A word to beltway pundits and the chattering classes: It must have been fun to breathlessly attempt to turn Solyndra into a scandal, but Americans still aren't buying it.
Politico, the king of horse-race political punditry, has a three-page story today about how amazingly bold Obama must be to continue pushing for clean energy-friendly policies after *gasp* one solar company went belly up and Republicans yelled about it a lot. It features passage after passage like this:
"several Republicans said they marvel at Obama’s ability to simply avoid mentioning Solyndra. “The guy’s got a lot of chutzpah,” said GOP energy strategist Michael McKenna. “It’s almost like he hasn’t been president for three years.”
It’s a risky move for Obama given how Solyndra tarnished his energy brand with a series of embarrassing emails showing aides fretting over the political implications of the company’s bankruptcy, as well as images of the FBI raiding its corporate headquarters. Republicans show no signs of letting the controversy die out, either in Congress or on the campaign trail.
But the thing is, it really doesn't take much "chutzpah" to not discuss something that most people simply don't care about. Polls (and conservative ones at that!) have shown that most people understand exactly what happened with Solyndra—that the government made a loan, it turned out to be a bad bet, and the company went under. Which sucks. But since people aren't idiots, they understand that that's how the world works. Not every investment will pan out, and it's certainly no reason to stop investing in what will be one of the most important industries of tomorrow. And yes, polls reflect that precise sentiment is widespread, too.
Which is why it's not "risky" for Obama to keep pushing for clean energy—au contraire, in fact. Government support for clean energy is still incredibly popular, and the Solyndra debacle has impacted only those hard-nosed Republicans news junkies who watch Fox News and read Politico all day. There's nothing "risky" about ignoring, for a moment, the conventional wisdom of the insular, conservative-leaning political pundit class. After all, only within that community's walls does Solyndra seem like a big deal, capable of creating a "risk", because that's the only place where anyone cares about it.
To those not mired in partisan muckraking, clean energy still seems awfully important. And that's why I agree with David Roberts—if Democrats can organize effectively in support of renewable energy, they have a powerful winning issue on their hands. There's really no way to obscure it: Americans want clean energy. And the vast majority of them don't give a shit about Solyndra.