The Washington Post

The Democrats' advantage on environmental issues fizzles

In the past several election cycles, environmental issues favored Democrats. Democrats had a greener and cleaner image than Republicans, who were always playing catch-up. It appears that the Democrats’ advantage will at least pause in 2012.

According to Gallup, economic growth has taken priority over the environment. Voters are turned off by the prospect of paying higher energy costs caused by regulators they don't trust. And voters make the connection between aggressive environmentalism and the loss of jobs.

On global warming, few voters see the benefit in U.S. unilateral action. Even fewer are willing to see their home power bills go up for what they believe is an elite-driven symbolic gesture. President Obama senses this and is trying to have it both ways. He even used a stack of oil pipes as a backdrop for a speech this year. That would have been unthinkable four years ago. His regulators have pulled some punches lately, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson might as well take a leave of absence through November.

The Democrats have exhausted themselves and worn out their welcome among many independents who don't see Obama's environmental policies as being accompanied by a believable cost/benefit approach. Independents are suspicious that the Democrats don't really have a plan, just rhetoric tailored for special-interest groups who want to tell others how to live.

It's not that the environment will be a winning issue for Republicans in 2012; it is just another example of an issue where the Democrats won't have any fresh enthusiasm or much appeal in the swing suburbs. The environment looks to be a non-issue this year. There will certainly be no new votes for Obama as a result of his environmental policies of the past three years.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.


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