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What does Joe Biden have to do to win over the climate movement?

This story has been updated.

If Joe Biden had released his $1.7 trillion climate plan in a vacuum last year, the proposal would have been hailed as the most ambitious climate platform introduced by a presidential candidate in United States history. The 22-page plan aims to zero out emissions by 2050, protect disadvantaged communities from pollution, and create 10 million new jobs to boot.

Unfortunately for the former vice president, his proposal paled in comparison to plans from a number of his primary challengers that were three, five, and even 10 times as expensive. Bernie Sanders, for example, put out a $16 trillion climate plan called the Green New Deal that had the elderly pied piper of the progressive left collecting endorsements from climate groups like a Vermonter picking blueberries in July.

Whether progressives like it or not, Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. And on Monday, he snagged his first environmental endorsement from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), a powerful environmental group that helps elect climate hawks to office and scores members of the House and Senate based on how they vote on environment and climate bills.

“We are confident that as president, Biden will immediately put our country on track for a 100 percent clean energy economy with policies centered in justice and equity that restore America’s global climate leadership,” Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs for LCV Action Fund, the political arm of the group, said in a statement.

Given that the choice in the general election comes down to Donald Trump, who has left no stone unturned in his effort to roll back environmental protections, and Biden, who has an 83 percent lifetime score for his environmental voting record from LCV, it’s not surprising that the group decided to endorse the former senator from Delaware.

What is surprising, and what might be welcome news to voters for whom climate change is a top priority, is that Biden plans to expand his climate platform. In his own statement in response to the LCV’s announcement, the former vice president said he was “honored” to receive the endorsement and indicated that there’s more to come. “In the months ahead, expanding this plan will be one of my key objectives,” he said, adding that he knows the issue “resonates” with young voters.

Biden’s statement said he aims to “campaign on climate change and win on climate change,” which isn’t a bad plan if he’s looking to convince a wider swath of Democratic voters — and maybe even pick up a Republican or two. In poll after poll after poll, climate change and health care are the top two issues for Democrats this election cycle. And the issue is no longer relegated to one side of the political aisle. Polls also show that young Republicans may care as much about the warming planet as their blue counterparts.

By his own admission, Biden has a lot of work to do to earn the progressive movement’s vote. Many local chapters of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate group that backed Bernie Sanders in the primary and has emerged as a powerful force in the activist landscape, have said they aren’t endorsing Biden. But that could change if the candidate steps up his climate game.

“We’ve tried to be super clear about the way that we need them to improve on not only their climate policy but their immigration, criminal justice, and financial regulation policies,” Varshini Prakash, Sunrise co-founder and executive director, told Vice News, referring to the Biden campaign. “We’ll see if that conversation translates into policy changes.” In an interview on the New York Times’ The Daily podcast, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrat from New York who is one of the architects of the Green New Deal, expressed a similar sentiment and said she was waiting to fully endorse him.

Will Biden be able to win over diehard Sanders supporters? Probably not. Biden’s campaign is premised on returning to a time of relative normalcy, not turning the economic system on its head. But if he does scale up his climate plan, he might be able to rack up a few more endorsements from environmental heavyweights.

Update: On Tuesday, a group of more than 50 scientists and climate experts wrote an open letter endorsing Biden for president. “We are confident that, unlike President Trump, Joe Biden will respect, collaborate with, and listen to leaders in the scientific community and public health experts to confront the existential climate crisis and other environmental threats,” the letter said. Prominent climate scientists Michael Mann and Jane Lubchenco (formerly head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under President Obama) are among the letter’s signatories.

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What does Joe Biden have to do to win over the climate movement?

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2020 candidates have answers to the climate questions debate moderators didn’t ask

On Tuesday night, 12 candidates took the stage in Ohio to debate the issues most important to the Democratic electorate. Gun control, reproductive rights, health care, the company Ellen DeGeneres keeps (yes, you read that right), and more were on the menu. One issue was conspicuously absent: climate change. Somehow, the debate’s two media hosts, CNN and the New York Times, managed to go three hours without bringing up a global crisis that polls show is not only a top issue among Democrats, but young Republicans and independents, as well.

Climate advocates and even some of the candidates themselves were unhappy about the omission. And why wouldn’t they be? Most of the candidates who qualified for the debate are actually quite well versed in climate change, thanks to pressure from activists, previous debates with a former competitor (climate hawk and Washington Governor Jay Inslee), and of course, the impacts of warming they and other Americans have experienced.

Don’t believe us? We have proof.

David Roberts of Vox (formerly David Roberts of Grist) and his colleague Umair Irfan asked all of the 23 currently active Democratic campaigns to answer six questions about climate change. These weren’t softball questions about whether candidates would rejoin the Paris Agreement or when they wanted to reach net-zero emissions. The point was to go beyond the climate science consensus and get into the power dynamics relevant to passing climate policy in 2021.

Nine candidates — Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Tom Steyer, Amy Klobuchar, and Michael Bennet (yep, he’s still running!) — sent in responses. Here, we offer some highlights.


The candidates were in agreement that climate change should be a top priority during their first 100 days in office and on a number of other things, including building off of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and decarbonizing the economy by mid-century. But the questions about eliminating the filibuster (in order to pass climate legislation) and holding fossil fuel companies accountable shed the most light on which candidates will really put the pedal to the metal on averting climate catastrophe.

