How will climate play in the general election?
This CQ article is disturbing for two reasons.
One, it confirms my worst fears about a McCain candidacy:
Today, McCain’s position would be relatively close to that of the Democratic nominee in a general election.
Only on the most superficial level, but then, I guess that’s the level we play on during campaigns.
… if Republicans nominate a cap-and-trade proponent for president — McCain or possibly Huckabee — the GOP side could play up the issue in an attempt to take votes away from the Democrat.
"My guess is that Senator McCain will continue talking about it even though there won’t be much contention between him and the Democratic candidate, largely because it will show the kind of independent leader he wants to be — and that will probably lead the Democratic leader to continue talking about it as well," said Manik Roy, director of congressional affairs for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
This seems exactly wrong to me. If McCain’s talking about it, and the Dem’s talking about it, and they’re both talking about it in the same way, then the media won’t talk about it, and if the media doesn’t talk about it, nobody will hear about it. That’s what we learned in the 2000 race. On issues where the difference between the candidates is (perceived to be) small, the issue fades to background noise. Only a fight attracts media attention. That means, if the Dem wants climate change to be an out-front issue (which frankly I doubt), they’ll attack McCain on it, not go around nodding in agreement.
"I don’t think there’s a person in this country that votes on this subject," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.
Norquist said support for a carbon emissions cap will evaporate once the public understands the cost.
Now, ThinkProgress takes issue with this, citing polls that show widespread support for acting to address climate change, even capping carbon.
It pains me to say so, but I think Norquist is closer to the truth. I’m sure people will tell pollsters they care about climate change and want to do something about it. If a pollster asked me, "would you support an initiative to bring ponies to all third-world children?" I’m sure I’d say yes.
The important fact here is that the average voter doesn’t know a thing about climate policy. Nothing. They worry about climate change in the abstract, but they have no sense of the real costs and benefits involved. They are a blank slate. What they do have is a whole passel of economic anxiety and a deep aversion to seeing their bills go up. It won’t take much for the right to destroy support for carbon legislation. And I don’t see progressives or any of the Dem candidates close to ready to fight back effectively.
Depressing, but that’s how I see it, for the moment anyway.