Why Has Climate Legislation Failed? An Interview with Theda Skocpol.


Brad Plumer in the Washington Post's Wonkblog:

Brad Plumer: You spend a lot of time dissecting the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, the big collaboration between greens and businesses to push for a cap-and-trade bill that could win support from Republicans. It wasn’t a crazy strategy—cap-and-trade had picked up a fair bit of bipartisan support between 2003 and 2007. So why did it ultimately fail?

Theda Skocpol: The whole USCAP strategy was based on this very reasonable idea that you’d get Republicans in Congress to go along with Democrats. But by the time we get to 2009, Republicans just weren’t going to be there. And I don’t think environmentalists were able to see the shifting ground at the time.

BP: But was there really that big a shift among Republicans? I mean, even in the 2008 campaign, John McCain was in favor of cap-and-trade.

TS: One of the things that really surprised me in my research came from pulling together scores from the [League of Conservation Voters]. And you see a clear pull on politicians from grassroots conservative opinion around 2006 and 2007. Climate-change denial had been an elite industry for a long time, but it finally penetrated down to conservative Republican identified voters around this time. That created new pressures on Republican officeholders and candidates. And I don’t think most people noticed that at the time.

Even John McCain. I have this figure that shows him moving up on LCV scores for most of the last decade [i.e., casting more pro-environmental votes] and then pulling back suddenly to the lowest level starting in 2007.