Abolishing the filibuster — a move that would allow the Senate to approve legislation with a simple majority versus a requisite 60 votes — doesn’t sound climate-related, but it is. Over the past six years, lots of progressive policy proposals have hurtled through the House only to be stopped short, primarily by Senate Republicans. Abolishing the filibuster would give Democrats the potential to actually accomplish something as big as a Green New Deal (an idea almost all of the Democratic 2020 candidates have endorsed). The downside to this, of course, is that it’s an absolute gamble. If Democrats take the Senate, abolish the filibuster, and go hog-wild on progressive legislation, Republicans could do the same with conservative bills down the road, if they retake control.

So who’s willing to take the gamble, or at least reform the filibuster? Seven candidates: Warren, Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg, O’Rourke, Steyer, and Klobuchar. Warren even brought it up during the debate on Tuesday, in response to a question about gun reform. Biden and Bennet said they would not scrap it.  That means those two candidates will have to find another way to pass their comprehensive climate plans by, we guess, trying to appeal to their Republican colleagues.

All of the candidates told Vox they would hold polluters accountable, but a few went above and beyond. Sanders and Steyer used the word “prosecute” in their responses, raising the possibility of pinning polluters on criminal charges. “They have evaded taxes, desecrated tribal lands, exploited workers and poisoned communities,” Sanders said. “[I] believe this is criminal activity, and, when [I am] president, [I] will hold the fossil fuel industry accountable.” Steyer said it’s time to “create real — potentially criminal — consequences for actions they may have taken to knowingly spread false information and slow climate action.” Warren also noted she would hold polluters criminally accountable, noting recent legislation she introduced to do just that.

The candidates’ answers to these questions are a reminder of how important it is that moderators ask questions about climate change during debates. Voters don’t just need to know whether or not their candidate of choice will implement a carbon tax. They need to know whether their candidate is prepared to use the full powers of the executive branch, if she or he is willing to change the rules to get legislation through the Senate, and if fossil fuel companies will ever actually have to pay for past cover-ups and crimes.

Alas, the most recent debate didn’t get viewers any closer to understanding the nuanced differences in how those vying to face Donald Trump will fight for climate action. We do, however, now know that at least two of the 12 candidates on stage dearly miss the late John McCain. But what will they miss when the planet descends into a fiery, sodden, polluted hellscape?

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2020 candidates have answers to the climate questions debate moderators didn’t ask

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Bernie Sanders is the reason why a pro-coal senator is about to take over a powerful energy post

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This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

In a strange twist of fate, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who once fired a shotgun at a climate bill, is expecting to be promoted to a leadership position in a key Senate committee that conducts environmental oversight.

Progressive environmental groups have pressured Minority Leader Charles Schumer (a Democrat from New York) to pick someone, anyone, else to be ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Schumer isn’t the real reason Manchin is next-in-line, though. If filling the position had proceeded through the normal line of succession, it would go to the most senior senator on the committee, and four other senators outrank him. But in the fray of the post-midterms jostling for committee assignments, none of them want the position.

Washington state’s Maria Cantwell, the current top Democrat, has indicated she wants to replace departing Senator Bill Nelson (a Democrat from Florida) as ranking member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation panel. Senators Ron Wyden (a Democrat from Oregon) and Debbie Stabenow (from Michigan) want to keep their ranking slots on the Finance and Agriculture committees respectively.

And then there’s Bernie Sanders, who just organized a climate change town hall at the start of a likely presidential bid. He could be ranking member on a committee that oversees the Energy and Interior departments and debates issues related to public lands, energy infrastructure, and the nation’s electrical grid, but he refuses to move from his post on the powerful Budget Committee, where he can stay focused on economic priorities.

“I am proud of the work I have done on the Budget Committee over the last 12 years,” Sanders said in an emailed statement to Mother Jones. “As Ranking Member I have helped fight for budget and national priorities, which represent the needs of working families and not just the 1 percent. I look forward to continuing the fight in the new session for social, racial, economic, and environmental justice.”

Thus far, Sanders hasn’t faced much public pressure to prevent Manchin from getting the post, potentially because the most outspoken groups protesting Manchin have had long standing ties with Sanders going back to his 2016 presidential campaign. Bill McKibben, co-founder of environmental group 350.org, has campaigned for Sanders and spoke at his town hall Monday night. Instead, these groups have done an end run to Schumer and pressured him directly to block Manchin’s promotion.

On Monday, members of the Sunrise Movement, a left-leaning environmental advocacy group, protested outside Schumer’s New York office, calling on him to reject “those who are in the pockets of the fossil fuel CEOs” from overseeing environmental policy. “We’re asking people to do something that’s admittedly difficult but we really want Schumer to step up and do the right thing for his party and these issues,” 350.org policy director Julian Noisecat said.

Democratic donor Tom Steyer and Washington Governor Jay Inslee, both 2020 presidential hopefuls, have also spoken out against Manchin. Inslee, whose campaign would center in part around climate change, is organizing a petition that lays out the argument: “Look, Joe Manchin has been a champion for affordable health care for every American. He’s been a leader on issues you and I care deeply about. But on climate, he’s simply wrong.”

As a leader on Energy and Natural Resources, Manchin would work with Chair Lisa Murkowksi (a Republican from Alaska) who has not been shy about noticing the impacts of climate change in her home state. Even if global warming itself has not been a primary focus of the committee’s interests of late, that could change next year, when Murkowski has said she expects the committee to lead “a rational conversation” on the topic.

