David Roberts: John Kerry and the climate kids: a tale of 2 new strategies to fight climate change (Vox)
For as long as I can remember, climate campaigns have been animated by the same basic idea: big ad outreach, lots of strange bedfellows from the military, business, or celebrity worlds, educational town halls, all pushing for broader awareness and engagement on the issue. These campaigns avoid specific policies or politicians out of fear of being divisive. They seek, like Kerry, to bring everyone together around the table.
There have been many, many credulous stories over the years, starting in the early 2000s, that conservatives are on the verge of coming around on climate change — that the youth are demanding change and a few brave Republicans are speaking up. The narrative rarely changes; the list of brave Republicans rarely changes; the heralded shift never arrives. Yet Democrats, especially those who consider themselves moderate and open to compromise, have trouble letting go of the dream.
All young people today have ever seen is Republicans trying to tear those institutions down. They witnessed the theft of the 2000 presidential election; 9/11; the horrifically botched response to 9/11; the Iraq War; Hurricane Katrina; the 2008 financial crisis; the Tea Party’s frenzied resistance to the first black president; the birther conspiracy and the endless conspiracy theories to follow; and finally, the triumph of Donald Trump and unbridled American white supremacy.
The Democratic elite has always seemed to believe that there’s a large, silent, persuadable middle out there that just needs to be told the news about climate change. But youth activists believe that the lines have been drawn, left and right, and most everybody is already on one side or another.
“There is no conservative or moderate solution to climate change,” Evan Weber of the Sunrise Movement told me. “There’s no quick market fix or easy bipartisan compromise waiting to be had. Actual solutions to climate change go against everything that the Republican Party stands for, and dealing with the climate crisis through a ‘moderate’ approach will mean the suffering and death of untold millions.”
Because the left is an unwieldy coalition of diverse interest groups and the right is more ethnically and ideologically homogeneous (see Matt Grossman’s Asymmetric Politics), the conflict often shakes out as: the left’s climate people vs. the entire right (and some parts of the left); the left’s labor people vs. the entire right (and some parts of the left); the left’s poverty people vs. the entire right (and some parts of the left); the left’s judicial reform people vs. the entire right (and some parts of the left); and so on.
Because the right sees a lump of evil everywhere outside its bubble, it is always mobilized, hyped up by a paranoid media ecosystem to see the threat of socialism behind every tax credit or efficiency standard. The left can rarely summon such intense unanimity, except perhaps on Social Security, LGBTQ marriage, and a few other issues.
Long story short, lots and lots of people who agree that climate change is a problem and that something ought to be done are nonetheless sitting out elections and the larger political process. They don’t need to be educated or made more aware. They need someone to pull their asses off the couch and get them voting and fighting.
Lovers of bipartisanship are forever saying that a truly comprehensive solution to climate change is only possible with bipartisan support, and that may be true. But unified Republican opposition is making bipartisan cooperation impossible, and there’s no time to wait.