The political process has failed. Cap and trade legislation is dead in this Congress.
Kerry and Reid said as much this week. They said they don’t have the votes in the Senate, so instead of introducing the legislation before the August recess, Reid will introduce a very minor energy bill instead, and that’s it. Technically, the comprehensive legislation could still be offered in September, but the vote becomes more difficult, and less likely, as the election approaches. If they thought they had the votes, they would introduce it now. They don’t have the votes, they don’t expect to get them, and barring a miracle, after this November there will be no chance to get them. The legislative effort is dead. Our political system has failed to respond to the greatest challenge of our time.
We must do something.
In the interest of brevity, I’ll skip all these citations from Reid, Boxer, Waxman, Dorgan, Carol Browner, the New York Times, and the Rolling Stone. Suffice to say, they confirm the point that the conventional political process has failed and will fail to deliver a bill. Leadership cannot deliver.
I will cite Joe Romm, because he’s the most legislatively-plugged-in, politically-astute, fiercest, and most optimistic climate blogger there is. His analysis is here:
The mostly dead climate bill is now extinct. It has passed on! It is is no more! It has ceased to be!
[Obama] has let any chance of comprehensive climate legislation die without a fight.
And finally, in Shakespearean dismay, he evokes the moment our leadership missed, when the BP explosion became a reason to kill the bill rather than a reason to pass it:
We at the height are ready to decline.
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
Our leaders have missed the tide, failed to seize the window that the Democratic trifecta and the BP oil spill provided, and are dooming our civilization to flail in those shallows and miseries for centuries. Ordinary politics has failed.
We must deliver extraordinary politics.
We must do something to change the narrative, change the environment, change the calculus by which this bill’s fate is determined.
We in the grassroots must revive this effort and create the conditions that will start flipping votes.
We’ve seen it done before. We know how it’s done. Anyone who witnessed last August knows that an uprising on the right, much as we hate to admit, really did almost kill the health care bill and really did create conditions that dramatically limited its scope.
We need to take this August recess as hard as the right-wingers took last August.
We need to answer their Tea Parties with C Parties. And E Parties.
Climate Parties, and Energy Parties.
We need to stage a bunch of events in our own towns, while Congress is home.
We need to gather our people and show that this bill must pass, that this problem needs to be addressed, that Climate is the problem of our generation, and Energy is the solution.
We need to throw some street parties, with the creativity to attract the press, the messaging to get through to the public, and the commitment to get the attention of the politicians.
We need our grassroots energy to take over the narrative of August, to fill the media space with discussion of our arguments, our claims, and our demands. We need to focus the national conversation on climate and energy, and raise the cost of inaction on swing votes and Democratic Leaders alike.
Fortunately we’ve got an in. The press hook is so obvious that if we put up anything halfway decent, they practically have to cover us. After the absurd over-attention given to the Tea Parties, assignment editors are practically obligated to send people out to anything that makes a credible claim to be the “left-wing answer to the Tea Parties.” And the more creative and more compelling (and better attended) our C Parties are, the more coverage we’ll get and the more impact we’ll have.
And unsurprisingly, when you actually have something constructive to offer, there are a million creative and compelling ways to do it.
To begin, I imagine a fairly simple demonstration, say in a grassy place near a major intersection with a lot of passing traffic. On one side of the street, you have the C party: climate stuff. Posters with 350 on them. Big thermometers — real from the hardware store, and even bigger ones of cardboard. Empty rain gauges. Melting blocks of ice. Beetle-killed trees (easy to find in the West). Wilted crops — also easy to find this year. A kiddie pool filled with water, vinegar, and shells, for the acidifying ocean. Hurricanes — the cocktail! (It’s a party, right?) Hockey sticks. A bunch of the little green houses from a Monopoly set. Toy tanks and toy soldiers. Bowls full of dust. Mosquito nets. You could even set up a coal barbecue, paint the backside of a cheap frypan with blue and green paint, set it over the fire, and watch the earth be cooked by coal. Whatever ways we can come up with to visually and intriguingly communicate the problem: we are changing the climate, and we’re going to regret it.
And then on the other side of the street, the E Party, because new kinds of Energy is the answer. And we likewise communicate that in as many eye-catching, camera-friendly ways as we can. Paint cardboard black and put a grid of duct tape on it to look like solar cells. Bring one of those garden windmills to represent wind power. Remote-control cars can represent electric vehicles. Train sets represent high-speed rail. Bring CFL bulbs, caulk guns, and light switches to wave at passing cars. If you want to get confrontational, you could buy some charcoal briquettes and make a big show of burying them, because we need to leave that shit in the ground. Likewise, you could build a little oil derrick and stick a ballcap on it, cause we’re gonna have to cap the wells too. Senate politics may dictate that we soft-pedal the attack on coal (aka West Virginia’s livelihood). But we should make a big cardboard model of the bill, and then pass it around the E Party… get it, pass the bill! And we should call out the votes we need by name, on homemade signs: Dorgan Conrad Rockefeller Goodwin Webb Bayh Landrieu Pryor Lincoln Nelson Graham Voinovich Snowe Collins McCain Murkowski Lugar LeMieux. The E Party is for solutions, and these are the people we need to get both domestic and international solutions rolling.
Combined, these two parties make for a pretty reportable demonstration. The contrast with the Tea Parties, and all the creative symbols we can muster, should help us get the attention of the press and then communicate our message through them to public and leadership: Climate is the problem, Energy is the solution, and we want ’em to pass a bill!
I think these C Parties and E Parties could really work, especially as a galvanizing moment to be followed by more focused efforts. There is a hunger in our base to do something constructive, to answer the right-wingers who have resurged in such a disconcertingly short time, and to stand up for and advance a cause that we truly believe in. Climate change is an issue on which our base is united, that affects us all equally, and that is a profound civilizational challenge and a moral responsibility. It’s a politically clean issue, it cuts across generational lines, and it’s one where our leaders and the normal political process have admitted their own failure, and where our activism is very clearly called for. We have the month of August to work with and the contrast to last August as an initial hook. We have a clear case of urgency: September is quite likely our last chance in the next several years. We have a base ready to be mobilized, an issue and a timeline that demands their mobilization, and an entire month of vacant media to play for. I think it’s time to put our people in the streets. It’s time to throw some Climate Parties, and make a last-ditch effort to save the world.