Hobby Lobby, Climate Change, and the GOP’s Women Problem

More than 200 women brought their children to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to clean up the air pollution that causes climate change. The event was called a “Play-in for Climate Action”—you can’t expect all those kids to stay still for a traditional “sit-in”—and included a press conference with Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Around the same time, GOP lawmakers in the House were busy drafting a bill that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from doing the very thing those mothers want: clean up carbon pollution from power plants so their children have a better future.

Welcome to the latest battle in the Tea Party’s war on women. This conflict isn’t getting as much attention as the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, but it could play a significant role in who wins and loses the midterm elections.

Republican and Democratic candidates have already worked the Hobby Lobby case into stump speeches, fundraising appeals, and attack ads. Yet few people will vote on the Hobby Lobby ruling alone. Most voters cast ballots based on a cluster of issues that matter most to them.

One negative story about a Tea Party position that hurts women would not turn the midterm tide. But these days, the stories are mounting. GOP candidates are alienating women voters on a host of issues, from reproductive health to equal pay to climate change.

When did climate change become a women’s issue? When women made it clear they care deeply about it. Women in battleground states understand (by a margin of 72 percent to 19 percent) that we have a moral obligation to future generations to make the air safer to breathe and the climate more stable. Climate change increases smog and contributes to asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. If we don’t act now, the next generation will pay a steep price, and most women want children to inherit a brighter future, not one plagued by unchecked climate hazards.

And yet nearly every single Republican candidate running for office in the past few years—from the presidential level on down—has ignored, denied, or belittled the threat of climate change.  Right now, GOP leaders are attacking the EPA’s new “Clean Power Plan.” This plan would unleash wind and solar power, boost energy and cost savings, and finally hold power plants accountable for the enormous amounts of carbon pollution they spew into our air.

Blocking this kind of climate action isn’t just bad policy; it’s bad politics.

Women are one of the emerging voting blocs that will matter most in this election, along with Latinos and young people. Many female voters are likely to view Tea Party stance on climate change as yet another position that turns them off.

Republicans can’t afford that. In the 2012 presidential race, women favored the Democratic ticket by 11 percentage points.  Unmarried women voted for President Obama over Governor Romney by 67 percent. Those single women, it turns out, could be the soccer moms of this election—top Democratic strategists are already trying to appeal to them.

Some Republicans may be listening to what women want. Over the past few months, GOP leaders have hedged their climate bets; they have moved from outright denial to modest demurral. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Governor Rick Scott (R-FL), and Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio (R-FL) have all said they don’t have the scientific background to assess the risks of climate change. This hardly constitutes a bold approach to a matter of national security, but it does suggest some Republicans realize that climate denunciation is a losing position.

Candidates who stand for climate action, meanwhile, can cast themselves as champions of clean air, public health, good jobs, and a brighter future for our children—a set of issues that appeal to many women voters.

 

 

Note to Coal Friendly Democrats: Opposing Carbon Limits Won’t Win You Any Friends

If you only read the newspaper headlines the last two days, you would think the sky is falling because a few Democrats in coal states said they opposed carbon pollution standards.

But like Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story.

Leaders from across the nation have heralded the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed limits on carbon pollution from power plants. Lawmakers, business executives, doctors, Latino organizations, and environmental groups welcome this breakthrough in the effort to protect public health and fight climate change.

More typical responses included Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) who said he supports the EPA’s carbon limits because “climate change is threatening Colorado’s special way of life.” And previously Representative Gary Peters (D-MI), challenged his opponent Terri Lynn Land for failing to recognize how climate change is threatening the Great Lakes.

It was only a small group of Democratic candidates for Congress who didn’t get the memo. Sadly, those few outweighed the many in the news coverage.

For example, Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) called the safeguards “disastrous.” And Alison Lundergan Grimes, running for Senate against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “When I am in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the President’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority.”

But this midterm election was never about West Virginia and Kentucky. These Democrats were never on the side of President Obama’s climate action plan. And these states will not make or break the ultimate control of the Senate next year. The swing states where control will be decided, like New Hampshire, Michigan, Iowa and Colorado, have Democratic candidates who support reducing carbon pollution.

Ultimately candidates who run away from public health and climate protections will find themselves isolated from their own voters. And it will make the Senate more vulnerable to Republican takeover.

Clean air and climate champions have the advantage now.

More than two-thirds of voters in 11 battleground states say the EPA should limit carbon pollution from power plants, according to a March poll done by Harstad Strategic Research for the NRDC Action Fund.

This week yet another poll confirmed the depth of support. A Washington Post-ABC News survey found that 70 percent of Americans want the federal government to limit climate change pollution from power plants, including 57 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, and 79 percent of Democrats. The poll asked voters if they would support carbon limits even if electricity costs rise—NRDC analysis shows people’s monthly bills will likely go down—and 51 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Independents, and 71 percent of Democrats said yes.

This majority support held firm even in coal-heavy states, and yet some Democrats running in these places are still trying to distance themselves from carbon limits. Perhaps they think the coal industry will miraculously embrace them. Or at least stop spending millions of dollars to attack them. But the truth is: the coal industry will never anoint them. The industry has long-since picked its pet candidates, and it won’t switch affections just because someone says a few coal-friendly comments on carbon limits.

Some candidates have noticed the ground shifted in the past few years. Opponents will continue to make the claim that climate action spells trouble at the ballot box. But as extreme weather began destroying people’s homes and livelihoods, voters started to care about climate change.

