Avoiding a Climate Bill Backlash

Photo via NRC

Results are what matter. That's the topic of a Yglesias post on senators hesitant to support health care reform today, where he points out that "voters don't reward you for passing laws that were popular at the time you voted for them. Voters reward you for passing laws that are popular on Election Day." He notes (via the New Yorker) that Medicare had a tough fight, and was barely voted into law. It quickly became popular, rewarding those who supported it: the results mattered far more than the ugly debates or maneuvering that it took to get it passed. But what does this mean for the climate bill, whose results may be much less immediate and more difficult to discern?It's an important question, since many congressmen who would probably support the climate bill ideologically may not vote for it on grounds that it will hamper their reelection chances--despite the recent polling showing that the majority of constituents in climate bill "swing states" are in favor of passing legislation like Waxman-Markey.

In fact, the congressmen are likely worried about their vote for precisely the reason cited above: results are what matter. And the results of passing a climate bill that voters can easily discern--a (slightly) higher electricity bill, and little else--will be vastly different than what actually happens (lowered emissions, growing green jobs sector, more renewable energy). This potentially opens up the bill for criticism even long after it has passed (if it does).

As Yglesias notes:

Voting for something that people think they like, but that they actually wind up hating in practice, doesn't do you any good. But voting for something that people are skeptical about, but that they actually wind up liking in practice, doesn't do you any harm.
So the trick will be to keep up coverage on what the bill is accomplishing even after it goes into effect, enough to keep voters informed that their decision is having an impact, and to keep the congressmen who (perhaps riskily) voted for it in good graces. And of course, to continue emphasizing polling and the bill's majority support to get the thing passed in the first place.

More on the Climate Bill
Historic Climate Bill Passes House of Reps
Moves to Strengthen Climate Bill Underway in Senate

Tags: Carbon Emissions | Congress | Global Warming Solutions


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