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The Power of Your Vote

The other day I brought my son to a lesson with his 28-year-old, very hip guitar teacher. The teacher knows that my job is related to advocacy and politics so after the lesson, he asked in all earnestness, “Is voting really worth it?”  He said he wasn’t if sure his vote would count or if the money poured into elections already determined the outcome.  “Congress is so screwed up right now”, he noted and “those with money are the only ones with power.”

Too many eligible voters are disenfranchised.  What they don’t realize is that the only way to even the playing field with Koch Brothers type of money is voters.  If everyone voted – or even a super majority voted – the power of corporate money would be reduced, as those elected would be held more directly accountable by a wide swath of their constituents.

So I told him that every vote matters, especially this year when many races will be nail-bitingly close. I said even though polluters and their allies spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to win the White House in 2012, they lost because voters didn’t agree with them. And I urged him to seize this opportunity to make his voice heard.

I think I persuaded him, but judging by the numbers, my son’s guitar teacher is not alone in his ambivalence. America ranks 120th among nations for voter turnout. About 66.5 percent of eligible US voters cast their ballots, compared to 88.5 percent in Guyana, 80.4 percent in Belize, and 70.8 percent in Uganda.

Midterm elections are notorious for attracting even fewer voters. Less than half of North Carolina’s registered voters, for instance, are expected to participate in next week’s election. People of color and young voters aren’t likely to turn out in full force. Though nonwhite North Carolinians make up 26 percent of eligible voters, they accounted for only 22 percent of those who voted in 2010.

Researchers have also noticed a class divide in voting patterns. Roughly 98 percent of the wealthiest 1 percent of voters cast ballots in 2008. Yet among people with household incomes between $30,000 and $39,000, only about 62 percent did.

I find these numbers deeply troubling, because they reveal how many people are renouncing one of the most effective ways to shape the direction of our nation.

Every vote counts. And every vote is a potent way to tell lawmakers what you want. Politics may be messy, Washington may seem distance, and change may take a long time, but voting really can improve daily life. Researchers who studied election results for more than 30 years found that “where the poor exercise their voice more in the voting booth relative to higher income groups, inequality is lower.”

We can help decide the kind of country we live in. But we have to raise our voices to do it.

The Koch brothers have aired more than 43,900 TV ads from January 1-August 31st this year.  The Koch network will reportedly spend at least $290 million in this midterm election backing candidates who deny climate change and make life easier for polluters. This isn’t what the majority of voters want. A survey conducted for ABC/Washington Post found that 7 in 10 Americans view climate change as a serious problem and support federal action to reduce the pollution that causes it. The polluter friendly candidates ignore what the majority wants.

The Koch’s tidal wave of money can corrupt our democracy, but we must not abet it with our silence. We must go the polls and elect leaders who will protect the air we breathe and build a more sustainable future for our children.

Don’t miss this opportunity to be heard. Cast your vote and tell your friends and family to do the same. Because the most effective weapon against big money in politics is the ballot.

 

Running Clean Draws Support from Swing Voters

With 48 hours to go before the midterm elections, you’re probably a bit tired of seeing competing poll results. Head-to-head matchups between candidates have varied this entire election cycle, but one item we’ve been tracking has remained consistent—voters want action on climate change.

In February, the NRDC Action Fund released our first polling of the 2014 cycle. It was conducted in 11 battleground states and showed that voters across the political spectrum were ready for the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce dangerous carbon pollution. Now, eight months later, we released another poll, this time in five swing states that produced nearly the exact same results.

The poll found that:

  • Climate and energy are playing a role in the public discourse in these states’ senate races: nearly 40 percent of voters have heard about candidate positions on climate change, and majorities have heard their views on energy.
  • Republican candidates’ extreme positions are costing them support among key blocs of swing voters. By margins of 20 to 22 percentage points, independents, women and younger voters describe themselves as less likely to vote for their Republican candidate after learning of his or her views on energy, the environment and climate change.
  • Pro-climate positions are highly popular with voters. Sixty-eight percent of voters feel more favorably toward candidates who support clean energy and 54 percent have a more favorable impression of candidates who believe the government should take action on climate change.

Consistency is key. It clearly shows that even after polluters have spent millions of dollars to defeat candidates who are running clean, they have been unable to change voter’s attitudes.

No matter who comes out victorious on election night, all the winners would be wise to remember that voters want those heading to Congress to put in place policies that ensure cleaner air and less carbon pollution. It’s also a good reminder for all the would-be presidential candidates, that voters will not elect a climate denier to the White House in 2016.

A presentation of the results is available here: http://bit.ly/100D1ce

 

Brownley Running Clean and Green on California Coast

Her name may have “brown” in it, but Julia Brownley’s record is pure green. Brownley is the incumbent representing California’s 26th district in the US House of Representatives. As a member of Congress and previously as a member of the California state assembly, Brownley has established a long track record of Running Clean, voting clean and leading the charge on action to protect the environment.

Julia Brownley

(Click to play video)

From her perch as a member of both the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC) and the Safe Climate Caucus, Representative Brownley has established herself as one of the leaders in Congress when it comes to taking action to address climate change. Brownley supports comprehensive action on climate change and has said:

For our economic security and our environmental security and the future of our country, I believe we must address climate change by investing in innovation regarding conservation, renewable energies of the future, and reducing the levels of pollution released by human activity.

Brownley has earned a 93 percent score from the League of Conservation Voters and previously earned a 99 percent score from California LCV for her votes in the state assembly.