Since 2012, the committee has not held a single hearing fully devoted to climate change, in contrast to 2009 when it held nine in that year alone. Most major climate bills, including cap-and-trade legislation, have gone through either the Finance committee or Environment and Public Works, which considers nominees to the Environmental Protection Agency and convenes hearings on topics like air pollution and toxic waste.

Nonetheless, the Trump administration’s most controversial initiatives, like a draft proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear plants, did not come directly before the Energy panel. But it still dominated the committee’s debate over whether to advance the nomination of Bernard McNamee, an ex-DOE staffer who helped develop the idea, to a position on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Manchin, who has voted in line with Trump’s policies 60.8 percent of the time, originally voted for McNamee’s nomination to advance out of committee, but then switched course and opposed him on the Senate floor. The controversial nominee was ultimately confirmed by one vote.

Coming from West Virginia, Manchin’s close ties to the coal industry are a given. Since his arrival in the Senate eight years ago, Manchin has taken nearly $750,000 in donations from the mining industry and more than $419,000 from oil and gas firms, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. His voting scorecard from the League of Conservation Voters, which assigns a rating based on a lawmaker’s voters for or against environmental legislation, is lower than all other Democratic senators but higher than all but one Republican.

Manchin’s office declined to comment to Mother Jones, and when confronted by reporters at the Capitol this week, he avoided any mention of the controversy. “Come in and talk to me, the door’s open,” he said. “I want to do whatever I can to help my country and my state.”

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Progressive freshman lawmakers like incoming New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have expressed concern with West Virginia’s senior senator being granted a leadership role on environmental issues, but some of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate have closed ranks around the nominee, downplaying Manchin’s record and the damage he could do to climate priorities. “I think Joe gets and understands we need to move forward on a diverse set of energy needs,” Cantwell told Bloomberg‘s Ari Natter.

“On climate, we’re going to make decisions collectively as a caucus. Nobody in our caucus has a veto over climate policy — whether they’re a ranking member on a committee or not,” Senator Chris Murphy (a Democrat from Connecticut) told Politico.

But activists argue there’s a lot at stake, especially if Democrats were thinking beyond the immediate legislative session.

“It would be an even bigger concern looking ahead if we do take back the senate in 2020 or in the future,” Noisecat says. “I don’t think that anyone who’s looking at the current makeup of Congress right now believes we can get ambitious climate legislation through both chambers of Congress. [But] Manchin is a huge problem if you want to do that in the long term.”

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Bernie Sanders is the reason why a pro-coal senator is about to take over a powerful energy post

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With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, Congress will likely gain a new climate champion

On Tuesday night, 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez toppled a 10-term Congressman from New York City in a landslide Democratic primary victory. The shocking result virtually assures that the U.S. Congress will welcome its youngest female member ever next year.

The upset win also essentially guarantees that Ocasio-Cortez will bring with her the boldest climate platform of any representative in history.

Ocasio-Cortez, who was without a Wikipedia page on Monday, unseated Joe Crowley, the 20-year representative of New York’s 14th Congressional District who was vying to become the next Speaker of the House. The New York Times, her hometown newspaper, didn’t even cover the race. CNN called the victory “a real wakeup call for Democrats.”

Ocasio-Cortez said her triumph was “the start of a movement.” As a millennial woman of color, she’s already been referred to as the future of the Democratic Party.

Since her district, which comprises parts of Queens and the Bronx, is among the most strongly Democratic in the country, the general election in November likely will not be competitive. Pending the results of other elections across the country, Ocasio-Cortez seems almost certain to join Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as one of the few socialists ever elected to Congress.

Among her many progressive bona fides, it’s really her plan for tackling climate change that deserves the most attention.

In one of her first campaign tweets on the topic of climate change, more than one year ago, Ocasio-Cortez framed the issue as an “existential threat” — one that young people should be taking the lead on.

Ocasio-Cortez is one of the first American politicians to put forward a climate change plan that would keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

To meet that goal while leaving space for developing countries to move at a slower pace, independent assessments suggest that the United States needs to reduce its emissions by approximately 75 to 125 percent or more — actually drawing carbon dioxide out of the air — by 2035. Ocasio-Cortez hopes to move the entire country to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. Even Bernie Sanders’ climate plan didn’t set such an ambitious goal.

The crash carbon diet would require “the complete mobilization of the American workforce to combat climate change,” as Ocasio-Cortez told HuffPost reporter Alexander Kaufman.

On her campaign’s website, she summarizes the danger that climate change poses to the planet:

Climate change is the single biggest national security threat for the United States and the single biggest threat to worldwide industrialized civilization, and the effects of warming can be hard to predict and self-reinforcing. We need to avoid a worldwide refugee crisis by waging a war for climate justice through the mobilization of our population and our government. This starts with the United States being a leader on the actions we take both globally and locally.

According to Ocasio-Cortez, such an effort would cost “trillions of dollars,” but would “not only save our planet from the ravages of climate change but would also lift millions of Americans out of poverty.”

It’s an audacious plan that’s easy to dismiss as wishful thinking. But last night’s results just brought Ocasio-Cortez’s vision a step closer to reality.

