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Did Climate Change Burn the Democrats?

by Rick on November 3, 2010

As the dust settles on yesterday’s expected political earthquake, I’m wondering: is climate change partly to blame for the downfall of the Democratics?

That’s what Darren Samuelson and Robin Bravender are arguing over at Politico today. They point out that “Democrats who voted for the controversial House climate bill were slaughtered at the ballot box.” Exhibit A is my representative, Rick Boucher, “the 14-term Virginian who helped broker some of the key deals instrumental to its June 2009 passage,” beaten handily by longtime Virginia Delegate Morgan Griffith.

Boucher has always been a fairly centrist Democrat (some of my liberal friends have more disparaging assessments), playing a delicate dance in the conservative and coal-friendly 9th District. But until the recent unpleasantness he seemed unassailable.

Why did he go down? Samuelson and Bravender point to his efforts on the climate change bill as being the nail in his coffin:

There’s no hiding the House Democrats’ bloodbath, with more than two dozen members who voted for the Pelosi-led climate bill losing their seats, and more likely to fall as the final tallies come in. The outcome sends a strong signal to moderate lawmakers as they consider any risky votes in future Congress’ on energy and environmental issues.

Boucher’s defeat is perhaps the most stinging given the central role he played in brokering key pieces of the legislation to make it more friendly to his home state’s coal industry.

Politico’s theory is backed up by a piece of news that went relatively unnoticed yesterday amid focus on the election: in spite of overwhelming evidence that climate change is real, a new report out of Yale University claims that only 47% of Republicans and 57% of Independents believe climate change is happening. This compares to 81% of Democrats.

I’m not that surprised about the Republican numbers, but 43% of independents don’t believe in global warming?! WTF? I had no idea the deniers were being that successful outside their Tea Party/Fox News base. If that many independents really feel climate legislation is a waste, that issue alone might have been more than enough to turn the tide against the Dems.

What do you think? Can we credit climate change for yesterday’s bloodbath? And is the Republican takeover of the House an unmitigated disaster for future climate change legislation?

We want to know your thoughts. Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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Aaron wrote:
November 03, 2010 at 5:55 pm

I think thats a reasonable assessment. Other sources have started to look at climate change as a threat to national and global security (, so it’s not a leap to say it could unseat a congressman. As more geopolitical upheaval is caused by climate change, the deniers will be judged just as harshly by history as the people who missed the signs of a growing threat from terrorism in the last decade.

Rick wrote:
November 03, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Yes, the deniers will suffer along with the rest of us. If there were any justice they would suffer worse.

Nathan wrote:
November 05, 2010 at 9:10 am

I never thought about that connection until reading your assessment.  Unfortunately, the employment climate is not good for the voters in our community.  The press and attack ads characterize green living as a way to hurt our coal/ manufacturing jobs.  We desperately need a movement/ political force to focus on retooling our environmentally unfriendly jobs.
Thanks Rick for your passions and providing us with the insights!

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