By Ryan McNeely
Matt is completely correct about how climate change legislation ultimately died: basically Republican politicians who claim to care about climate change won’t support any attempt to actually deal with climate change. The big question right now seems to be “what should people who care about the issue do” to affect the debate? Matt discussed civil disobedience yesterday, but due to the complicated politics of the issue it’s a bit hard to decipher where the swing votes really are. I guess the two potential strategies would be to try to rally Democrats to become more engaged on the issue (read: make the Congress generally more progressive) or to de-politicize the issue, go after reasonable conservative elites and try to get them to basically shame moderate Republicans into following the logic of their own stated positions.
I noticed on the CAP graph of state per capita emissions that eight of the ten states with the highest emissions were McCain states, and often strong McCain states (in fact, three high emission states are three of only five states where Obama underperformed Kerry). Plus, Obama won Indiana — one of only two high emission states won by the President — by an extremely narrow margin. Here’s a chart plotting the rank of each state’s Obama vote share vs. the per capita CO2 emissions:
Now, this is not a very rigorous metric — it simply ranks the states in order rather than comparing actual vote spreads to actual emissions. And it doesn’t get at the true veto points (Senators) but rather looks at presidential vote strength. Finally, there are some outliers — for example, maybe Idaho’s Senators could be bought-off somehow, as Idaho has the fourth lowest emissions but was Obama’s fourth worst state.
But there’s definitely a relationship here. And I think one can potentially draw the conclusion that, moving forward, climate change is destined to become an even more partisan issue. If that’s the case, the strategy for dealing with the problem wouldn’t materially differ from the strategy for advancing any other progressive agenda item — activists should simply try to make the Congress more Democratic and more progressive.