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With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, Congress will likely gain a new climate champion

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Voting for Obamacare Cost Him His Job. Now It Might Be His Ticket Back.

Mother Jones

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At the People’s Climate March in Washington, there were old ladies dressed as beekeepers, vegetarians in full-body carrot suits, and a clean-energy marching band in matching green hard hats, but Tom Perriello was the only person I saw wearing a tie. It was probably a bad idea. Saturday was one of those steamy afternoons in DC, more August than April, that leaves you with the sensation of being inside the mouth of a dog—a good day to make the case for catastrophic global warming, but a bad one to walk outside in a pressed blue shirt and dress shoes. The 42-year-old former congressman, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia, was running a few minutes late after a morning event in the suburbs and was undeterred. Clutching a bottle of water and an apple his sister had handed him, he wanted to explain to me what people had gotten wrong when he ran for reelection to Congress in 2010.

Republicans looking to take him down spent a lot of time and money talking about climate change. Perriello, a first-term Democrat in a rural, red, New Jersey-sized patch of “Southside” Virginia, had cast a key vote for Waxman-Markey, the House’s cap-and-trade bill that would go on to die in the Senate. Ads by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which supported his challenger Robert Hurt to the tune of $1.1 million, dubbed it an “energy tax.” The US Chamber of Commerce piled on too. When Perriello eventually lost by 4 points, the NRCC claimed his climate advocacy, along with his vote for the Affordable Care Act, was a big reason why.

But unlike a lot of other Democrats who were swept out to sea in that 2010 wave, Perriello had run on, not from, his support for the Obama agenda. “I think we convert more people by being bolder on climate instead of soft on climate,” he said as we moved toward the sound of drumming and tambourines along the parade route. “People thought that was a bad vote for me, but we didn’t just vote for it; we went out and made the case to farmers and small-business owners—literally got down to the level of cow manure and capturing methane off of cow manure for farmers to be able to power their own farms.” He cited an election-eve poll that showed voters trusted him by 24 points on energy issues.

Democrats have been winning big races in the Old Dominion for more than a decade, and they currently hold every statewide elected position, from the two US Senate seats to the state attorney general, but it has never been easy. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, an ur-Clinton loyalist and former Democratic National Committee chair, will be term-limited this fall, and the Democratic nominee will likely face well-funded Republican Ed Gillespie, a Trump-backing former lobbyist and Republican National Committee chair, who narrowly lost a US Senate bid in 2014. The race, an expensive fight in the shadow of the Capitol, will be the most serious test yet of the Democratic Party’s resiliency in the age of Trump. But somewhat unexpectedly, the primary has also become an early referendum on where the Democratic Party is heading.

Perriello’s opponent, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, was also elected to a red-leaning seat in 2007, held onto it, and moved up the ladder in 2013. Northam, a 57-year-old former Army doctor with a genteel Southern cadence, looked like the de facto nominee last year, but Perriello announced his candidacy in January—amid a period of postelection soul-searching—and has made a race of it. He has pulled together a coalition that includes Bernie Sanders supporters and Obama loyalists, who appreciated his tough votes. Polling has been limited and all over the place; the only sure thing is that with a little more than a month to go before the June election, a large chunk of Virginia’s Democrats are still undecided.

Comparisons to Sanders don’t quite hold water, but in a few key ways Perriello’s message tracks closely with that of the Vermont senator. Perriello is pushing for a $15 minimum wage (which Northam also supports) and free community college, and he’s campaigning hard in rural areas of the state, such as the southwestern coal country and farm belt of Southside Virginia (his old district) that have booted out Democrats in recent years and swung hard toward Trump. And like Sanders, he’s going all-in on fracking, promising to block two natural gas pipelines from being constructed, if elected, and rejecting donations from Dominion Power, which has proposed the pipeline.

Perriello believes that conservatives, and many Democrats, have long talked about environmental regulations in a way that elides the real impediments to economic growth in those areas. “People know I’m a climate hawk, but it’s also worth knowing the two biggest killers of coal jobs have been automation and natural gas,” he said. He described spending time in Virginia’s struggling coal country trying to engage voters by pointing to new economic drivers. He insists the state needs “to get beyond looking at just distributed energy—though that can be a part of it. We need to actually be looking at how to relocalize some percent of food production, both because it’s more sustainable but also creates greater economic resiliency in communities that feel a real loss of sovereignty.”

As an example of what he means by “relocalizing,” Perriello points to a favorite example of his: the beer industry. “A decade ago, two companies controlled 96 percent of the beer market,” he said. Now, because of the growth of microbreweries, that figure is down to 84 percent. “We’re still talking about an industry that’s overwhelmingly dominated by two companies, but just that 10 percent delta of relocalizing beer production has had massive implications for jobs and economic renewal on main streets like Winchester and rural counties like Nelson County,” he said, referring to Shenandoah Valley communities that have embraced the “brew ridge” economy.

“So,” he continued, “we’re not talking about that going back to being 80 or 90 percent of the economy—but even if it’s a 10 percent plus-up, there are huge implications for jobs and sustainability.”

