Category Archives: 2020 Presidential campaigns

Democrats are seriously tackling the climate crisis: No more half-measures or neoliberal compromises

At least seven 2020 candidates have serious climate plans — and they’re not bowing to fossil-fuel interests

By Carl Pope, June 16, 2019 10:00AM (UTC)
Jay Inslee; Beto O’Rourke; Joe Biden; Bernie Sanders (AP/Getty/Salon) / Elizabeth Warren; John Hickenlooper; John Delaney

Already seven Democratic presidential hopefuls have offered detailed plans for confronting the climate crisis — including the two current (perceived) frontrunners, “moderate” Joe Biden and “progressive” Bernie Sanders, along with Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Jay Inslee, John Hickenlooper and John Delaney. (Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand have sponsored the Green New Deal resolution but have not yet released individual policies.)

Media coverage has predictably focused on the horse race: What significance the increased salience of the issue has with primary voters, how the plans and candidates differ from each other, and whether there will or will not be a separate debate on climate. (At this writing, the Democratic National Committee still says there won’t be.)

But from a climate perspective, what’s revealing (and fascinating) is the degree to which the candidates and their plans are, at heart, indistinguishable. As a group, none of these climate planks harken back to Barack Obama’s “all of the above” genuflection to the enduring political power of fossil fuels. Nor do they resemble Hillary Clinton’s 2016 proposals, which focused almost entirely on renewable power — ambitious but narrow. They eschew the carbon-pricing emphasis of many Beltway economists and policy mavens. And they avoid the austerity frame that climate deniers have for so long used to dampen public support for clean energy.

Taken as a group, this year’s presidential climate proffers are far broader — and more economically and politically sophisticated — than four years ago. If they have a 2016 antecedent, it is Bernie Sanders’ approach, which culminated in Sanders’ successful effort to buttress the Democratic platform on climate by including ambitious greenhouse emission targets.

But the Democratic candidates have also introduced some new ingredients, drawn heavily from the Green New Deal. Here’s what the emerging Democratic climate platform looks like, and why it’s important.

1. Climate science and ambitious decarbonization goals are in.

While avoiding the confusing Green New Deal language about decarbonizing the economy within a decade, almost all of the candidates commit to get the job done by mid-century. Inslee pledges net zero emissions by 2045, Biden and O’Rourke by 2050. Sanders and Warren offer no date, although Sanders in 2016 called for a 40% emission reduction by 2030.

Fundamentally, all these Democrats are saying that we can and should, decarbonize our economy fully by mid-century, and the differences in their formal pledges are almost irrelevant this far in advance.

2. Climate sacrifice and austerity are out.

None of the candidates suggest that to accomplish this goal Americans need to sacrifice prosperity or freedom — instead they all call for tying a transition to clean energy to a major revitalization of the U.S. economy, with several specifically calling out manufacturing. So striking is this pattern that the New York Times complained about it.

3. Investment, not carbon pricing, is the new silver bullet.

Carbon taxes or “cap and trade” aren’t central to the candidates’ thinking. Delaney and perhaps Hickenlooper aside, those with detailed plans all implicitly turn to a mixture of carrots — R&D, investments, incentives — and sticks, meaning regulations and only perhaps some carbon pricing, to do the job. Inslee, having campaigned unsuccessfully for a carbon tax as governor of Washington, doesn’t repeat his call for one. Biden and O’Rourke call for some kind of mandatory mechanism, but don’t specify pricing. Warren and Sanders don’t mention it. Indeed, none of the leading candidates except Pete Buttigieg explicitly favors such a tax.

The Green New Deal is the source of the single newest ingredient in the policies as a group — the emphasis on massive federal investment in place of carbon pricing. Again, the nominal size of investment varies. O’Rourke asks for $5 trillion, Warren $3 trillion and Biden $1.7 trillion. These numbers represent different program mixes and financial strategies. All a voter can truly discern from them is “I want the government to invest more in American climate progress and I think the number should be big, because the economic gains will be much bigger.” That’s a far cry from the language historically used to advocate carbon pricing.

4. Standards and regulation are back.

The idea of using emission standards as if climate were a pollution problem seems to have caught on. To begin with, all the Democratic presidential candidates support restoring Obama-era emission standards which Trump has rolled back or is trying to. Biden, Inslee, Sanders, O’Rourke and Warren explicitly call for additional regulations to get to zero emissions by 2050.

Inslee and O’Rourke explicitly flag powerful regulatory mandates to decarbonize buildings, utilities and transportation; Biden focuses on transportation; O’Rourke on buildings; Sanders and Warren don’t address sectors.

