This report by Theda Skocpol has been getting a lot of attention over the last few days. Here and here, writers and analysts have been gleefully declaring that Skocpol has the ‘answers’ to why environmentalists failed to push the 2009 American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) through Congress and onto the newly inaugurated President’s desk.
My first response to these so-called answers was skepticism - after all, I know a lot of people who worked very hard on getting a climate bill passed and who have a lot of very good thoughts on why it didn’t work - thoughts that don’t necessarily align with those of Skocpol and her mainstream news critics. Among others, David Roberts, Joe Romm, and Eric Pooley take a great look at where the report is flawed. But though my instincts tell me Skocpol isn’t wholly right, she wasn’t a part of the activism around the bill and so has a step removed point of view, something that’s very helpful for all of us who are or were down in the weeds. (You can make arguments about whether this is good or bad, but I think it’s good: I have a habit to get caught up in my ‘green’ worldview and forget that there are a lot of other things, like health care, that matter). Her comparison of climate legislation and healthcare reform might not be perfect, but those imperfections allow the writers above to clarify how climate legislation really is a unique policy challenge and debate what constitutes political success.
My thoughts below are based on a look at Skocpol’s report, the WashPo and Guardian articles, and analyses from within the climate movement itself.
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