Image: Liberty Pundits
If you take Politico's coverage at face value, then every congressman who supported energy reform suffered an agonizing, violent death -- or at least were savagely beaten within an inch of their lives -- on election day. In its typically breathless horse-race coverage, the right-leaning news outlet used every wartime cliche in the book to describe how all clean energy-friendly Democrats lost their seats to GOP challengers for voting for cap and trade. Which brings to mind two points: 1) That's not even true, and 2) It demonstrates what's wrong with the dominant trend in the media's political coverage today. Here's Politico:
Over two dozen lawmakers who favored efforts to clamp down on heat-trapping emissions were swept away on Tuesday's anti-incumbent wave, ushering in a new class of Republicans who doubt global warming science and want to upend President Barack Obama's environmental and energy policies.Yes, a tidal wave of rage "swept away" the incumbents, who were "slaughtered" in a "bloodbath". They were then politically decapitated, and their legislative legacies engulfed in the fiery flames of despair, banished from the House of Representatives for all eternity -- or at least for two years, when the whole cycle starts over again.
Democrats who voted for the controversial House climate bill were slaughtered at the ballot box ... There's no hiding the House Democrats' bloodbath, with more than two dozen members who voted for the Pelosi-led climate bill losing their seats, and more likely to fall as the final tallies come in. The outcome sends a strong signal to moderate lawmakers as they consider any risky votes in future Congress' on energy and environmental issues.
Seriously, Politico, I know it's boring writing about the minutiae of horse-race politics -- who said what behind whose back in what committee and so forth, and that election cycles are therefore likely as exciting as medieval warfare -- but isn't this all a little over the top?
I mean, for one thing, it's flat-out wrong: Voting for cap-and-trade didn't get these Democrats canned -- being Democrats did. I know it's more fun to have a narrative wherein any politician who supported a particular policy gets "eviscerated" or something, but come on -- look at all the facts. For one thing, not a single one of the Republicans who voted for cap and trade (and yes, there were eight of them) lost their races. In fact, Time devoted an entire article to the subject, debunking the idea that Dems lost because of support for cap and trade. Here's an excerpt:
But how big a factor was cap-and-trade on election night? In reality, not all that much. It's worth noting that no Republican who voted in favor of cap-and-trade lost their reelection battles last night.... Even in the midst of a Republican tsunami, a few Democrats who supported a carbon cap still managed close victories, including Brad Miller of North Carolina and John Yarmuth of Kentucky--two conservative leaning states.Furthermore, an election night Greenberg poll of 83 districts found that "Energy Vote Did Not Contribute to Democratic Defeat" (pdf).
So the issue is clearly more complicated than Politico's dumbed-down narrative would have you think. Surely, support for cap and trade probably didn't sit well with plenty of right-leaning voters, and the issue of energy policy certainly played a role in the campaigns this year. But there were a lot of issues swirling around that voters feel strongly about -- and as we've seen, most often unfortunately, energy reform is not often at the forefront. Chances are that more often than not, that vote for cap and trade was not a core determinant of whether a candidate succeeded or failed.
But that sort of analysis is much less fun -- and it doesn't give you the chance to bandy about as many violent metaphors.