5. It’s not just electricity — economy-wide approaches are embraced.

The emphasis on investment and regulations frees the candidates up to push for emissions reductions outside the electricity sectors. With those tolls the U.S. has clear pathways to 100% clean energy in three sectors of our economy: electricity generation, road and rail transportation, and buildings. Clean power is already cheaper almost everywhere than coal and natural gas; operating fleets of electric vehicles is cheaper than continuing to buy new gasoline or diesel models; and all-electric, hyper-efficient new buildings cost less to own and operate than leaky ones reliant on oil or natural gas for heating and cooling.

Allowing time for turnover of power plants, vehicles and furnaces, all three of these sectors can be profitably transitioned to 100% clean electricity — so investing in speeding up the transition here with massive federal investments does, indeed, make marvelous economic sense.

Biden and Inslee give the most detailed road maps, but the other candidates with plans seem headed in the same direction.

Finally, research gets respect

These presidential platforms emphasize the need for expanded clean energy research and development, along with deployment of the technologies we have already commercialized. The three sectors discussed above account for only 70% of our emissions.  pollution from the remaining 30% — industry, agriculture, aviation and shipping — requires new approaches and technologies, and significant federal support for research, development, and early stage deployment. All the Democratic candidates call for such investments, and all offer policies to ensure that along with clean energy comes a revival of American manufacturing.

How do the politics look?

The right wing and the carbon lobby seem to be teeing up their usual attack on climate advocacy: It will tank the economy and deprive Americans of economic freedom! Republican opponents of climate progress don’t seem to have realized that the Democrats, while raising their ambition on climate and clean energy, have walked away from the taxation, sacrifice and austerity traps. The right wing has attacked Biden, their current whipping boy, for offering a climate plan, suggesting that since swing voters don’t show the same level of interest in climate issues that Democrats do, Republicans will be able to play the climate austerity card against Biden — or any other Democratic nominee who dares to offer a real climate plan.

The problem with this theory is that while swing voters may not prioritize climate, they love clean energy and they want more investment  in America — and that’s what Democrats are offering. Most of the Democratic candidates, Warren and Biden in particular, are focused on reviving manufacturing, the (broken) promise that carried the Midwest for Donald Trump in 2016.

And from voices like Greenpeace, candidates are being ranked not only on their demand-side fossil fuel policies, but on where they stand on coal mining and oil and gas drilling and exploration.

The Beltway establishment is complaining about this willingness of the Democratic presidential field to place carbon pricing where it belongs — as one of a series of needed market reforms that enable us to decarbonize, but not as a fetish totem in itself. Catherine Rampel in the Washington Post lamented this feature, calling a price on carbon “the obvious, no-brainer tool for curbing carbon emissions.”  But it appears the candidates have noted the fact that when given a chance to vote on pricing carbon, even Jay Inslee’s green constituents in Washington state twice politely demurred.

In many ways, the Democratic field is following the pathway blazed by California under the governorships of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown. Let the public and the legislature set broad and ambitious climate goals. Then pragmatically deploy administrative rules and incentives to test and perfect pathways toward a clean energy economy. As that economy grows in strength, it will challenge and defeat the stranglehold that fossil fuel interests have held for a century over America’s future, and create the politics for a more ambitious next round of emissions reduction targets.


Carl Pope is the co-author of “Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet.” He is the former CEO and chairman of the Sierra Club.
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    UPDATE: 8 more Democratic presidential candidates sign 2020 WE ARE INDIVISIBLE PLEDGE

    By Roger Straw, June 5, 2019
    [UPDATE: As of June 5th, 17 of the 24 Democratic presidential candidates have signed!  – R.S.]

    I first highlighted the 2020 We Are Indivisible Pledge on these pages on May 6.  At that time, 7 Dem presidential candidates had quickly taken the pledge (Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, Inslee, Sanders and Warren).

    As of June 5, 17 of the current 24 declared candidates have signed on. 

    Signed the Pledge: Booker, Bullock, Buttigieg, Castro, Delaney, Gillibrand, Harris, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Klobuchar, Moulton, O’Rourke, Ryan, Sanders, Swalwell, Warren and Williamson.

    Yet to sign the pledge: Bennet, Biden, de Blasio, Gabbard, Gravel, Messam and Yang.

    IMPORTANT: Regular folks like you and me are also asked to sign the Indivisible 2020 We are Indivisible Pledge. (You can sign here: pledge.indivisible.org.)

    We must defeat Donald Trump. The first step is a primary contest that produces a strong Democratic nominee. The second step is winning the general election. We will not accept anything less. To ensure this outcome, I pledge to: 1) Make the primary constructive. 2) Rally behind the winner. 3) Do the work to beat Trump.

