Democrats could benefit from a “sleeper issue” in the 2020 presidential election if it turns out that Mother Nature is on the ballot, Pulitzer-winning author Thomas L. Friedman suggests in a recent New York Times column.
The business as usual assumption is that “Donald Trump will run on the economy, social issues, and immigration, and the Democratic candidate will run on income inequality, Democratic socialism, and Trump’s character,” Friedman writes. But “what if all the extreme weather this year—linked to climate change—gets even worse and more costly? What if the big 2020 issue is not left-right—but hot-cold or wet-dry? What if the big 2020 issue is not ‘Who lost Russia?’ or ‘Who lost North Korea?’ but ‘Who lost planet Earth?’
Friedman acknowledges that “we’re talking about the natural world, so one has to be cautious.” But based on the extreme weather the world has seen just this summer, “Mother Nature is done letting us pretend that we don’t know and can’t connect the dots—and that could create some very interesting politics,” he writes. “Democrats have been casting about for a big idea to propel them in 2020.” And “if in 2020 we’re in the midst of even more damaging droughts and storms than we are today, Democrats may be able to run against Trump’s make-America-polluted-again environmental strategy and his refusal to either acknowledge the threat of climate change, or seize the incredible opportunity it offers America to become richer, healthier, more secure, and more respected by leading the world in clean energy technologies.”
It’s an argument Trump can’t answer, Friedman asserts, since he doesn’t believe climate science, is working hard to save the coal industry from its inevitable end, and is “trying to force the U.S. auto industry to bring back gas guzzlers when the last time we did that—from the 1980s to the 2000s—Japan and Korea bankrupted Detroit, and we enriched petro-dictators from Venezuela to Russia to the Arab world to Iran.”
No doubt, “Trump will sneer that ‘green’ is girlyman, uneconomic, unpatriotic, and vaguely French,” Friedman writes. “But Democrats can easily counter that green is globally strategic, locally profitable, and working class—green is the new red, white and blue. That message can play today in Rust Belt battleground states like Michigan and Ohio,” based on what Energy Innovation CEO Hal Harvey calls the four zeroes: a zero-carbon grid, zero-emission vehicles, zero-net energy buildings, and zero waste.
“That’s a platform worth running on, and it’s one that can do what Democrats need most: make them the party of strengthening the working class and American security,” Friedman concludes. And “if Mother Nature keeps on this destructive track into 2020, well, Trump’s favorite mantra about strong women, ‘Lock her up,’ will look awfully silly.”