Wednesday :: Apr 7, 2010

Climate Bill: House Progressives Find Creative New Way To Cave


by Turkana

Well, this is encouraging. House Progressives have discovered a creative new way not to be progressive. Call it pre-emptive caving. After all, why risk being marginalized, when you can marginalize yourself?

Russell Berman, of The Hill:

Liberal House Democrats are shifting their political tactics on climate change after failing to secure a public option in the new healthcare reform law.

Clearly, the Progressives' line in the sand over the public option didn't exactly work, on the health insurance reform bill. They drew that line, that walked it back. And they've figured out that doing so wasn't a successful strategy. The problem is that they've misidentified the wrong part of the strategy.

“Drawing the line in the sand too quickly was part of the lesson we learned on healthcare,” the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), told The Hill.

With all due respect to a usually terrific Congressman, he's missing the real message. In fact, he's getting it exactly backward. The problem wasn't drawing a line in the sand, it was backing away from it. Adam Green makes exactly that point:

“Progressives drawing a line in the sand for the public option was not the problem. Being weak and not sticking by their line in the sand was the problem,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “Their credibility will be less than the Blue Dogs’ in every future policy battle until progressives draw a line in the sand and refuse to cave. If the climate bill is co-opted by oil companies, coal companies and other polluters, that may be a good place to start.”

The Blue Dogs and ConservaDems make threats, and everyone listens. And caters to them. And appeases them. The Progressives make threats and everyone scoffs. And then the Progressives decide that making the threat was the problem? Is it any wonder Progressives never get their way?

Progressives are rightfully concerned that the climate and energy bill already is getting eviscerated. On principle, they might even understand that we're running out of time to get it right! But we'll never get it right if even those that best understand the urgency of the issue can't figure out a strategy to translate that understanding into policy. Cap-and-trade likely will be eliminated from the bill. The president supports more offshore oil drilling. In other words, Republicans and Blue Dogs and ConservaDems already are being appeased, and the bill is being gutted, as has consistently been the case, with major pieces of legislation, the past year. And the Progressives decide that their problem was drawing lines in the sand?

The article says 45 Democratic House members of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC) last month wrote Congressional leaders, urging retention of cap-and-trade. But the letter very pointedly omitted making any threats. SEEC Co-chair, Rep. Jay Inslee, says he is encouraged by the "bipartisan" efforts in the Senate. And we are to be encouraged by that? The Senate, where good legislation goes to die? Where the good parts of the energy and climate bill already are dying? And House Progressives now will use that model, for getting things done?

House Progressives have figured out that no one takes them seriously, when they make threats. But rather than figuring out that the reason for that is their not sticking to those lines in the sand, they've decided just to stop making threats. They have principles, but they won't do anything to enforce those principles. Or something.

The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups say they will keep up the pressure, to try to get a bill that's actually environmentally strong. But it looks like House Progressives won't. They'll send strongly worded letters. They'll speak softly and carry no stick at all. Not even a carrot. On what may be the most important piece of legislation in a generation. Or more.

Turkana :: 8:16 AM :: Comments (7) :: Digg It!