But to do this, they’ll have to win a lot of gubernatorial races in the next two years. Which means Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord raises the stakes for the three dozen 2017 and 2018 contests in a new way.
As the political world absorbs the meaning of Trump’s exit from the Paris accord, a group of Democratic governors (from California, New York and Washington) has announced the formation of a coalition of states that will remain committed to the broad goal of reducing carbon emissions. The group’s statement says it hopes that combined action by willing states can help keep the country on track to meeting the carbon dioxide emission reductions put in place by former president Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which seeks to reduce power plant emissions by 32 percent of 2005 levels by the year 2030. Obviously, the success of this effort remains to be seen.
But one thing that could assist this effort is for Democrats to win some big gubernatorial races in the next two years. There are three dozen contests set for 2017 and 2018 — most of which are in states currently held by Republicans, and almost all of them in the latter year — and winning some key ones could help go a long way.
This is the case on multiple levels. First, on the level of policy: Trump has already vowed to unwind the Clean Power Plan — which sets emission reduction targets for states and is bogged down in court — so that plan’s future is uncertain. The exit from Paris confirms the determination on the part of Trump and the Republican Party — many of whose members have endorsed Trump’s decision — to sabotage our carbon-reduction efforts or at least remain entirely indifferent to them.
But states can try to comply with these targets regardless of what Trump and the national GOP do, and indeed, a number of them are doing just that. Thus, if Democrats can win some gubernatorial contests, that could help mitigate the damage, by putting more states on track to doing this.
Brian Deese, a former senior adviser to Obama who oversaw the previous administration’s negotiations with states on implementation of the CPP, tells me that some of the key states to watch are GOP-led Florida, Ohio and Michigan.
“They have Republican governors who haven’t put in place ambitious plans that would give you confidence that they’re going to exceed their CPP targets,” Deese said. “These are relatively large states with a lot of industry. If Democrats were to win in a handful of these important places, it would mean a majority of the population and the economy would be represented by states that were on track to outpace their climate targets. That would put us in a significantly stronger position with regard to our national emissions targets.”
Kevin S. Curtis, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, added that installing Democratic governors in states like Florida and Michigan could help prod along the transition to clean energy, via policies that subsidize and encourage clean energy. “More pro-environment governors can open up their states to a whole range of policies that embrace clean energy,” Curtis said. “That would accelerate the trend we’re seeing, with more and more states incentivizing the move from dirty to clean energy.” And holding on to the gubernatorial mansions in states like California and Colorado and Virginia — where Democrat governors are pushing climate policies — would also be critical.
This would also make a difference on the level of sheer signaling — both domestically and internationally. Other countries are now reasonably concluding that the United States is abandoning its leadership role in terms of international efforts to combat global warming. And as Ron Brownstein points out, domestic energy producers and related industries are laying long-term plans based on expectations of a lower-carbon future and are looking to political leaders to provide a stabilizing framework toward that end.
Winning back some gubernatorial mansions would “signal to companies in their states and to the world in general that there is still the ability for the United States to make progress,” Christy Goldfuss, vice president for energy and environment policy at the Center for American Progress, told me. Jay Inslee, the Washington governor who is chair of the Democratic Governors’ Association, has also said Democratic gubernatorial candidates can run in part on a promise to exploit the economic opportunities afforded by the transition to clean energy.
If Trump and the GOP are determined not to participate in solving this problem over the long term, everyone else will have to do it around them. And one place this begins is with the 2017 and 2018 gubernatorial contests. It wouldn’t hurt to win a bunch of state legislative races, too. Indeed, Trump’s exit from Paris is a reminder of how disastrous Democratic losses on the level of the states could prove. Unless Democrats can turn it around.
* SCIENTISTS WARN OF CONSEQUENCES OF NIXING PARIS DEAL: The Associated Press reports this about Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal:
Scientists say Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming sooner as a result of the president’s decision because America’s pollution contributes so much to rising temperatures. Calculations suggest withdrawal from the Paris accord could result in emissions of up to 3 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide a year — enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.
