David Roberts @drvox Seattleite transplanted from Tennessee; now blogging for t.co/5gESirnht7 about energy politics. Climate hawk, deficit dove. Not a doctor. Nov. 13, 2018 6 min read

1. I can't say I really understand the @sunrisemvmt climate protest outside of Pelosi's office. Admittedly, I'm not a Youth, so perhaps I just don't Get It, but I cannot reconstruct the strategic logic. A short thread, after which you may all yell at me.

2. First, obviously I get climate change. I get that it is urgent. I get that ambitious federal action is needed. (Please, youths, at least google my name before you flood my TL with lectures on such matters.) All of that. But the question is: what's the path forward?

3. In my latest piece (it's in the last 1/3, if you wanna skip the election wrap-up), I lay out what I see as the obvious 3-pronged Dem strategy:  https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/11/12/18078156/midterms-2018-climate-change-renewable-energy 

4. The background premise, which I take to be crushingly obvious, is that no comprehensive federal climate change legislation is going to pass any time soon. If GOP resistance is unified -- & it will be -- Ds would need the House & 60+ Senate seats. Not in the near-term cards.

5. So whatever the Dems ought to be doing, it's not that, not writing a bill that they intend to actually try to pass while Rs control the Senate. That would be, almost by definition, wasted effort.

6. The 3 prongs: a) in Congress, use control of House committees to investigate, expose, & disrupt Trump's deregulatory efforts, & to draw attention to neglected issues (like climate). Control of the House is powerful, but *not in the sense that it gets you legislation*.

7. b) Double-down on state efforts. That's where all the good stuff is happening & policy lessons are being learned. Dems flipped 7 gov seats; they have a "trifecta" in 14 states! There's *tons* of running room for bold/ambitious state policy, all of which increases momentum.

8. And c) develop a big, bold vision for federal action commensurate w/ the problem. I put this 3rd intentionally. It's important - for inspiring young voters, for orienting future organizing, for defining the party - but mostly as symbolism, at least for the foreseeable future.

9. Yet it's this third thing, this grand piece of symbolism, that activists seem to be demanding of Pelosi. Immediately. Why? How is that the most important item on her agenda? The thing is, if she pulled something out of her ass to satisfy protestors, it would be terrible!

10. The D Party - nay, the left generally - is somewhat confused & uncertain about the right federal policy vision. Forcing them to cough something up immediately would only produce a confused, crappy plan. And for what? Again, there's no rush -- no leg will pass this Congress.

11. As I say in the post, Pelosi (with champs like @Ocasio2018 watching) should set up a process for developing a climate strategy, whereby the left can shake off its old thinking & start fresh. There are lots of conversations to be had, lots of things to be worked out.

12. I do not see the point in rushing that process. If the protestors are simply demanding that Pelosi *begin* that process, fine. But demanding that she skip straight to producing some grand plan? Why? Even the left's GND is not really ready for primetime. There's work to do.

13. If the point of the protest is merely symbolic, merely to show Pelosi & the press that there's an active, engaged constituency that plans to hold them accountable on this ... great! Genuinely and non-ironically: great. But that can be done w/out a demand for an actual bill.

14. My meta-worry here is that the climate movement has a loooong history of being unduly obsessed with, and impressed with, symbolic gestures: grand proclamations, ultimata, targets, trumpet blowing. Those things are fine, but they don't actually reduce any omissions.

15. Fact is, climate wins over the next 2 years (+ probably longer) are not going to be the kind of stuff suited to stentorian declarations & viral tweets. It'll be small ball: blocking Trump; protecting regs; pushing in states. Close-quarters combat & incremental gains.

16. Pushing for grand symbolism is fine, but NOT if it impedes that small-ball. NOT if it pulls the entire climate left into another dreary, pointless battle over who is True & Good and who is an Evil Neoliberal Sellout. NOT if symbolism is mistaken for actual progress.

17. So, yes: Pelosi & the Dems should start thinking through a grand federal plan, for if/when they ever take veto-proof power. That plan should be as ambitious as the problem warrants, not designed to please phantom moderates, not hemmed in by "fiscal conservative" mythology.

18. But that's not the *first* thing they should do. Or the most important. That the climate movement has stampeded straight toward it leaves a 👴 like me worried.

I'd say /fin, but I suspect people are yelling at me in my TL & I might want to append a response or two.

19. OK, I read some of the comments (lots of smart stuff in there, worth scrolling). I'll conclude w/ three brief points. (I would apologize for the length of this thread, but who's fooling who at this point.)

20. First, I get that movement leaders have clear-eyed strategic reasons for primarily targeting Dems w/ protest. Obviously the GOP is the primary obstacle, but it doesn't care what the left thinks, and Dems (sometimes, a little) do. However ...

21. ... incessantly bashing Dems leads some of the ... more idealistic members of the movement to start thinking that Dems, & lefties who support Dems, are the *main problem*. Or that Ds are equivalent to Rs on this. That is dumb & wrong, but I've seen it happen.

22. Again, I understand pushing Dems. But if you end up with the most committed members of your movement thinking that sellouts like Pelosi and that Drvox shill are the main impediments to action, worthy of the bulk of time & attention, you've done something wrong.

23. Second, this is fantastic:

24. Pelosi was already planning on reviving the climate change committee, but this is a way for the green left to put a stake in the ground & start trying to drag that process left. I expect Pelosi will resist having this many Qs pre-A'd, but it's smart intra-left negotiating.

25. Finally, and most futile of all: it's really ok to discuss these strategic questions in public. It's ok to toss out some half-baked thoughts & see how people respond. It's ok to ask questions or express skepticism, if only to solicit the best counter-arguments.

26. Despite what you might think from Twitter, there is no imperative to slot people into Good & Evil categories as quickly as humanly possible so that you may valorize the former & bash the latter. We don't *have* to make intra-left disputes into identity clashes.

27. We have a few years here where legislation is impossible. Dems can take their time, have discussions, think through the big picture. They could, theoretically, approach that process in good faith & with the presumption of good will. Everyone could be open to listening.

28. Perhaps that's naive. But one way to *ensure* there's no good-faith discussion is to stampede into armed camps & enact the age-old leftie circular firing squad. We don't have nearly a good enough sense of the policy options to do that yet!

29. Anyway. I'm going to do a longer story soon on the Green New Deal & green-left strategy generally. It's a really exciting space filled w/ smart folks. I'd like to see it grow & develop. Transforming it into dogma before it's fully baked would be, IMO, a big mistake.

30. And with that I will bring this logorrheic thread to a merciful close and go do some Real Work. Feel free to continue yelling at me in comments -- I'm reading them! -- or email me. I'm eager to hear any & all thoughts. </fin>


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