Relocalizing? Distributed energy? Delta? Perriello can sound like either an economic populist who speaks like a think-tanker, or the other way around. His ability to move between those two identities has been a key factor in his rise. A Yale-educated native of Ivy, Virginia, just outside Charlottesville, Perriello worked as a war crimes prosecutor in West Africa after college before returning at the end of the Bush administration to run against six-term incumbent Virgil Goode, an archconservative Republican and an occasional embarrassment who had once raised a ruckus about the first Muslim member of Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison, being sworn in on a Koran. After his stint on the Hill was up, Perriello took a post as CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the DC-based progressive think thank, only to return to Africa a few years later for a series of State Department postings.

Outside the Canadian embassy, a leader of a local Indivisible chapter, in a pink “Resist” hat and clutching half a dozen signs that say “Protect the Sacred,” approaches Perriello to tell him he has her group’s full support. As he speaks with another voter, a sign from a passing marcher, with a long quote from Ansel Adams, blows away onto the ground and Perriello stops to pick it up. He asks his young staffers if he should do a Facebook Live from the march, and one of them whips out a smartphone and starts filming. A few minutes later, he recognizes a sixtysomething man in crocs and a bucket hat wearing a blue T-shirt that says “no pipeline,” and they talk shop for a few minutes about the fracking fight. The man’s friend tells Perriello that some of the land that will be seized for pipeline construction through eminent domain has been in the same family since Emancipation. Perriello nods, concerned.

Northam, who has already been elected statewide and enjoys the backing of the entire state Democratic establishment, has campaigned hard on gun control and reproductive rights, two issues where Perriello holds different positions now than when he entered Congress. Perriello received donations (and an A rating) from the National Rifle Association during his single term, and he supported the failed Stupak amendment to the Affordable Care Act, which would have prohibited the law from subsidizing insurance plans that cover abortion. He now condemns the NRA as an organization “for gunmakers and survivalists,” and has said he regretted the Stupak vote.

Democrats have sparred in recent weeks over the role of abortion within the party’s coalition, after Sanders endorsed Omaha mayoral candidate Heath Mello, a former backer of a bill requiring doctors performing abortions to first offer women ultrasounds. When I ask Perriello if it’s possible to be progressive and pro-life, he chooses his words very carefully. “We’re running a campaign here that is focused on advancing reproductive justice, where we’re not just looking at the right to choose, but the right to affordable and dignified access to that choice,” he says. “I believe that we can’t separate issues of economic fairness and justice from issues of reproductive access. So I believe that those are fights that can and should be integrated, and that’s certainly what we’re gonna do here in Virginia.” Abortion, in other words, is an economic populist issue.

On combating climate change and protecting the environment, though, there is only so much the next governor of Virginia can do with Trump in the White House. Perriello would be able to stop those pipelines, of course, and he can push to lower the amount of money utilities are able to spend on state elections. But he has no delusions about the impact of the federal government on climate, and no inhibitions about turning his race in Virginia into a national one. “One of the things we’re seeing this year is the potential for a wave election that could set the trend for a wave election next year,” he says.

He’s banking on it; immediately following the passage of the Obamacare repeal in the House of Representatives on Thursday, Perriello put out a new ad, pegged to the vote, in which he stands in front of an ambulance being crushed in a junkyard:

First he has to win his primary. That evening, a few hours after the march, Perriello and Northam met up for their first debate of the campaign, at an elementary school in Fairfax sandwiched between NRA headquarters and H Mart, the Asian grocery superstore. The event was co-sponsored by EMERGE USA, an organization that aims to boost the political clout of Muslim, South Asian, and Arab-Americans. Both candidates mostly kept their powder dry, save for a brief dust-up over gun control when Northam brought up the NRA backing. Trump was a recurring villain, but Gillespie was hardly mentioned; when voters are mad at Washington, you don’t mess with a good thing.

Outside, evenly matched groups of young volunteers formed a gauntlet along the approach to the venue and exchanged rudimentary chants— “I say Ralph, you say Northam!”; “Go Tom Go!” A few supporters of the Atlantic pipeline gripped posters calling Perriello a “job killer” for his environmentalist objections—just like the old times—but no one paid them much attention. A few feet away, behind the scrum of shouting youths, a supporter clutched a sign that said “Perriello ♥’s Obamacare.” In a time when everything seems upside-down, it was a simple image of how Tom Perriello landed on his feet.

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Voting for Obamacare Cost Him His Job. Now It Might Be His Ticket Back.

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What Should Democrats Say About Jobs?

Mother Jones

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Greg Sargent reports today on work by Priorities USA to figure out why so many people who voted for Obama in 2012 turned around and voted for Trump in 2016:

One finding from the polling stands out: A shockingly large percentage of these Obama-Trump voters said Democrats’ economic policies will favor the wealthy — twice the percentage that said the same about Trump. I was also permitted to view video of some focus group activity, which showed Obama-Trump voters offering sharp criticism of Democrats on the economy.

….The poll found that Obama-Trump voters, many of whom are working-class whites and were pivotal to Trump’s victory, are economically losing ground and are skeptical of Democratic solutions to their problems.

I’m afraid I can’t find this very interesting without answers to a few questions:

How many voters switched from Obama to Trump? Are we talking 5 percent? 1 percent? Less?1
How does this compare to other years? Is it unusually high?
How does this compare to other years after a party has held the White House for eight years?

That said, let’s assume this is a problem. What should Democrats do about it? Here’s my take: above all, these folks want steady, secure jobs. Health care is great. Free college is great. Childcare is great. All that stuff is great, but it’s not fundamentally what drives the votes of these party switchers. What they want to hear about is jobs. They want their old-time good jobs back.