    For more info, see below.

    Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent


    Indivisible press release:  

    INDIVISIBLE RELEASES “WE ARE INDIVISIBLE” PLEDGE FOR 2020 CANDIDATES

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    April 25, 2019

    Washington, DC — The Indivisible Project today unveiled its 2020 “We are Indivisible” pledge that asks Democratic presidential candidates and grassroots Indivisible groups to commit to a constructive primary, backing the eventual Democratic presidential nominee and working to defeat Trump in November.

    “Democrats do not need to choose between creating space for a healthy primary debate and taking back the White House in 2020. Indivisible’s pledge invites candidates and grassroots leaders to join together in rejecting that false choice, and recognizing that those two goals support each other,” Indivisible’s national political director María Urbina said. “As a progressive movement, we are united in our commitment to a robust primary that elevates the best ideas, and to winning in November 2020.”

    As a demonstration of unity, Indivisibles and others will be hosting 2020 unity kickoff events across the country on the weekend after the Democratic National Convention, which they can begin registering now at pledge.indivisible.org.

    “We believe in rigorous and spirited primaries, and we also know that once we have a nominee, our entire focus must turn to defeating Trump. The “We Are Indivisible” Pledge commits all of us to a debate of ideas followed by dedicated work to make our ideas reality,” Indivisible’s co-executive directors Leah Greenberg and Ezra Levin said. “This pledge is about beating Donald Trump and the anti-democratic, xenophobic right wing. And it’s about the ideas and vision we need for a post-Trump future.”

    The “We Are Indivisible” 2020 Pledge builds on the success of Indivisible’s 2018 midterm endorsement program. To seek the Indivisible Project’s endorsement in a primary, every candidate and every endorsing local Indivisible group had to affirm that they’d endorse the ultimate Democratic primary winner and work hard to elect them. This model empowered Indivisible groups to elevate progressive challengers, including freshman standouts like Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It also positioned Indivisible groups to serve as unifying forces after the primary, rallying progressives together to knock doors and flip seats across the country.

    Below is the full pledge language:

    The “We Are Indivisible” Pledge

    We must defeat Donald Trump. The first step is a primary contest that produces a strong Democratic nominee. The second step is winning the general election. We will not accept anything less. To ensure this outcome, I pledge to:

    GRASSROOTS

    1. Make the primary constructive. We’ll make the primary election about our hopes for the future, and a robust debate of values, vision and the contest of ideas. We’ll remain grounded in our shared values, even if we support different candidates.
    2. Rally behind the winner. We’ll support the ultimate Democratic nominee, whoever it is—period. No Monday morning quarterbacking. No third-party threats.
    3. Do the work to beat Trump. We’re the grassroots army that’s going to power the nominee to victory, and we’ll show up to make calls, knock doors, and do whatever it takes.

    CANDIDATES

    1. Make the primary constructive. I’ll respect the other candidates and make the primary election about inspiring voters with my vision for the future.
    2. Rally behind the winner. I’ll support the ultimate Democratic nominee, whoever it is—period. No Monday morning quarterbacking. No third-party threats. Immediately after there’s a nominee, I’ll endorse.
    3. Do the work to beat Trump. I will do everything in my power to make the Democratic Nominee the next President of the United States. As soon as there is a nominee, I will put myself at the disposal of the campaign.

    # # #

    ABOUT THE INDIVISIBLE PROJECT

    The Indivisible Project is a registered 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Our mission is to cultivate and lift up a grassroots movement of local groups to defeat the Trump agenda, elect progressive leaders, and realize bold progressive policies. Across the nation, thousands of local groups are using the Indivisible Guide to hold their members of Congress accountable. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.

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      “2020 We are Indivisible” – Grassroots / Candidates’ pledge

      By Roger Straw, April 27, 2019

      Today I signed the Indivisible “2020 We are Indivisible Pledge.” (You can sign here: pledge.indivisible.org.)

      We must defeat Donald Trump. The first step is a primary contest that produces a strong Democratic nominee. The second step is winning the general election. We will not accept anything less. To ensure this outcome, I pledge to: Make the primary constructive. Rally behind the winner. Do the work to beat Trump.

      I was so impressed watching the Ezra Levin interview about this on the Rachel Maddow show the other day (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKK1TzAKaYE).  As of today, seven Democratic presidential candidates have already taken the pledge (Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, Inslee, Sanders and Warren).

      Indivisible is also inviting the rest of us – the grassroots – to sign on.  To take the pledge, go to http://pledge.indivisible.org/.  For more info, see below.

      Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent


      Indivisible press release:  

      INDIVISIBLE RELEASES “WE ARE INDIVISIBLE” PLEDGE FOR 2020 CANDIDATES

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
      April 25, 2019
      Contact: Emily Phelps | press@indivisible.org

      Washington, DC — The Indivisible Project today unveiled its 2020 “We are Indivisible” pledge that asks Democratic presidential candidates and grassroots Indivisible groups to commit to a constructive primary, backing the eventual Democratic presidential nominee and working to defeat Trump in November.

      “Democrats do not need to choose between creating space for a healthy primary debate and taking back the White House in 2020. Indivisible’s pledge invites candidates and grassroots leaders to join together in rejecting that false choice, and recognizing that those two goals support each other,” Indivisible’s national political director María Urbina said. “As a progressive movement, we are united in our commitment to a robust primary that elevates the best ideas, and to winning in November 2020.”

      As a demonstration of unity, Indivisibles and others will be hosting 2020 unity kickoff events across the country on the weekend after the Democratic National Convention, which they can begin registering now at pledge.indivisible.org.

      “We believe in rigorous and spirited primaries, and we also know that once we have a nominee, our entire focus must turn to defeating Trump. The “We Are Indivisible” Pledge commits all of us to a debate of ideas followed by dedicated work to make our ideas reality,” Indivisible’s co-executive directors Leah Greenberg and Ezra Levin said. “This pledge is about beating Donald Trump and the anti-democratic, xenophobic right wing. And it’s about the ideas and vision we need for a post-Trump future.”

      The “We Are Indivisible” 2020 Pledge builds on the success of Indivisible’s 2018 midterm endorsement program. To seek the Indivisible Project’s endorsement in a primary, every candidate and every endorsing local Indivisible group had to affirm that they’d endorse the ultimate Democratic primary winner and work hard to elect them. This model empowered Indivisible groups to elevate progressive challengers, including freshman standouts like Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It also positioned Indivisible groups to serve as unifying forces after the primary, rallying progressives together to knock doors and flip seats across the country.

      Below is the full pledge language:

      The “We Are Indivisible” Pledge

      We must defeat Donald Trump. The first step is a primary contest that produces a strong Democratic nominee. The second step is winning the general election. We will not accept anything less. To ensure this outcome, I pledge to:

      GRASSROOTS

      1. Make the primary constructive. We’ll make the primary election about our hopes for the future, and a robust debate of values, vision and the contest of ideas. We’ll remain grounded in our shared values, even if we support different candidates.
      2. Rally behind the winner. We’ll support the ultimate Democratic nominee, whoever it is—period. No Monday morning quarterbacking. No third-party threats.
      3. Do the work to beat Trump. We’re the grassroots army that’s going to power the nominee to victory, and we’ll show up to make calls, knock doors, and do whatever it takes.

      CANDIDATES

      1. Make the primary constructive. I’ll respect the other candidates and make the primary election about inspiring voters with my vision for the future.
      2. Rally behind the winner. I’ll support the ultimate Democratic nominee, whoever it is—period. No Monday morning quarterbacking. No third-party threats. Immediately after there’s a nominee, I’ll endorse.
      3. Do the work to beat Trump. I will do everything in my power to make the Democratic Nominee the next President of the United States. As soon as there is a nominee, I will put myself at the disposal of the campaign.

      # # #

      ABOUT THE INDIVISIBLE PROJECT

      The Indivisible Project is a registered 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Our mission is to cultivate and lift up a grassroots movement of local groups to defeat the Trump agenda, elect progressive leaders, and realize bold progressive policies. Across the nation, thousands of local groups are using the Indivisible Guide to hold their members of Congress accountable. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.

      Share...

        Jay Inslee for the Climate, and for President

        Repost from Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight
        [Editor: I am not endorsing Inslee here, but I’m impressed.  The ONLY criterion for my vote will be the ability to draw us together to defeat of the malfeasant now holding the office of president.  – R.S.]

        How Jay Inslee Could Win The 2020 Democratic Nomination

        By Christie Aschwanden and Geoffrey Skelley, March 1, 2019, 7:00 AM

        TOC-INSLEE-4×3In his 2020 presidential announcement video, two-term Washington Governor Jay Inslee declares that climate change is the “most urgent challenge of our time.”

        Inslee intends to make climate change his signature issue. “I have heard from around the country that people believe that this issue demands priority, and it demands a candidate from the Democratic Party that will make it front and center,” he told FiveThirtyEight before his campaign announcement. He’s convinced that when voters see his work on climate change along with a laundry list of progressive achievements, it’ll be enough to become the nominee.

