It Isn't Easy Being Green
Last week, I discussed climate change and the presidential candidates on New Hampshire Public Radio’s The Exchange. During the show, I commented on the expansiveness of the Democratic vision for fighting global warming. Go to any Democratic presidential candidate’s official website, and you will find a highly detailed, comprehensive plan to address global warming that incorporates cutting edge environmental tools and green technologies.
When asked how the issue would play out in November 2008, however, I suggested that it would likely be folded into a larger ideological debate about the cost of federal regulation, the need for fiscal responsibility, and the role of economic incentives in changing environmental behavior. My conclusion was that only a Democratic president with a substantial partisan majority in Congress would ever have the legislative clout necessary to realize the scope of environmental change suggested by these candidate platforms.
In the spirit of our radio discussion, today’s Washington Post runs a piece on this same topic, noting the difficulties that Democratic candidates may face in defending the potential cost of these broad programs against Republican criticism, in a general election where not all voters share a similar sense of urgency on climate change.
As I also mentioned last week, recent survey data from the Pew Research Center suggest that only 36% of Republicans rank the environment as an issue that is very important to their vote, in contrast to 72% of Democrats. This voter ambivalence is reflected in the more modest climate change proposals put forth by most of the Republican candidates. It is within the context of these highly polarized views that Democrats will face the challenge of selling their big green ideas to the general public.

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