Trump had a good message on jobs: the Chinese stole them from you and I’ll get them back. This is not an especially correct message, but it’s both plausible and galvanizing. It works.

So what should the Democrats’ message be? What policy would plausibly and directly impact the likelihood of these “left behind” folks getting good, steady jobs again? There’s trade, of course, which Bernie Sanders raised in the primaries, but I think Trump has that one covered. It needs to be something else. But what?

If it takes more than a sentence or so to explain, it’s no good. If it’s couched in liberalese, it’s no good. If it’s not viscerally plausible, it’s no good. If it’s about “retraining,” it’s no good. If it’s gobbledegook about the changing world, it’s no good. If it’s not directly focused on getting a good job, it’s no good.

Any ideas?

1Please note my admirable restraint in not mentioning that if it weren’t for James Comey, Hillary Clinton would have won and the number of vote switchers would probably have been minuscule.

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What Should Democrats Say About Jobs?

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France Is About to Vote in the Craziest Election the World Has Seen Since, Well, November

Mother Jones

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French voters will go to the polls on Sunday to vote for a new president. The election will have profound reverberations around the world. Will France take a nationalist turn to the right? Will it seek to withdraw from the European Union and restrict immigration? Will a young candidate with a pro-Europe, pro-immigration message convince enough of his voters to actually show up? Will the “French Bernie Sanders” upset the establishment and convince voters that his left-wing populism is the way to go?

Voters will choose between 11 candidates, with four clear front-runners: right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, center-right conservative François Fillon, and left-wing populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Sunday’s election will narrow the field to the top two vote-getters (unless one candidate earns more than 50 percent of the vote), who will then go head to head in a runoff election on May 7.

According to polling from the Financial Times, Macron leads the pack at 24 percent, just 1 point up on Le Pen. But Mélenchon, who had been hovering just above the 10 percent mark for months, has seen a surge in popularity of late, bringing him into a tie for third place with Fillon at 19 percent. The polling backs up the consensus narrative out of France that Le Pen and Macron will face off in the May 7 election, but Mélenchon’s steep rise over the last month could upset that outcome.

When the news starts to come in from Europe this weekend, here are some key points about each of the leading candidates to keep in mind:

Marine Le Pen: The far-right firebrand has been getting a lot of the attention during the race, and polls show she is likely to get through to the second round. The 48-year-old daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the far-right National Front party, Le Pen is riding a wave of anti-immigration and anti-globalization policy that could make her France’s next president. She’s doing well with the youths of France, who face high unemployment and, according to Marion Maréchal-Le Pen—Le Pen’s niece, who is a member of the French Parliament—resent immigrants because of the sense of losing their own, French, identity.

While polls showing Le Pen doing well in Sunday’s free-for-all election, she consistently lags behind both Macron and Fillon in polls of runoff scenarios. While the National Front has historically been associated with anti-immigration zealotry, Le Pen has recently stirred controversy for aligning herself with an outsider: Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under Le Pen’s leadership, National Front took out a $30 million loan from a Russian bank. Le Pen told reporters that she had to do so because French, American, and English banks won’t lend her money. She says her stance toward Russia is more about reducing American and European Union control over the world and elevating other nations to be more on equal footing with the United States. She’s also taken several pro-Russian positions, including supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea, pulling France out of NATO and the European Union, and dropping sanctions against Russian interests.

Emmanuel Macron: A former investment banker, Macron, 39, is the country’s former economy minister. Where Le Pen favors a France-first, populist approach, Macron is pro-European Union and pro-NATO and has supported increasing sanctions against Russia if the country does not follow through on plans to address its actions in the Ukraine. The knock on Macron is that he’s too boring, and his platform is trying to be all things to all people, according to Politico, balancing “the big paradox of French political life. Voters want radical change—but they also want candidates to put forward realistic, bordering on safe, platforms.”

Macron is polling nearly 30 points higher than Le Pen in a two-way race. He’s currently about a point up on Le Pen for Sunday’s race, so it’s likely he’ll make it through to the May 7 final election.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: The “French Bernie Sanders,” as Mélenchon is often called by the US press, is a comparison that isn’t totally accurate, as pointed out by the Intercept. Mélenchon is running from outside the main political parties, whereas Sanders ran for the Democratic Party nomination in 2016. But that hasn’t seemed to hurt Mélenchon’s chances. The 65-year-old supporter of Hugo Chavez and the Castros in Cuba seems to be riding a growing wave of popularity among “disgruntled, blue collar voters” who, despite their troubles with the status quo in France, “do not want to vote for Le Pen,” according to Foreign Policy.

If he were to edge ahead of Macron, French voters would likely be left to choose between a far-right and a far-left candidate, a prospect that the Wall Street Journal called “a nightmare scenario for investors.” The theory underpinning the investor-worry is that both candidates in that scenario would advocate policies that would scare investors from servicing France’s debt, lower the value of its currency, and stunt economic growth. According to the Financial Times polling data, Mélenchon is polling 18 points ahead of Le Pen if the two were to compete in May.

Still, there are many in France who agree with his message—similar to Sanders’ during the 2016 US presidential election—that wealth in France is concentrated in too few hands at the top of the food chain. Mélenchon has proposed a 32-hour work week, cutting the retirement age from 62 to 60, and a 100 billion euro ($107 billion) stimulus plan. But he also proposes pulling France from NATO, a move that would remove one of the alliance’s strongest members. Mélenchon isn’t as anti-European Union as Le Pen, but he says he wants to reform the European Central Bank to respond more to political interests than economic interests.

