Is President Obama a Lost Cause Environmentally — and What Should Progressives Do?

This weekend’s question is inspired by the Obama administration’s dreadful decision to do nothing on ozone pollution.

This decision is indicative of what we can expect from the president for the foreseeable future for a few reasons:

  1. The decision was Obama’s alone — Like the upcoming Keystone XL tar sands pipeline decision, Congressional approval isn’t needed for the President on EPA rules.
  2. Unlike the pipeline, whose biggest impacts (on climate) would be decades from now and spread over the entire human race, the decision to do nothing on ozone pollution means millions of Americans — including kids, elderly, and the infirm — will suffer needlessly in the near future.
  3. Relatedly, if your administration can’t figure out how to do messaging to defend clean air for kids, reduced deaths and hospital visits and asthma attacks from air pollution — stuff that is wildly popular with Americans, especially independents — how precisely are you ever going to do messaging on global warming? Oh wait, I know, you aren’t.

Those who believe there is some underlying political brilliance in this administration — some clever strategy about to emerge that embraces and defend progressivism, particularly on the environment — no longer have a case. [After the 2012 election, yeah, that’s the ticket.] Aaugh!

On the other hand, before progressives bail entirely on our feckless president, consider that the Intrade prediction (i.e. betting) market has Texas Gov. Rick Perry with a 38% chance of being the Republican nominee (ahead of Romney with 30%) — and Obama with whopping 50.3% chance of getting reelected.

And consider what Michael Gerson (Bush’s former speechwriter) points out in the WashPost of “Perry’s campaign against the New Deal”:

“I happen to think,” [Perry] said in an interview with Newsweek last fall, “that the Progressive movement was the beginning of the deterioration of our Constitution from the standpoint of it being abused and misused to do things that Congress wanted to do, and/or the Supreme Court wanted to implement. The New Deal was the launching pad for the Washington largesse as we know it today.”

Seriously.

Ironically and tragically, Obama’s semi-progressive policies, obvious lack of a guiding progressive philosophy, and dreadful messaging have but the progressive movement in genuine jeopardy — while he remains the only plausible bulwark right now.

So I ask, Is President Obama a Lost Cause — and What Should Progressives Do?