Last night I wrote about Lieberman’s loss, the growing split between interest-group-based "checklist liberalism" and progressive movement-building, and the implications of both for environmentalists.
Today, Garance Franke-Ruta adds some thoughts:
I don’t think it’s the difference between single issue groups and broadly liberal partisans that [Noam Scheiber] sketches out — it’s the difference between issues that have been kicking around for decades which fit into predictable narratives, and where progress consists in defense and maintenance, and issues that are still seeing the contours of the debate around them defined. Democratic-leaning interest groups are, by and large, concerned with upkeep — maintaining abortion rights, defending labor laws, and so on. Netroots activist, by contrast, are more concerned with issues that are new and unsettled: the war in Iraq, bankruptcy laws, etc.
I guess one of the things I was fumblingly trying to say last night is that environmentalism is changing from the former to the latter. For the past two decades, it’s been a D.C.-ensconced "defense and maintenance" issue, with predictable concerns and certain criteria for being mollified (Lieberman was an expert at mollifying these kinds of groups). This is precisely what it was blasted for in "The Death of Environmentalism."
But lately, interest in green issues has blossomed, environmental problems like global warming and biodiversity loss have become widely acknowledged crises, strange cross-cultural coalitions have formed, and environmentalism has moved rather abruptly into the "new and unsettled" category.
The question is whether the mainstream environmental movement, and long-time enviros, can change and adapt to the new landscape.