Tomorrow is election day. Get yourself to a polling booth.
In Washington, the buzz right now is that Democrats will win a slight majority in the House and fall slightly short of a majority in the Senate.
I don’t have a crystal ball, but whatever the outcome, it now looks possible that a number of freshmen in next year’s Congress will have been elected, in part, on a platform of energy independence/alternative energy. Of course, elevating a political issue and solving a problem are different matters. There are many ways to imagine best intentions turning into pork-laden boondoggles (read: more ethanol subsidies). But first you have to get people to pay attention — and to believe a different future is possible. That seems to be happening this election cycle.
Energy-themed ads are ubiquitous in the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest, the Deep South. “What if the next big oil field … was a soybean field here in Tennessee?” Harold Ford asks, gesturing to an open field. “For too long, all the tax breaks have gone to Big Oil, when this is our ticket to energy freedom.”
Even candidates who don’t need to run ads are running energy ads. Hillary Clinton, a Senate shoo-in, is buying airtime to pitch energy. So is Kinky Friedman, hardly favored to become Texas’ next governor:
In Michigan, where suggesting Detroit budge has long been taboo, viewers are watching Jennifer Granholm make this pitch for reelection:
“Michigan put America on wheels, and today Jennifer Granholm is leading the way for Michigan to be the state that makes those wheels run on alternative fuels.”
How will voters react? According to a poll by Democracy Corps, James Carville’s and Stan Greenberg’s policy shop, voters’ top national security concern [PDF] is “reducing dependence on foreign oil,” which tops Iraq by 17 points, and fighting terrorism by 16 points. (Personally, I’m dubious that energy independence trumps Iraq, but clearly both are important, and related.)
“In the past, it’s been a real frustration to get enough candidates to talk about what we want to talk about,” says Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, when I dropped by his Washington offices on Friday. “But this year, it’s different.”