Silver Linings and Other Takeaways from the Election
by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund, Wed Nov 03, 2010 at 12:10:47 PM EDT
Despite the anti-incumbent, frustrated mood of yesterday’s elections, there are some silver linings and some important messages for the months ahead.
In California, voters overwhelmingly rejected Big Oil’s attempt to circumvent the most important climate law in the nation. This is an incredibly significant development. For the first time, VOTERS got to have direct input into whether or not they want to move forward with climate solutions. They gave a full-throated call for building the clean energy future in California.
Still, you probably won’t hear much about this resounding victory because some pundits will view it as a wacky, West Coast aberration. But think about it: if the fossil fuel guys had won, the media would have been trumpeting the death of environmentalism, and industry allies in Congress would have been citing the vote as reason to abandon climate legislation. And you can call California “liberal,” but it is also the state with the third largest unemployment rate in the nation. If voters thought clean energy hurt the economy, we wouldn’t have won.
But voters know that clean energy means good things for our economy, and the California vote proves it. Unfortunately, the federal races were less clear.
We saw the House flip last night and several of our climate champs were defeated – but so were many lawmakers who had voted AGAINST climate change.
In Virginia, we saw Congressmen Tom Perriello (VA-5) and Rick Boucher (VA-9) go down. Both supported the climate bill. But, it’s not easy to figure out how much of a factor climate was in those races. We also saw Rep. Glenn Nye (VA-2) bite the dust and he was a vocal opponent of the clean energy legislation.
Same thing in Ohio. We lost Rep. John Boccieri (OH-16) who voted for the House bill, but Rep. Charlie Wilson (OH-6), an outspoken critic, also went down. Meanwhile Rep. Betty Sutton (OH-13) actively defended her vote for clean energy and cruised to reelection. Other Ohio Reps like Zack Space (OH-18) lost their jobs, but they had tried to play both sides of the fence. Space voted for the climate bill, but then tried to keep the Environmental Protection Agency from actually addressing global warming. You can’t have it both ways in an election year when people are looking for leadership.
Yet another example is found in Pennsylvania where we saw clean energy advocate Patrick Murphy (PA-8) defeated and Chris Carney (PA-10), an opponent of our issues, also handed his walking papers.
In race after race, we found voters kicking out the incumbents regardless of their stance on energy. Yet leaders on the issue in the Senate like Barbara Boxer and Harry Reid won.
So, clean energy and climate change probably wasn’t a factor in most races. In the end, this election came down to one thing: the economy.
Our stumbling economy continues to be on the minds of every working family in the country. They are worried about losing their jobs, their homes, and any sense of security that they may have created. The promise of clean energy provides a lot of hope for our stumbling economy and the American people believe that, regardless of who is in charge.
So, we will continue to work. Congress is going to have to take up mandatory bills on spending, infrastructure and agriculture. There are opportunities to make great progress on renewables, adaptation, efficiency and a plethora of other clean energy areas in all of those pieces of legislation. It will be a tough road, but a road worth taking.