Thursday, November 04, 2004

Taking Back America--Part 1, The Environment

Over the next week or so I am going to outline ways that I think we can and should work to take back America. The general idea of this is, "How do we work on different issues to regain a majority of Americans to our side?" I want to start with a discussion of the environment. Environmental issues played a very small role in the campaign but I think they will be increasingly important in 2008. Here's a few thoughts on how to make the environment a more helpful issue for Democrats.

1. My major argument is that we have to change the environmental movement from one focused on wilderness protection to one focused on people's everyday lives. Yes, protecting wilderness in Utah plays really well on the coasts. And we're never going to win Utah anyway so to hell with them. That was Clinton's philosophy when he created the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument just before the 96 election. But what about working on wilderness issues in Arizona, Colorado, or even Montana. Are those states really unwinnable? Even Montana just elected a Democratic governor. And is the alienation that the creation of wilderness causes really worth the wilderness area itself?

People who work in these states, particularly in the West, see environmentalism as something that steals jobs from working class people. They identify the loss of jobs with the Democrats. And then they vote Republican. Even Idaho used to vote for relatively progressive Democrats. Not any more. And environmental issues are a big reason. People see that Democrats place more value on owls, bears, and wolves than working-class westerners.

We need to change the goals of the environmental movement from saving land that is used by wealthy travelers to one that is concerned with the everyday lives of people around the country. That means using resources to work on air pollution, water pollution, environmental justice issues, and workplace environments. In West Virginia, we need to not attack mountain top removal coal mining because it destroys the mountains. We need to talk about it as bad because of how it effects people who live near these mountains. We don't need a lot of votes from West Virginia to push it back to the Democrats.

We should not protest the WIPP facility near Carlsbad, New Mexico. The people of Carlsbad want it, and hey, if you're going to create nuclear waste, storing it in salt thousands of feet below the ground is probably the best thing to do with it. Rather, we should make sure that it is stored safely and that the people of Carlsbad know that we want to create more jobs for them, rather than close WIPP and take away their livelihood. We don't need that many more votes from New Mexico to make it a solidly Democratic state rather than a swing state.

We need to support sustainable forestry rather than work to shut the forests down from work altogether. We could make Oregon and Washington stronger Democratic states with a reasonable forest plan and maybe even turn Montana back into a swing state.

Overall, we need to focus on local environmental issues. Focus on making industries clean up their pollution without costing localities jobs. Focus on creating jobs through environmental technologies. And most of all, turn environmentalism back to the 70s when it was people-oriented. We need an environmental movement focused around working-class people rather than land protection in inaccessible places. If we can do this, we can go a long way to taking back America.

Tomorrow--Part 2, Gay Rights