Julia Brownly tweet

In contrast to Brownley’s consistent and strong support, her opponent, Jeff Gorell, has a mixed record. We’ll give credit where due: Gorell is not a climate denier. He believes that “human activity affects climate change” and has stated support for “incentives to expand the use of clean energy technologies”. However, Gorell’s bad votes outweigh his good ones. He’s earned a disappointing score of just 26 percent from CLCV for his votes in the state legislature, where he has taken anti-environment votes on fracking, smart growth, cleaning up diesel vehicles, and to undermine the environmental review process for a large solar project. Gorell misunderstand’s the nature of EPA’s Clean Power Plan, calling it a “Draconian cap-and-trade law” and erroneously claiming that it will “put hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work”. He needs to do his homework because the Clean Power Plan gives states flexibility to reduce carbon pollution from power plants in their state and could actually create clean energy jobs.  Brownley gets this and had been a consistent advocate for clean air.

For Ventura County voters looking to protect their coastal community from the effects of climate change, it’s clear that Brown(ley) is the green choice. She’s running clean.

Doug Ose Was Dirty Then, Dirty Now; Bera is Running Clean (CA-07)

The campaign to represent California’s 7th House District is a clear contest between old and new. The incumbent is a freshman who is looking ahead to innovative, clean energy sources of the future. The challenger is a former congressman from a previous generation whose views on climate change and fossil energy are almost as old as the fuels themselves.

The incumbent, Dr. Ami Bera, is a physician by training. With his background in science, he understands the facts about climate change. Bera strongly supports government action to address the climate challenge. Bera has said that “Creating a clean energy future would generate millions of jobs, help our economy, and improve our lives. We can lead the way if we recognize the intersection of environmental sustainability, economic growth, national security and public health.”

Bera’s votes echo his rhetoric. He has earned a 93 percent score from the League of Conservation Voters for his first term in office. He consistently voted in favor of climate action, against taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil, and in favor of protecting bedrock environmental laws like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Bera has also sponsored legislation to promote public-private partnerships to increase energy efficiency.

In contrast to Bera’s forward-looking approach, Doug Ose is stuck in the past. As a congressman from 1999 to 2005, Ose was already on the wrong side of history with his support for dirty energy and his votes against environmental protection. During his three congressional terms, Ose earned a pitiful 12 percent lifetime LCV score. He voted to increase offshore and Arctic drilling and opposed legislation to reduce smog pollution and increase energy efficiency and vehicle fuel economy.

Today his positions are even harder to understand as the climate science has strengthened and the need to act has grown more urgent. Ose is a #DirtyDenier$ who has said of climate change, “I am skeptical because of the science being sketchy.” He opposes government action to address the problem. Those who follow this blog regularly won’t be surprised to learn that Ose has received more than $50,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry over the course of his career.

Voters in California’s 7th district are looking ahead to a bright, clean energy future. Only Dr. Ami Bera is Running Clean to lead them there.

 

Polluters Try to Make Something Out of Nothing

Climate change polluters don’t have a lot to work with this election season. Since the vast majority of American voters have repeatedly said they support limiting the carbon pollution from power plants, fossil fuel companies and their allies are left trying to make even the weakest numbers sound good.

This week the Partnership for a Better Energy Future—a mining, manufacturing, and agricultural coalition that includes frequent climate deniers like the US Chamber of Commerce—released a survey claiming that 47 percent of voters in oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to reduce carbon pollution.

As if less-than-a-half was something to trumpet.

These results stand in sharp contrast to nearly every independent poll conducted this year.

  • An ABC/Washington Post survey found that 7 in 10 Americans view climate change as a serious problem and support federal action to reduce greenhouse gases.
  • A poll conducted for NBC News/The Wall Street Journal reported that two-thirds of American residents support the EPA’s plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.
  • A Bloomberg News poll even found that 62 percent of Americans were willing to pay more for energy if it mean reducing carbon pollution.
  • And a survey done by Yale University said voters are three times more likely to vote against a candidate who opposes government action to address climate change.

NRDC Action Fund got similar results when we commissioned Harstad Strategic Research to poll voters in 11 swing states with close Senate races, including Georgia, Louisiana, and Arkansas. More than two-thirds of those surveyed said the EPA should limit carbon pollution from power plants. That includes 53 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents and 87 percent of Democrats.

Most Americans recognize that cleaning up dangerous pollution is good for their families and the economy. But that doesn’t stop dirty industries from trying to hold on to their loopholes and giveaways.

The so-called Partnership for a Better Energy Future paid to poll voters in purple states—many of them coal-heavy—and even then, they couldn’t muster a majority. It’s like a punch line. They even tried to stack the deck by posing the kind of technical questions that tend to make respondents more inclined to say no, yet they had little to show for it.

In Iowa, for instance, the survey claimed that 45 percent of Iowa residents were less likely to vote for a candidate who supports the EPA’s plan to reduce carbon pollution. Yet a recent survey from lowa Interfaith Power & Light, meanwhile, found that 75 percent of Iowans were more likely to support a candidate who promotes clean renewable energy. Iowa, after all, gets 27 percent of its energy from wind power and has more than 43,000 Iowans working in the clean economy.

The EPA’s plan to reduce carbon pollution will bring the benefits of clean energy—including good-paying jobs, safer air, and greater climate stability—to more communities. That’s why so many Americans support it and that’s why smart candidates are running on clean energy and climate action. Even the polluters’ own polling shows that the numbers favor climate champions.