Scientists, schmientists. There is zero chance that science weighed on Trump’s decision-making in the slightest.
* OBAMA: REST OF THE WORLD WILL PICK UP SLACK: From former president Barack Obama’s statement on Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord:
Even in the absence of American leadership; even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.
As Obama notes, if the GOP is going to remain an outlier on the future of the planet, everyone else will have to do the work to secure that future without them.
* UH-OH. TRUMP ADVISERS ARE SPLIT ON DEBT LIMIT: Bloomberg reports that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wants a “clean” debt limit hike, but budget chief Mick Mulvaney is pushing for spending and debt “reforms” to be attached to it:
Mulvaney’s opposition to unconditionally raising the debt ceiling will likely encourage House conservatives to dig in on their demands for steep reductions in spending in return for an increase, complicating the task of passing the measure through both chambers of Congress. The administration would have to win over more Democrats to counter any Republican defections.
Oy, looks as though we’re now facing the possibility of default, on top of the possibility of many millions uninsured and a greater risk of climate catastrophe later.
* TRUMP TAKES TRAVEL BAN TO SUPREME COURT: CNN reports that the Trump administration will take its appeal of a lower court’s hold on his travel ban to the high court:
It would take five justices to agree to the stay application. According to Supreme Court rules, the justices would consider whether there is a “reasonable probability” that four of the justices would eventually agree to hear the case and a “fair prospect” that a majority of the court will hold that the opinion below was erroneous.
This concerns the hold, not the underlying legal dispute. But if the high court does undo the hold, it won’t bode well for the latter. With Neil Gorsuch installed, it’s very possible.
* A WEAK JOBS REPORT: Not good:
U.S. job growth come in below expectations in May, with employers adding just 138,000 jobs as the unemployment rate ticked down to 4.3 percent, federal economists reported Friday morning … Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected an increase of 180,000 in non-farm payrolls.
Remember when Sean Spicer said, in the wake of a good February jobs report, that the jobs numbers “may have been phony in the past,” but now are “very real”? One wonders whether that’s still operative.
* TRUMP WON’T INVOKE EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE: On ABC News this morning, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway told George Stephanopoulos that White House aides will “be watching” former FBI director James B. Comey’s testimony to Congress next week. This suggests Trump will not try to stop Comey by invoking the power to keep presidential conversations secret.
Comey is expected to testify that Trump tried to persuade him to drop the FBI probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The nuances will be important: One big question is whether Comey will shed light on whether Trump was operating with corrupt intent.
* BROAD PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR MEDICAID: A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds that 84 percent of Americans want Medicaid to continue to receive its current funding levels under any GOP replacement. And 71 percent say Medicaid’s structure should largely remain as is, while only 26 percent support reducing funding and allowing states to decide who and what to cover.
Interestingly, even 71 percent of Republicans want current funding levels to continue, and they are split (47-48) on the restructuring of Medicaid. The latter is usually described as “giving states more flexibility.”
* AND THE RIGHT JUST RUBBED LIBERALS’ FACES IN IT: Paul Krugman debunks the notion that conservatives oppose climate policies because they care about coal miners or worry about the uncertainty of the science, and adds:
Much of today’s right seems driven above all by animus toward liberals rather than specific issues. If liberals are for it, they’re against it. If liberals hate it, it’s good. Add to this the anti-intellectualism of the G.O.P. base, for whom scientific consensus on an issue is a minus, not a plus, with extra bonus points for undermining anything associated with President Barack Obama. And if all this sounds too petty and vindictive to be the basis for momentous policy decisions, consider the character of the man in the White House. Need I say more?
At the next rally, Trump voters will cheer lustily when he boasts about scrapping the Paris deal, but only because he’ll be ripping up something that has Obama’s name on it and is the work (Trump will claim) of liberal elites.