Democrats Make Global Warming a Campaign Issue

Published October 4, 2010

With Obamacare, bailouts, and stimulus spending all working against Democratic candidates in the upcoming November elections, a faction within the Democratic Party is switching gears and seeking to make the upcoming elections a referendum on global warming.

The strategy has Republicans salivating at the prospect of their Democratic opponents doubling down on an issue that has already severely punished Democrats and suggests the some members of the party are out of touch with the public.

Feingold Criticizes Top Researchers
In Wisconsin, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson says he believes nature is more responsible than man for recent temperature fluctuations. Incumbent Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, egged on by activists in his party, has called Johnson’s views “bizarre” and “extreme.”

Feingold made these claims even though solar scientist Willie Soon of the prestigious Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has shown the earth’s recent temperature history almost exactly matches variations in solar output. Likewise, scientists from NASA, NOAA, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, MIT, and other prestigious institutions have expressed doubt about a human-caused global warming crisis.

In an election year, of course, politicians answer to voters rather than scientists or party strategists, and voters are making it very clear they agree more with Johnson than Feingold.

Public Doubts Alarmists’ Claims
An August 1 Rasmussen poll of likely U.S. voters found only 34 percent believe human activity is the main cause of recent planetary warming. By contrast, 53 percent believe long-term planetary trends or other natural factors are the primary cause.

Only one in three voters agree with Feingold on this issue, and there is a 19 point “climate gap” between Feingold and Johnson. Even so, Feingold has been talking much about global warming, and Democratic Party supporters have been blogging extensively on Johnson’s global warming views. One imagines this Democratic messaging must be directed by the same people who came up with the idea of putting a grinning, effeminate-looking Michael Dukakis on top of an army tank. Meanwhile, as Feingold talks more and more about global warming, his poll numbers are trending more and more like the Dukakis trend line during 1988.

Given the poll numbers regarding global warming alarmism, the efforts of Democratic Party elites to make the 2010 elections a referendum on global warming seem likely to make for more certain and overwhelming Republican victories in November. It is no coincidence that Obama’s poll numbers began their remarkable tumble when he and the House Democratic leadership attempted to force the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill through the Congress.

Despite the cap-and-trade bill narrowly passing the House, Senate Democrats have stayed away from a companion Senate bill, even as candidates such as Feingold emphasize their support for its assumptions.

Alaska Vote a Portent?
A similar situation to that in Wisconsin has already played out in Alaska. Global warming alarmists argue Alaska will see the negative impacts of global warming earlier and more forcefully than the lower 48 states. There, if anywhere, the strategy of making the 2010 elections a referendum on global warming should take its strongest toll on global warming skeptics.

Just the opposite has happened, however. Joe Miller’s upset of incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary sent shockwaves around the nation, and one of the major themes of Miller’s campaign was that Murkowski was not reliable enough in her opposition to global warming legislation.

Global warming activists may say Miller’s victory merely shows that one must tack right to win a Republican primary, but in the nation’s suggested ground zero for global warming, voters who have seen the alleged catastrophe for themselves sided with Miller’s resolute opposition to global warming alarmism and the proposed national laws based on it.

While entering the stretch run of the 2010 election season, Republicans are all too happy to see Democrats make the election a referendum on global warming. If the November election results reflect the poll numbers and previously “safe” Democrats such as Wisconsin’s Feingold fall to climate realist opponents, it will be interesting to hear how the left spins their defeats.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.