action to cut fossil fuel use, advance clean energy
- Post BP Disaster: Support grows for comprehensive energy bill that makes carbon polluters pay
But Rahm and Axelrod simply didn’t know about or didn’t care about the fact that this bill was a political winner with the right messaging. They were stuck in the mindset that this was a political loser. It is a loser if you are as bad at messaging as they are, I suppose.
They also blew the opportunity handed to them by the BP oil disaster:
- Is Obama blowing his best chance to shift the debate from the dirty, unsafe energy of the 19th century to the clean, safe energy of the 21st century?
- Obama’s campaign pollster: “In the aftermath of the oil spill disaster, voters overwhelmingly support a comprehensive clean energy bill”¦. Voters understand the dangers of our dependence on oil. Now, they’re ready to hold Congress accountable.”
On the political front, the White House deserves most of the blame for not getting Republicans. Why? Because the White House never tried to keep moderate Democrats in line, never made it clear that there was definitely gonna be a vote on this bill and the moderates should figure out what they needed to support the bill (as in the case of healthcare reform).
The WH thus enabled nonstop public (and private) criticism and bitching about the bill from a core group of moderate Democrats, which not only became a self-fulfilling prophecy — that getting the Democratic votes needed was impossible — it convinced Republicans that there was no possibility of getting anywhere near 60 and thus no reason for them to stick their necks out. That is, it was always going to be harder for even a moderate Republican to support this bill than it was for even relatively conservative Democrats.
It was the WH’s job to deliver, say, 55-57 Democrats — and then apply whatever carrots and sticks were needed to move a few GOP Senators. Sure, it still might not have worked — see Will anti-science ideologues be able to kill the bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill? — but not trying at all was the only certain route to failure.
I can attest to the fact that the entire environmental and clean energy and progressive political community worked round-the-clock over the past year. If the White House and Obama had worked as hard on this most important of issues, we very likely would have had a price on carbon, I believe.