How Scott Brown’s victory can help get climate legislation over the finish line
So was that it? With the stunning Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts, have we already reached the end of the Obama era? After all — play dramatic cord — the Democrats no longer have 60 votes!
I say good riddance. Sure, if you’re a climate-movement activist, it’s not hard to be bummed, big time, by Brown’s victory. Here’s a guy that went from a supporter of the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — “Reducing carbon dioxide emissions in Massachusetts has long been a priority of mine” — to Limbaugh-lite — “I think the globe is always heating and cooling. … It’s a natural way of ebb and flow.” Mitt Romney, Scott Brown — what is it about these Massachusetts Republicans? Could it be that they are actually … politicians?!
Well, yes. As it turns out, most politicians do actually change with the electoral tides. And this time, the regular ebb and flow of Massachussets voter sentiment was swamped by the real emotions of these tough, tough times: There’s a tsunami of voter anger out there about jobs, Wall Street, and political business as usual. Scott Brown needed to only slightly alter his course to catch this wave.
So how can this anger actually help rally the country in support of climate legislation? Think of the Brown mandate not as the triumph of the Tea-Baggers, but as a 2010 call for change on top of 2008’s still-very-real call for Obama-fired change. For when Jesse Jackson and the rest of the nation shed joyful tears as we watched Obama’s victory speech 14 months ago, we weren’t celebrating the fact that Democrats would have 60 votes in the Senate. Far from it — we were rejoicing in the idea that America was poised to help “build the world anew.”
Guess what? It hasn’t happened yet, and as we saw yesterday from all parts of Massachusetts, voters are angry (or indifferent — I’m sure that polls will show that the core Democratic base was simply not inspired by this race).
And that fact, I think, actually augurs well for climate-change legislation. For here, in a nutshell, is what voters are angry about:
- The economy has not recovered
- Wall Street is still having its way
- The Democratic leadership is out of touch
As quoted it today’s New York Times, here’s 73-year-old Marlene Connolly, a lifelong Democrat who voted Republican for the first time. “I’m hoping that it gives a message to the country. … If Massachusetts puts Brown in, it’s a message of ‘that’s enough.’ Let’s stop the giveaways and let’s get jobs going.”
Even more than the now-teetering health-care bill, the current global-warming legislative strategy — Waxman/Markey/Boxer/Kerry/Graham/Lieberman — is about giveways, literally. In order to get — play that same dramatic chord again — the 60th vote, thinking to date has been to give away revenues generated by capping greenhouse-gas emissions to beltway powers-that-be: electrical utilities, labor, industry, coal, and — in part because the whole thing rests on a complex trading scheme — Wall Street. Billions of dollars per month into the hands of clients of K Street, Wall Street, and Don Blankenship’s coal-paved Easy Street. Want to know just how anti-consumer the current formulation is? Check out the good work of Tyson Slocum and his colleagues at Public Citizen.
I have the greatest respect for green leaders and climate-friendly politicians of all kinds (it is significant that the current bill is being shaped by a Democrat, a Republican, and an Independent). For over a decade, they have worked so hard to get us where we are: a global-warming bill passed last summer in the House and one had a good chance of passing in the Senate — well, maybe until about 9:00 p.m. last night. We owe hard-working staffers who have helped get us this far the greatest thanks and respect. And moreover, we will need their wisdom and wherewithal to get us to the next level.
But ultimately, these leaders cannot outfox the times. And these times do call for something new, an approach that is anti-giveaway and pro-pocketbook, an approach that is not built for special interests and Wall Street but rather built for Main Street.
And we’ve got it in the CLEAR Act. If there was ever a piece of legislation that celebrates simplicity and transparency while promoting the fortunes of the average American household, this is it. It’s simple to explain. Senator-elect Brown, check this out:
- Put a cap on sources of global warming pollution as they are introduced into the economy
- Give 75 percent of revenues generated from that cap to Americans with a Social Security number, equally, a few hundred bucks a year to every kid and adult alike
- Invest the remaining 25 percent in clean-energy and sequestration stuff that we need — and that will help us take on the Chinese and others in the job-creating green-arms race
Pretty simple, huh? Pretty cool.
Survey after survey — even after all of the Climate Cover-Up pushback — shows that Americans do want to fight global warming and they do believe in the prospects for green jobs and clean energy. But hard as it is for us climate junkies to admit it, something trumps even this: the desire for straight-shooting from our leaders, the desire for integrity. And this is what I and so many others see in the Cantwell-Collins CLEAR Act (see this good recent analysis from Michael Livermore): a built-in integrity that has a real chance to connect with restless, even angry, voters — and to give each family of four, on average, about $1100 per year.
In the quest for the 60th health-care vote, the Obama revolution did not arrive. Nor will it arrive, for better or worse, in the quest for a 60th cap-and-trade vote. But perhaps, in the words of my favorite kick-ass tune, the revolution starts now — in a simple, clear piece of legislation that favors Main Street over Wall Street and special interests, that is pro-jobs and pro-family, not pro-lobbyist.
What do you think, all you good climate activists in Massachusetts — ready to try all of this on Scott Brown?