The issue of climate change has emerged in nearly every Senate race this election season. Candidates are discussing it, debate moderators are asking about it, and journalists are covering it. Why? Because the vast majority of voters say they are concerned about climate change and want leaders to address it.
That’s good news for lawmakers like Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) and Representative Gary Peters (D-MI) who support expanding clean energy and other solutions to reduce global warming pollution.
But it is daunting for the entire slate of Republican candidates who deny the existence of climate change or feign ignorance about climate science. Their polluter friends and wealthy donors don’t want America to tackle this challenge.
The dirty deniers may have money in their coffers. But the climate champions have people on their side. This reality is giving rise to a new maxim: If a lot of people vote, the Koch brothers lose—and Americans win cleaner air and a more stable climate.
Political operatives on both sides have grasped what this means for voter turnout.
In Alaska, for instance, Democratic Party volunteers are boarding bush planes and crossing mountain ranges to encourage more people to vote for Senator Mark Begich. Their outreach is part of a broader Democratic push to win 10 battleground states through one of the most concerted get-out-the-vote efforts on record.
Tea Party supporters, meanwhile, are taking a decidedly different approach.
In North Carolina, the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity has been caught distributing hundreds of thousands of voter registration forms that were invalid and erroneous and would actually get in the way of people casting a ballot.
The group has been tied to similar voter suppression efforts in the past few years in Wisconsin, Virginia, and West Virginia. As the New Republic points out, these efforts go hand-in-hand with new voter identification laws that make it even harder for people to cast a ballot in several states.
Americans for Prosperity is entitled to oppose climate action. After all, disagreeing about how to tackle major issues is part of the democratic process. But interfering with citizens’ ability to vote is not. If the Tea Party want to win, they have to mobilize more people to support their candidates.
That isn’t always easy for them, as the 2012 election demonstrated. Polluters and their allies spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect pro-polluter, anti-safeguard candidates, yet nearly all their candidates lost.
One of Karl Rove’s Super PACs spent almost $105 million to support or defeat various candidates but was successful in less than 2 percent of its races. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, known for its climate denial and fossil-fuel friendly policies, spent more than $32 million in campaigns but achieved less than 7 percent of its desired outcomes.
Meanwhile, voters favored clean energy and climate champions up and down the ticket. Something similar could happen this year. If people who care about climate change show up—the majority of voters—than the candidates who want to build a safer, more sustainable future will win.