François Fillon: As a former prime minister, the conservative 63-year-old was an early favorite to win the race. But his support plummeted after it came to light that he’d gotten his wife and two of his adult children more than $1 million in parliamentary payments for jobs they didn’t really do. Fillon insists he did nothing wrong, but some have called on him to bow out of the race. The New York Times reported in early March that “hundreds of Mr. Fillon’s former backers have distanced themselves from him,” and recent polling has put him at either third or fourth place behind Le Pen, Macron, and, at times, Mélenchon.

As far as policy positions, Fillon has strong support from Catholics and other social conservatives for opposing same-sex marriage. He’s proposed increasing the retirement age, slashing public benefits, getting rid of the 35-hour work week, and cutting 600,000 public-sector jobs. He has also said he’s ready to battle the country’s strong unions. He’s pro-European Union but has advocated better relations with Russia in order to defeat ISIS.

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France Is About to Vote in the Craziest Election the World Has Seen Since, Well, November

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Evening Garbage Roundup

Mother Jones

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Apropos of my previous post, Natasha Bertrand points out that at the exact same time the Russian RISS think tank recommended a messaging change to focus on voter fraud, Donald Trump suddenly started talking about “rigged elections.” I’m sure it was just a coincidence:

And there’s also this about Jon Ossoff’s near-victory in Georgia last night:

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, in an interview Tuesday in Louisville, Ky., said he didn’t know much about Mr. Ossoff, a 30-year-old former House staffer. Mr. Sanders said he isn’t prepared to back Democrats just because of a party label. “If you run as a Democrat, you’re a Democrat,” he said. “Some Democrats are progressive and some Democrats are not.”

Asked if Mr. Ossoff is a progressive, Mr. Sanders, an independent who challenged Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primary, demurred. “I don’t know,” he said.

I know how touchy this subject is, but come on. Ossoff is obviously no fire breather, but he’s been the center of progressive attention for weeks now. Would it kill Sanders to spend a few minutes learning who he is and what he’s about—and whether that’s good enough for an endorsement? If Sanders wants to be a party leader—and he’s given every indication that he does—he needs to pay more attention to this stuff. He can start here.

UPDATE: There were originally three items in this post. The third one was a tweet about something Mike Huckabee said, but the tweet has since been deleted because it misrepresented Huckabee’s comment. I’ve deleted the reference to it.

Originally posted here: 

Evening Garbage Roundup

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The DNC Chair Race Is Over. Now Comes the Real Battle.

Mother Jones

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And to think, that was the easy part. Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez was elected as chair of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, edging out Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison in the first competitive election for the job in decades. The 55-year-old Perez, the first Latino chair of the party, will now inherit the most thankless job in politics—rebuilding a party that is at its lowest point since the 1920s.

The race was often miscast as a proxy fight between supporters of Bernie Sanders and supporters of Hillary Clinton, a framing that was unfair to both Ellison and Perez, dynamic and progressive political operatives running for a job often reserved for staid political figures. In the end, Perez’s win was not a rejection of Ellison’s vision of the party; in key ways, his campaign was an affirmation of it.

Party chair is a position typically of interest only to political junkies. But with organizers still amped up from the presidential election, the race had the feel and structure of a competitive primary, with a half-dozen candidate forums across the country and an intensive push from rank-and-file voters that recalled previous courting of superdelegates. “I’ve been lobbied consistently by phone, by email, by Facebook, by Twitter for the last month,” said Melvin Poindexter, a DNC member from Massachusetts who was supporting Ellison.

Ellison, for his part, tried to tamp down the barrage of phone calls on his behalf, which one state party chair unfavorably described as “anarchy.” But aggressive lobbying proved critical. Kerman Maddox, a DNC member from California, explained that he’d chosen Perez in part because “Tom called me more than any of the other Democratic candidates”—a sentiment echoed by other voting members.

After the results were announced, a dozen Ellison supporters—including the congressman’s brother, Eric—chanted “party for the people, not big money” from the back of the Atlanta ballroom, with a few cries of “bullshit!” thrown in. While the formal final vote, sealed on the second ballot, was 235 to 200, in a show of unity, Perez was subsequently elected by acclamation. In his first move as chair, he announced that Ellison had agreed to serve as his deputy chair.

“If you’re wearing a ‘Keith’ t-shirt—or any t-shirt—I am asking you to give everything you’ve got to support chairman Perez,” Ellison told the room. Afterward, they switched campaign pins in a show of solidarity.

In the run up to the vote, some Ellison backers argued that there was no real case for a Perez chairmanship—that he was running as a check on Sanders’ influence and little more. But DNC members I spoke with seemed to understand Perez’s pitch quite clearly: he was a turnaround artist who had retooled complex bureaucracies toward progressive ends, first at the Maryland Department of Labor, then at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and finally as President Barack Obama’s Labor Secretary. If progressives had forgotten what they liked about Perez, they needed to look no farther than the conservative Breitbart News, which once heralded Perez “the most radical cabinet secretary since Henry Wallace,” the New Dealer who eventually bolted the Democrats to mount a third party challenge in 1948.

