As he has shifted into campaign mode, one of Obama’s most high-profile rhetorical gambits has been to flagrantly steal the GOP’s favorite slogan on energy: “all of the above.” He risked such open public theft (which has left Republicans spluttering) for a reason — it works. It’s what America wants. Gallup offers yet more proof:
As you can see, every single energy proposal gets majority support (even nuclear power, barely). On energy, Americans want all of the above. Literally.
Now, it’s worth noting that the Democratic agenda on energy actually fits the description far better than the Republican agenda does. Obama has supported oil and gas along with efficiency and clean energy. The GOP supports fossil fuels unreservedly, but fights tooth and nail against efficiency and clean energy measures. But we should be under no illusion that the facts are driving perceptions here.
Indeed, the poll results also make clear that there is a deep, persistent partisan divide on energy policy. The divide is largest on more public land for oil exploration (the right wants it) and more support for solar and wind (the left wants it). But overall the partisan gap remains remarkably steady across energy issues, at about 30-35.
It seems clean energy has become polarized like everything else. Those who were dispirited by the polarization of climate change and thought they might find refuge in clean energy should face matters squarely: nothing is post-partisan any more. Even bike trails and buses are partisan hot potatoes now.
Contra the large class of professional hippie-scolders, this isn’t because lefties did or said something wrong on climate change. Or on clean energy. Or on smart growth. All they did is speak up about those things and try to solve those problems. That was enough to earn the enmity and opposition of the conservative movement.
Sooner or later, self-styled centrists are going to have to come to terms with the fact that there is no center remaining in American politics. There’s the American left, which encompasses the full spectrum of opinion seen in other advanced democracies, and there’s the American conservative movement, which has gone nuts. Its kneejerk oppositionalism, nationalism, revanchism, irrationalism, and classism have no analogue in any other developed democracy. It is uniquely American, a tribal last gasp driven by demographics, not principles or facts. There’s no reason it should be any different on energy.