        But to do that, he first has to beat the Democratic field. As a whole, Inslee has a solidly liberal record, one that could conceivably attract voters on the left of the party. But that could be a crowded part of the field, with well-known names such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders already running. Sanders, for example, has increasingly sought to make climate change one of his core issues, which could steal some of Inslee’s thunder. Still, Inslee probably will be one of the few Democratic governors running, and his ability to point to tangible accomplishments rather than just rhetoric could allow him to differentiate himself from many other Democratic contenders.

        As governor of Washington, Inslee has built a record of economic growth for which he credits his progressive policies. Among those policies are a minimum wage that is more than 50 percent higher than the federal one, a family leave policy1 that allows some workers to take up to three months of paid leave for a medical condition or to care for a new child or ailing family member, and a law that requires workers to receive equal pay and career advancement opportunities regardless of gender. Inslee has overseen an expansion of college financial aid for undocumented students and a large-scale transportation infrastructure program. He’s confident his record would help him beat President Trump.

        But Inslee’s candidacy also relies on an unproven gambit: that climate change can be a winning issue in the 2020 Democratic primary.

        At first glance, climate change may not have sufficient salience to carry a presidential campaign. It received little attention during the 2016 presidential race. In three presidential debates and one vice presidential face-off, the topic was never raised specifically.

        But Inslee said the time is right to make climate change a central issue because it’s no longer a hypothetical but something that “touches everyone in every part of the country” and “every aspect of life.”

        Just before the 2018 midterm elections, Gallup released findings that placed climate change as the fifth-most-important issue to Democratic voters, behind topics like health care and wealth inequality. Still, 75 percent of Democrats said it was an extremely or very important topic, compared with just 27 percent of Republicans. We can see how much the parties have diverged on the issue using a Gallup question that looks at concern about climate change. In 1990, the share of Americans who worried a great deal or a fair amount about global warming did not really differ by party identification. Today, Democrats and Republicans are a world apart.

        Given the level of concern among Democrats, perhaps a campaign that homes in on climate change can help Inslee make inroads on the left during the primaries. It’s a topic receiving a lot of attention at the moment because of the proposed “Green New Deal” being pushed by some progressive Democratic House members. Moreover, Democrats can easily use the issue to attack the president’s record. The Trump administration has hindered efforts to address global warming by withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and working to roll back auto fuel efficiency standards.

        But putting climate change ahead of all other issues could be risky, Stanford University psychologist Jon Krosnick said. He has helped lead national surveys of public opinions on climate change since 1995 that have found that most voters don’t make their ballot box decisions based on climate change alone. Krosnick’s surveys show that about 18 percent of voters are passionate about climate change, which means that “taking a stand on this issue is electorally very wise, but making this a signature issue is probably unwise.”

        Inslee plans to try anyway. He’s framing climate change as a threat to national security that warrants a huge government response on a scale akin to the Manhattan Project or NASA’s program to put humans on the moon. “This is the eleventh hour, but it should be our hour to shine and for we, as Americans, to do what we do best, which is to create, innovate and build,” Inslee said. His goal is to make the economy less reliant on fossil fuels over the next several decades, a task he called “a massive undertaking requiring a huge concentration of our intellectual talents, our entrepreneurial zeal, and to some degree, our investment.”

        To achieve this goal, he advocates for clean fuel standards to reduce emissions from vehicles. He wants to revamp the U.S. electrical grid with a 100 percent clean power plan like the one he’s pushing for in his state of Washington, make buildings “net zero” emissions with stringent building codes, and promote alternative energy with subsidies.

        It will be interesting to see whether he proposes a carbon tax to help him accomplish some of those goals. It’s an approach that has broad support from economists across the political spectrum, yet Inslee has been unable to get one passed by voters or the legislature in his own state. He doesn’t think that makes it kryptonite. “A carbon tax is just one of the tools in the toolbox,” he said, adding that it may not be the most important one. The carbon tax that failed in Washington didn’t derive most of its carbon savings from the signal to consumers sent by higher carbon prices, Inslee said, but, rather, from “putting people to work on building and installing solar arrays and building homes and businesses that are net zero. That’s where you’ve actually got the carbon savings.”

        Is the failure of that carbon-tax measure in his own state an omen or just a bump in the road for Inslee? Whichever it is, it hasn’t nudged him off his strategy. “I believe that contrast is good in elections,” Inslee said, and the contrast between Democrats and Republicans on climate issues is stark. “We should embrace that contrast, magnify it, and run with it.”

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