It was the tale of two Democratic parties. Early Wednesday morning, President Obama stood with President Xi of China and announced a historic climate pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean energy. Just hours later, Mary Landrieu, the Democratic Senator from Louisiana, stood up on the floor of the Senate and introduced another bill to force approval of the climate-destroying Keystone XL pipeline.
It’s time for the Democratic party to make a choice. Either they can be the party that stands up to Big Oil, combats climate change, and protects America’s future. Or they can be a party of melts away every time the fossil fuel industry applies a little heat. This is one place where an “all of the above” strategy isn’t going to work.
Sen. Mary Landrieu represents the worst of the Big Oil Democrats. Her home state of Louisiana is losing a football field worth of land into the Gulf of Mexico every hour. New Orleans was ground zero for Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst extreme weather events in U.S. history. Yet when it comes time to choose between protecting the environment or pleasing her Big Oil donors, the money comes out on top every single time.
The Democrats didn’t get a thumping in the midterm elections because they confidently ran on a bold set of principle and voters rejected them. They lost because voters had no sense of their vision. People are sick of tired of Washington and they took it out on the party in power.
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If Democrats want to energize their base for 2016, they’re going to have to start showing a bit more spine—especially when it comes to the fossil fuel industry. Women, Latinos, African-Americans and young people all overwhelmingly support action on climate change and laws that protect our environment. The President’s recent announcement was a step in the right direction. He’ll need to do more to reduce emissions if we’re seriously going to combat climate change, but it seems like he’s beginning to get the politics right.
Other Democrats should follow suit. That means voting against any Congressional shenanigans on Keystone XL. And it means standing up to other dirty energy projects, like fracking, deep water drilling, and coal mining. That’s not just the right thing to do, it’s politically intelligent thing to do, as well.
Last September 23, just two days after 400,000 people took the streets of New York City for the People’s Climate March, President Obama stood up at the UN and said, “The alarm bells keep ringing. Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call.”
Sen. Mary Landrieu is a lost cause. She’s going to keep her head stuck in the Bayou just as long as the oil industry keeps writing the checks. But other politicians don’t have to follow suit. They’ve got the support they need to stand up to Big Oil and do the right thing. Voting no on Keystone XL would be a good start.