In 2008, young voters people helped carry President Obama to victory, in part because of his commitment to tackling the climate crisis. In 2012, the Koch brothers and their allies spent more than $270 million in TV ads in the last two months of the campaign alone, yet clean energy and climate candidates won up and down the ticket. The Koch brothers had a 5 percent win rate last cycle, while the environmental community had an almost 100 percent win rate. For an industry highly focused on its return on investment, they don’t have much to show their investors when it comes to the electoral politics of climate change. The big money is not always the smarter money.

This kind of support for climate action can help Democrats carve a path to victory and a Senate majority. But candidates who speak for the coal industry may find themselves on a lonely road.

 

 

It’s a Fact.

I just finished watching State of the Union.  President Obama gave his laundry list to Congress and then reminded lawmakers that if they can’t get their act together, he will move forward without them to make progress.

If you are an environmentalist who watched the speech, you undoubtedly found things you liked and disliked, but we can all embrace the President’s direct aim at climate deniers.

Check out his language from the 2010 State of the Union:

“I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.”

Tonight’s statement was much more direct:

“Climate change is a fact.”

We couldn’t agree more. Now is the time for candidates to follow President Obama’s lead by being direct in our need to address climate change.

Extensive polling shows voters all across America are ready to act on climate by reducing carbon pollution. And candidates who chose to “run clean” in 2012 not only won, but laid out a roadmap for why it’s not just good policy, but good politics.

We have a moral obligation to act so we can leave the world a better place for our children and our children’s children.

The debate is over.

“And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

President Obama, 2014 State of the Union Address

 

Is LePage Ready to Run Clean?

Paul LePage, the governor of Maine, doesn’t seem to get it when it comes to climate change. Despite Maine voters’ clear support for reducing carbon pollution and acting to address climate change, LePage reliably blocks action and denies the gravity of the climate challenge.

LePage’s latest dumbfounding bit of denial was to focus on what he believes is the positive side of climate change. Speaking at a conference, he said,

“Everybody looks at the negative effects of global warming, but with the ice melting, the Northern Passage has opened up. So maybe, instead of being at the end of the pipeline, we’re now at the beginning of a new pipeline.”

While I am certainly a glass-half-full person, climate change is hardly an appropriate place for a nonchalant focus on one person’s perception of a silver lining. In Maine, warmer waters, ocean acidification and extreme weather are threatening clam populations and sea birds. Sea level rise and extreme weather events threaten the state’s coastline. LePage’s certainty on the upside of global warming is also interesting considering his previous comments that climate change is a “hoax” and a “scam” with the science unsettled. If the impacts of a warming world are so apparent in one instance, why not in the others?

I can only hope that LePage’s clumsy climate comments are a sign that he is joining the vast majority of Americans in accepting the truth of climate change science. Certainly many in his own political party, including 61% of non-Tea Party Republicans, accept the science. Perhaps LePage’s shift from denier to opportunist is a sign that he’s understanding his constituents’ views better. After all, polling conducted for the NRDC Action Fund found that 83% of Mainers wanted a reduction in industrial carbon pollution.

We will soon have a chance to see what Mainers think of LePage’s views (and actions) when it comes to addressing climate change and promoting (or obstructing) clean energy. LePage is up for reelection in November 2014 and will face off against Rep. Mike Michaud, a strong supporter of clean energy and climate action. In contrast to his opponent, Michaud says “Any potential benefit of allowing climate change to continue unaddressed is far outweighed by the danger of our failure to act.”

Michaud’s gotten the message that running clean works. Will LePage?

 

“Braley Works for Iowa” on Clean Energy

“Braley works for Iowa” is the tagline on the campaign website of Senate candidate and Rep. Bruce Braley. When it comes to clean energy and climate change, Braley’s tagline rings especially true. The congressman has a history of working hard to bring attention and solutions to the energy and climate challenges that affect his heartland district.

Braley.Wind_620

High stakes

The Senate race in Iowa will be one of the most important races to win in 2014 and our opponents are already on the attack, buying up the radio waves to mislead the public about climate change and Braley’s record.  It’s a high stakes race for a state that will be profoundly affected by unchecked climate change and that has tremendous clean energy potential. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Iowa currently ranks third for installed wind energy capacity and ranks seventh for potential wind energy production. Iowa wind power is capable of meeting 44 times the state’s current electricity needs, according to AWEA. That’s a good weapon for a state that could be seriously damaged by a changing climate. According to the state’s leading climate scientists, Iowa’s agricultural industry’s ability to “feed the world” is threatened by extreme weather, droughts and intense rain storms caused by a warming world.

Braley’s record

Faced with the energy and climate challenges and opportunities in the Hawkeye State, Braley is the right candidate to continue pursuing sensible solutions to move his state forward. In the House, Braley has a history of working constructively as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to promote progress on these issues. Braley has been especially focused on Iowa’s strong wind energy and biofuel industries. He has sponsored legislation to improve worker training in clean energy jobs, to extend wind energy tax credits and to end Big Oil tax breaks in favor of clean energy investment.

Running clean works in Iowa

Iowans want clean energy and they want action on climate change. Recent polling in the state has found that 80% of Iowans believe global warming is happening and that 73% support government action to reduce greenhouse gases from U.S. businesses.

global warming in iowa

http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Stanford-Climate-Polling-Iowa-2013.pdf 

Running on these popular issues has a history of success. During the 2012 presidential election, President Barack Obama successfully used clean energy as a winning wedge issue in the state. As discussed in our Running Clean report, Obama regularly discussed wind energy at rallies, in advertising and on his Iowa-specific campaign website. Obama’s campaign manager credited the wind energy message as part of a factor in winning the state.

With his strong record on clean energy and climate change, it is clear that Bruce Braley is the best candidate Iowans can elect to represent them in the Senate in 2014. We’re looking forward to watching Braley show his colleagues how to “run clean” – and win – in the America’s heartland.