Since the mission of this place is to elect More and Better Democrats, folks might want to pay attention to what's unfolded over the last couple of days in the Democratic primary for the Massachusetts Senate.
The fight for the nomination to replace John Kerry is between two members of the Bay State's congressional delegation: Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch. And it turns out that theres a key point of differentiation between them. On the issue that Time magazine called "the Selma and the Stonewall" of the environmental movement, the Keystone pipeline from Canada's tar sands, Lynch is one of the few Democrats to vote in its favor.
Actually, he did it twice. Once in the summer of 2011, just as the fight was heating up (NASA's James Hansen had already declared that burning the tarsands would be 'game over' for the climate, which maybe should have been enough to give him pause) and then again, even more egregiously, in the winter of 2012. That vote came after the largest civil disobedience action in 30 years on any issue in this country, with 1,253 going to jail including, among many Bay Staters, the head of the Commonwealth's United Church of Christ. It also came after President Obama had asked that Keystone be set aside for a year of more review. But Lynch, again alone among the entire MA congressional delegation, voted to snub the president and push for fast approval of KXL.
So it's no real surprise that the fast-growing fossil fuel resistance is pushing back. Last week the action fund of 350.org jumped into a political race for the first time, launching a VoteNoKXL campaign on Massachusetts' (many) college campuses. I explained the reasoning yesterday in a piece in the Boston Phoenix. (It was a very bittersweet piece, the last cover story the Phoenix will ever publish, and in fact it's only coming out online; the paper's publishers abruptly ended the paper's long, proud history last Thursday)
Meanwhile, yesterday a second front opened. Four young Massachusetts climate activists joined with California billionaire investor Tom Steyer to issue a very public threat to Lynch: change your position on Keystone, or face a full-on battle with the kind of resources Steyer has provided in the past. (He's been the main force behind two California ballot propositions, funneling tens of millions of dollars of his own money into the races). Steyer is an interesting man--rich beyond telling, handsome, charismatic, and willing to fight against the interests of his class for the common good. He gave a rousing speech at the huge climate rally in DC last month, explaining that Keystone was a "very bad business decision." Apparently, he meant it.
This strikes me as precisely the kind of battle that Kossacks should hope for--a chance, in a primary for what should be a pretty safe seat, to define what the Democratic party is. I don't agree with Ed Markey's approach to everything environmental; but I know that on core votes that reflect what the party's activists care most about, he can be counted on.
And I hope it sends a signal to other wavering Senators, representatives, (and presidents). We actually care about the things we say we care about. We need you to know that.