By all accounts, House Democrats return to Washington this week to begin planning their priorities for 2019 in an aggressive frame of mind. But on climate change and energy issues, rather than simply responding to Trump’s latest provocation (like those regarding California wildfires), they must step back and take a strategic approach.
This means Democrats must have the discipline to subordinate all other considerations to the key goal of creating the political and policy conditions needed to enact landmark energy and climate legislation after 2020, when they may well win back the White House and Senate. Indeed, how they handle energy and climate in the next two years will play a critical role in determining whether they gain the power to act.
Despite bright spots in Nevada and several Governors races, the mid-term elections held some cautionary lessons. The defeat in Washington State of a carbon tax referendum and several other climate-related measures in Arizona and Colorado, along with apparent state-wide losses in “ground-zero” climate impacts states of Florida and Texas, should be sobering.
The politics of climate change are complex, even for voters already suffering from its impacts. Swing voters will not respond to far-left ideological crusades or simple-minded attempts to rigidly impose “best” climate policies from above. Such approaches have largely failed as political matter for nearly 30 years now.