There’s no denying that Tuesday’s results delivered enormous rewards spanning the entire spectrum of progressives. Activists working for labor, for women, for reproductive choice, for access to health care, for equality, for economic justice, for gun control… They all earned every bit of the joy and relief that must have washed over them as they watched the returns come in. Congratulations (and thank you) to all the activists and organizers that worked to make it happen.
Your typical political junkie, I spent most of last night manically clicking between twitter, email, websites maintained by the relevant state election boards, newspaper websites, and blogs. And, of course, all the while the television was tuned to cable news.
Out of all that coverage, I was struck that nobody noted the extent to which climate issues permeated this election cycle. There was plenty of analysis of how the government shutdown turned voters against Republicans and the Tea Party. For some reason, the media thought it was important to note the victory of the Chamber of Commerce Republican over the Tea Party candidate in Alabama… Seriously? There’s a difference?
And yes, of course… We witnessed the beginnings of a fawning romance between DC establishment media and Chris Christie. For the next three years you should keep your medical marijuana within reach: You’ll need it to combat your nausea as the Fourth Estate finally dumps John McCain. In Christie, the Sunday programs have a younger and less forgetful straight-talking beau. Blech.
After a few hours of listening to the media echo-chamber several utterly vacuous story-lines, I realized that they were never going to get around to covering the contests I cared about. The difference between what I was seeing on television and the news I was getting from twitter and email was pretty profound. But that's nothing new.
Then I realized something: 2013's election was largely driven by climate change. That's a first for an American election, and it's worth noting. It even gives me hope. Never before had climate issues so thoroughly fused with electoral politics.
First there were the ballot issues.
- Three of four localities in Colorado voted to limit or ban fracking within their jurisdictions.
- Citizens in Boulder, CO voted to continue a process that could lead to the municipal-ization of their electric utility. The existing provider – Xcel – resisted the move to clean energy. In response, citizens concerned about climate change launched an effort to assume control of their grid. Needless to say, Big Fossil spent profligately on their losing effort defeat this measure.
- Across the Pacific Northwest, climate activists have been fighting Big Coal (and allies) over plans to increase export capacity at port terminals. Of the six expansions initially proposed, three have already been canceled. Another, the Gateway Pacific Terminal in Washington State, is hotly contested. For months, climate activists have been locked in battle with Big Coal and their allies. On Tuesday four of the seven city council members that will vote on the issuance of a key permit were elected. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent by coal backers and opponents on their favored candidates. The outcome: a clean sweep (two incumbents, two were challengers) for climate activists.
- In Maine, citizens opposed to shipping tars sands through their terminals lost narrowly – 51-49%. Oil supporters spent more than $600,000 to earn the victory. Tar sand opponents spent just $107,000 in defeat.
- Voters in Ohio rejected several ballot measures that would have prohibited fracking in their communities
And those were just the ballot measures.
- Ken Cuccinelli’s contempt for climate science is well-documented, and he’s paid a heavy price. McCaulliffe constantly drew attention to Cuccinelli’s anti-science agenda.
- Did climate change claim its first Democratic political victim? If not for Hurricane Sandy, would Chris Christie have been re-elected in the current anti-Tea Party/anti-GOP political atmosphere? Remember, New Jersey is reliably blue.
- Returning to Virginia, we look at the Attorney General race where the climate-science skeptic leads the Democrat by fewer than 1,000 votes. A Democrat last held the seat in 1994.
It wasn't a perfect night by any means, but overall, I'm comfortable saying that it was pretty good for climate hawks, especially when you consider how long we've been stymied by polluters and propagandists.
Moreover, even if we had lost every measure attempted, this is a clear indicator that the citizens of America are waking up to the threat, even without an assist from media.