End The Filibuster, Save the Planet
Dealing with climate cannot depend on seven or eight Republicans coming to their senses
Apologies in advance if this post is a little intemperate, but it is currently raining ash at my home in the Bay Area of California because millions of acres have been burning for weeks. Yesterday, the sky was eerily red for the entire day because a massive cloud of smoke obscured the sun. My two year old daughter believes that “smoky” is a totally normal answer when someone asks about the weather.
From fires in the West to flooding in the Midwest and hurricanes in the Southeast, the dangerous impacts of climate change are upon us. Bold climate action cannot wait another day, let alone another four years.
Joe Biden winning the White House and Democrats taking the Senate are necessary first steps to dealing with climate change. But they will be woefully insufficient if the filibuster is not immediately eliminated. I hate to say it, but if saving the planet depends on the good will of seven to eight Republican Senators, we are all going to die.
Republicans Hate the Planet
Climate change is not one of those issues where the parties disagree about the solution to a mutually agreed upon problem. Trump has called climate change a “hoax.” A huge numbers of elected Republicans deny that climate change is due to human activity and dispute the widely proven science. The Republicans refuse to acknowledge that the problem exists and insist on making the problem worse to own the libs or something. Republican climate denial is not going to get better with time or compromise proposals or better messaging. It’s a problem thats getting worse by the day.
During George W. Bush’s presidency, not only were there lots of Republican politicians who believed in climate change, several of them supported a cap-and-trade approach to tackling climate change. But as Amber Phillips wrote in the Washington Post:
For at least the past decade, Republican Party leaders' position on climate change has evolved inverse to scientific evidence. As scientists have spent the past decade firming up their conclusion that climate change is a real threat, Republican politicians have solidified their doubt about it. In fact, the party's past three presidential nominees have all backed off their prior assertions that climate change is a threat caused by humans. Not only that, but each successive nominee has started out less convinced of the realities of human-driven climate change than the last.
There are lots of reasons for this devolution including a dependence on the Koch Brothers for financial support in the Citizens United era and the need for ambitious Republicans to court influential idiots like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
Whatever the reason, the Republican Party is committed to their anti-planet stance. Even the Republican Senators that represent areas of the country that are already being impacted by climate change cannot muster up the energy to give two shits. According a 2018 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Miami Beach and the Florida Keys could be underwater in 30 years. And what is Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s response to this urgent threat to the state he represents?
Not a damn thing.
Rubio continues to dispute climate science because he harbors national ambitions and he believes he can’t protect the planet and be the Republican nominee in 2024 — which is all you need to know about Rubio and the Republican Party.
Rubio is a symptom of a much larger problem in the party. In 2019, 50 of the 53 Republicans in the Senate received a score of less than 30 from the League of Conservation Voters for their voting record on environmental issues. Mitch McConnell, who would presumably need to sign off on some sort of bipartisan deal on climate, received a 14 from the LCV. McConnell isn’t even the worst in the party. Seven members received a zero!
There is no chance the Republicans are going to come around on climate. Right now, there is not one Republican in the Senate that wants to take even moderate action against climate change, let alone the seven or eight needed to meet the 60 vote threshold for overcoming a filibuster on a plan like the Green New Deal.
Norms Don’t Matter Underwater
While eliminating the filibuster has grown in popularity in recent months, a number of Senate Democrats are reticent and some are vocal opponents. To be fair, there are a number of decent arguments in favor of keeping the filibuster. Some argue that the filibuster is an institution that promotes compromise and that the founders intended the Senate to be a brake on a more impulsive House of Representatives. Others point out — correctly — that the demographic trends in the country mean that the Republicans are likely to control the Senate more often than the Democrats. Under this scenario, Democrats could rue the day that we removed our best tool for preventing a Republican President and Senate from enshrining their cruel and corporatist policies. This last argument worries me — and a lot of others — but none of it matters if the planet melts. Climate Change is an existential threat and keeping the filibuster is the same thing as waving the white flag.
That’s the choice: keep the filibuster and take no major action on climate or eliminate it and give ourselves the chance to do something before it’s too late.
When I look out my window right now, it’s clear there isn’t a choice.
How You Can Help
The real work of eliminating the filibuster begins if and when the Democrats take the White House and the Senate, but we need to put ourselves in position to do that.
Help Joe Biden beat Trump: This election is a choice between someone that wants to save the planet and someone that wants to destroy it so that rich old people can get richer. Go adopt a battleground state as part of the Vote Save America Adopt-a-State program and get to work. I adopted North Carolina but you do you.
Take the Senate: If the Republicans retain control of the Senate, even the most modest approach to climate will be DOA. Mitch McConnell would block a bill that reduced emissions in a single car just cuz. Support Senate candidates by contributing to Crooked Media’s Get Mitch or Die Trying Fund which directs funds to the top targeted senate races.
Push Politicians on How: If you have the opportunity to talk someone running for office, push them on their climate change plans. Not just what is in their plan, but how they are going to get it enacted. Supporting the Green New Deal is great, but supporting the Green New Deal and keeping the filibuster is pointless. It’s a theoretical exercise. Being serious about climate means getting rid of the filibuster.
Support the Activists: There are lots of very good groups working on climate change and pushing democratic reforms like eliminating the filibuster, but I wanted to mention a couple:
No group has done more to push bold climate action than the Sunrise Movement.
Climate Power 2020 is a new group that is focused on taking the political fight to the Republicans.
Indivisible is leading the effort to eliminate the filibuster
As everyone that listens to Pod Save America knows, I am not a person prone to optimism. But I am optimistic about getting rid of the filibuster. It’s going to take a lot of work, but the energy and the arguments are on the side of elimination. With the planet on the line, failure simply isn’t an option.