Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hillary Embraces Renewable Energy: The Democratic Base is Progressive; the Candidate, Not So Much

Analogies for the Clinton campaign are legion. All tend to accentuate hugeness and torpidity. The image that leaps to mind is a retired ocean liner like the RMS Queen Mary. Blogger Lambert Strether frequently refers to Hillary's presidential run as the "S.S. Clinton."

But as Clinton tacks to and fro to catch the fancy of the Democratic electorate, her campaign illuminates just how progressive the base of the party has become.

The problem for Hillary is that she suffers from what was referred to in LBJ's day as the "credibility gap." Democrats don't believe 1) that her policy prescriptions go far enough in a left direction to substantively address issues like income inequality (Hillary has talked about changing corporate culture by adjusting the capital gains tax based on how long you have held a stock); and 2) that she will even attempt to implement them if she wins the presidency.

A fine example is this morning's topnotch story by Trip Gabriel and Coral Davenport, "Hillary Clinton Lays Out Climate Change Plan." Hillary has
. . . set a goal to produce 33 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources by 2027, up from 7 percent today — a higher goal than the 20 percent that President Obama has called for by 2030.
Mrs. Clinton’s strategists see climate change as a winning issue for 2016. They believe it is a cause she can advance to win over deep-pocketed donors and liberal activists in the nominating campaign, where she is facing Democratic challengers to her left on the issue. It is also one that can be a weapon against Republicans in a general election. Polls show that a majority of voters support candidates who pledge policy action on the warming climate.
Mrs. Clinton called for installing a half-billion solar panels by 2020, a sevenfold increase from today, and to generate enough energy from carbon-free sources within 10 years of her inauguration to power every home in America.
All good stuff. And, coming from the S.S. Clinton, no doubt poll tested and vetted carefully by focus group.

Then Gabriel and Davenport set to work exposing the plan's limitations. Congressional green-energy mandates will be required to hit Clinton's targets; and since Congress will continue in GOP control for the foreseeable future, the chances of this happening are minuscule. Also, apparently Hillary's plan is as much about tapping into hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer's deep pockets as it is about climate change. And, finally, to add to this common Hillary theme of insincerity, the Clinton Campaign won't even distance itself from the rotting cadaver of Keystone XL:
While Mr. Obama’s climate change goals, driven by regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, would lift the nation’s renewable power to about 20 to 25 percent, according to E.P.A. estimates, the rest of the increase, experts said, will be impossible without new laws requiring renewable power. Congress has failed over the past decade to pass such laws. 
The Clinton campaign emphasized that her targets cleared a bar set last week by the billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who spent $74 million on political races in 2014. He announced that for candidates to receive his support in 2016, they must offer policies that would lead the nation to generate half its electricity from clean sources by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050. 
Former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, who has made climate change the center of his Democratic presidential campaign, laid out a plan last month that meets the criteria, winning Mr. Steyer’s blessing. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has called for a tax on carbon emissions, draws thunderous applause at rallies by promising bold action to combat climate change. 
Although Mrs. Clinton has emphasized fighting global warming as a priority in earlier speeches, the role of a single large donor, Mr. Steyer, in apparently influencing the details of her proposal was suggested by her press secretary, Brian Fallon. On Twitter he said, “Counting nuclear, as Steyer does, she exceeds his 50 percent goal” for 2030.
But Mrs. Clinton showed some limits to how far she would go to address climate change by refusing to say, once again, if she opposed the Keystone XL pipeline — a litmus test for grass-roots environmentalists. The pipeline would deliver oil from the oil sands of northern Alberta in Canada to Texas. 
Recusing herself because she had played a role as secretary of state in evaluating the pipeline, Mrs. Clinton said the decision was in the hands of the Obama administration. Mr. Sanders and Mr. O’Malley oppose the pipeline. 
Just as liberal Democrats have tried to pull Mrs. Clinton to the left on economic issues, environmental groups have sought stronger statements from her opposing hydraulic fracturing, oil trains and drilling in the Arctic.
Anti-Keystone protesters have greeted Mrs. Clinton on the campaign trail in New Hampshire and even outside a May fund-raiser for her at Mr. Steyer’s home in San Francisco overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
Hillary Clinton is just half the way there,” said Bill McKibben, head of the group 350.org, which has led the grass-roots movement calling for Mr. Obama to reject the Keystone pipeline. “This is a credible commitment to renewable energy, and a recognition that the economics of electricity are changing fast. Now, we need Clinton to show she understands the other half of the climate change equation — and prove she has the courage to stand up against fossil fuel projects like offshore and Arctic drilling, coal leasing in the Powder River basin, and the Keystone XL pipeline.”
What is interesting is that Hillary has a winner here. We're back to where we were when An Inconvenient Truth (2006) gained attention. The polling has shifted on green energy and climate change to the point now where it is a huge advantage for Democrats against Republicans.
While running for re-election in the 2012 campaign, Mr. Obama almost never mentioned climate change. But Democratic strategists say they now see it as a resonant campaign issue. 
A January poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and Resources for the Future found that two-thirds of Americans said they were more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change.
“This issue now polls better than any other issue for Democrats,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former top climate change official in the Clinton administration. “It’s in Clinton’s interest to talk about the issue, both for primary voters and to highlight Republican vulnerabilities in the general election.”
The problem for the Clinton campaign is that people don't believe that Hillary is anything but what she actually is -- a member of the ruling elite, a figurehead of the Deep State, the 1% of the 1% -- and that she will bring no change but only more of the same. The continuing investigation of Clinton's use of a personal email account for classified data (which she denied) will continue to bleed Hillary. I still don't see how she can win a general election.

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