Photo via the AP, by Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Republicans on the Anti-Energy Reform Warpath for 2010
This unfortunate headline caught my eye in today's GreenWire: Political Fallout of Vote for Climate Bill Tested in House Race in N.M. Turns out a well known Republican politician is preparing to try to take his seat back in the House of Reps--by focusing squarely on the fact that his opponent, Democratic incumbent Harry Teague voted for the climate bill. As per usual, he's falsely casting the bill as nothing but a giant tax. The worrisome thing is that this tactic appears to be spreading across the country. When I was home visiting my parents over the Summer--just some time after the climate bill had narrowly passed the House--I noticed a slew of ad materials distributed in mailboxes by the district's Republican representative proclaiming the climate bill a 'Cap and Tax'. He was going to be holding a town hall meeting to "explain" the bill to anyone who wished to attend. It was clear that he was already making energy legislation to be a wedge issue in the tax-loathing, wealthy, Republican dominated district in California.
The Post-Climate Bill Battle
In the district in New Mexico, the Democratic Rep who's up for reelection next year is already having to defend his vote, due to strong accusations that he "put the liberal agenda of Nancy Pelosi before the people of New Mexico" and endorsed a huge tax in a time of economic woe. According to Greenwire:
With the election about a year away and the fate of the climate bill still up in the air, it is hard to predict exactly which party would benefit the most politically from action on the legislation. But at least for now the vote has had the exact impact that many Republicans had hoped, with a moderate Democrat having to repeatedly defend his vote and observers speculating that it may become a permanent drag on his re-election hopes.
Republicans Attacking Clean Energy Reform
The Republican party is doing a fine job of spreading doubt about the bill, by continuing to repeat disproved, blatantly untrue statistics about how the bill will cost families exorbitant amounts of money. They're taking advantage of a complex concept like cap and trade by appearing to 'explain' it to those who don't understand what it is (which is still the majority of Americans) through their own tainted prism.
The message they're spreading about cap and trade--"well, it's really just a big tax on American families"--is a lot easier to sell than "a complex emissions trading system where a cap is placed on the amount of carbon a company can emit and . . ." Not exactly a catchy slogan.
Can Dems Defend?
Which is why Democrats, if they hope to emerge from criticism about their votes for clean energy legislation, must start doing some messaging of their own. Thankfully, they won't have to distort figures to do it. They've got to focus on how this bill can stimulate job growth in the clean energy sector, how it will help save Americans money in the long run, wean us from foreign oil, and stimulate American innovation once again. All of which it can. Or they could mention how the economic benefits of the climate bill outweigh the costs 9 to 1. Stuff like that.
We can listen to the Republican's line of messaging and cling to coal and oil while the rest of the world eats our lunch on renewable energy technology--or we can start getting bold about clean energy reform and bolster our economy in the process. It's a simple choice.