2014 Midterm Elections and Climate Action: The Good News
Though efforts were more coordinated and spending was higher than ever before, the results of the recent midterm elections were not what environmental groups hoped for. There were bright spots, however, and they showed that Americans do care about the environment and clean energy.
Voters in 19 states approved ballot measures amounting to more than $29 billion in funding for land and water conservation. Fracking bans passed in California, Ohio, and Texas. In Richmond, California, voters rejected four Chevron-backed candidates despite more $3 million spent by the oil company. And in Nebraska, a major advocate of the Keystone XL pipeline lost his congressional seat to a more progressive challenger.
As this New York Times op-ed points out, the midterm elections should not be seen as a “Republican revolution.” Rather than a green light for GOP policies, it was a signal that Americans want things to change in Washington. Americans want to see compromise, concern for citizens over politics, and pragmatic solutions. Moving forward, we need to make sure our messaging about climate action hits those notes.
In our report Campaigns II: Recent Learnings from Other Social Movements, we show how other major U.S. campaigns (Obama’s reelection, marriage equality, and the legalization of marijuana) were able to successfully engage mainstream support. All the campaigns shared the same moral foundations: caring for others, treating others fairly, protecting personal freedom, and being loyal to one’s community. Understanding these motivating factors can help climate communicators activate wide support for climate action, both today and leading up to the 2016 elections.
Frank Luntz, Contributor to The New York Times
On election night 1994, as Republicans recaptured the House for the first time in 40 years, I stood in the audience and watched my client Newt Gingrich, who would soon become speaker of the House, declare the beginning of the “Republican revolution.”
I knew immediately that the smartest man I had ever worked for was making the worst rhetorical blunder of his career. Nobody voted Republican to start a revolution. They did so because they were fed up with a Democratic president overreaching on health care and a government seemingly incapable of doing even the smallest thing effectively. We all know what happened when Mr. Gingrich tried to turn his rhetoric into action.
Image credit: Malena Mayorga/Flickr