The fights that Perez has waged over the course of his career track closely with those Ellison cut his teeth on in Minneapolis—housing discrimination, voter suppression, and living wages. Neo-liberal stooges still have a place in the Democratic party. But the DNC chair isn’t one of them.

Beyond their shared political priorities, Perez even offered a similar diagnosis as Ellison. The party had become top-heavy, focusing too much on the presidential race, and had neglected to compete on a county-by-county level. He advocated something resembling a restoration of former chair Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy, and proposed to spend more time knocking on doors in off-year elections. There was no talk of compromising with President Donald Trump; Perez dubbed him “the worst president in the history of the United States.”

Ellison sought to win the same way he always has, through a mastery of coalition politics. His backers included American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, Rep. John Lewis, and Sanders—many of whom found themselves on opposing sides during the president primary. The threat by OJ Simpson counsel and Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz< to leave the party if Ellison won did not appear to have a substantial effect on voters. (Maybe they were waiting to hear from F. Lee Bailey.) He ran not as Sanders 2.0, but as a restoration of an even older form of Democratic progressivism, one evoked by the spruce-green colors on his t-shirts and tote bags—the campaign colors of his political idol, the late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Just a few hours before the election, there was an indication Ellison might come up short when the committee members voted on a resolution that would reinstate the party’s ban on corporate donations. The ban, which was first implemented by president-elect Barack Obama in 2008, had been dropped last year by the previous party chair, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Ellison had supported the reinstatement of the ban and envisioned a party’s fundraising model in the mold of Sanders’ small-dollar campaign. Perez never committed to reinstating the contribution ban.

The resolution brought on the most contentious 10 minutes of a weekend that, up until then, had been a love-fest. Bob Mulholland of California, the leading critic of the ban, chided critics as naive. He cited corporate opposition to ousted North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory as proof that corporations aren’t all evil. Supporters of the ban, some of the new party leaders whom had been recently elected to their posts with the backing of Sanders’s supporters, implicitly tied the resolution to the senator’s one-time candidacy, warning that the party risked alienating voters who cared about money in politics. Jessica Sell Chambers, a Sanders backer and the newly minted national committeewoman from Wyoming, offered a succinct appraisal: “I belong to the party of the people and the last time I checked corporations aren’t people.”

Inside the Westin, where Democrats began assembling on Thursday, the notion that the chair candidates were engaged in a rancorous, existential fight seemed far-fetched. Perez, who was hoarse from two days of lobbying as he made a last-minute push Friday night, had taken to calling the event “Unity Saturday.” Even the most die-hard Ellison supporters were optimistic that the party would be in good hands win or lose. Each of the leading candidates devoted portions of their stump speech to a call for unity no matter who won.

“I really just want to like put at least four of them together,” said Dolly Strazar from Hawaii, a Sanders supporter who ended up backing Perez. Another voting member, Aleita Huguenin of California, predicted that the fight would quickly simmer down. “I’ve been through too many of them,” she said. “People are a little disappointed, they have two dinners, and will be back together.”

In reality, the contentious fight over the future of the party never really described the DNC race—but there is such a battle playing out across the country. Already, Sanders supporters, both organically and with the support of the Senator’s non-profit Our Revolution, have begun targeting the party’s apparatus at state, county, and local levels. They are poised to take over the California Democratic party in May, after winning a majority of delegates to the state convention in January. The Sanders wing is ascendant in Nebraska and Wyoming, and setting its sights on Florida and Michigan. Beyond party positions, re-energized Sanders supporters are talking openly about primary challenges to Democratic officeholders who support Donald Trump’s policies.

Less than a year after only 39 of 447 DNC members endorsed Sanders’ presidential campaign, his chosen candidate came about 15 votes short of taking over the whole thing. The numbers reflect Sanders’ forces growing strength in the party, a gradual upheaval that may only be sped along by Perez’s victory. DNC members from Wyoming—where the Vermont senator notched a huge caucus victory but due to party rules emerged with few delegates—who are not on board are feeling the heat. When Bruce Palmer, the party’s vice chair, told me he was supporting Tom Perez, he conceded that it may be to his own detriment. After all, he’s got an election next month.

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The DNC Chair Race Is Over. Now Comes the Real Battle.

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Exxon just decided to keep a big chunk of its tar sands in the ground.

Democratic Party insiders will vote for a new chair this weekend. The winner will get the tough job of trying to rebuild a damaged party.

Ten people are in the running, but the victor is likely to be one of the top two contenders: Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison or former Labor Secretary Tom Perez. Ellison backed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary last year, and Sanders is backing Ellison in this race. In 2012 and 2015, Ellison and Sanders teamed up to push a bill to end subsidies for fossil fuel companies.

Climate activist (and Grist board member) Bill McKibben argues that Ellison, a progressive who is “from the movement wing,” would help the party regain credibility with young people.

A coalition of millennial leaders endorsed Ellison this week, including a number of activists from climate groups. “We want a chair who will fight to win a democracy for all and overcome the profound crises of our time — from catastrophic climate change to systemic racism, historic economic inequality to perpetual war,” they wrote.

350 Action, the political arm of climate group 350.org, endorsed Ellison earlier this month:

And Jane Kleeb, a prominent anti-Keystone activist and a voting DNC member, is backing Ellison too:


Exxon just decided to keep a big chunk of its tar sands in the ground.

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