A new strategy memo by a top party pollster is telling Democrats that when talking about fighting global warming, they should play down the actual global warming part — and drop the talk of “cap-and-trade” altogether.
The memo, from Democratic think tank Third Way party strategist Stan Greenberg’s firm and based on results of 12 focus groups, says in order to win the energy debate now raging on Capitol Hill, Democrats should drop the term “green” from their lexicon, focus less on saving the environment and push the argument that clean energy will help the economy.
“For most voters, global warming is not significant enough on its own to drive support for major energy reform,” the memo says. “So while it can be part of the story that reform advocates are telling, global warming should be used only in addition to the broader economic frame, not in place of it.”
With President Obama urging them on, Democrats in Congress are trying to pass a bill that would cap carbon emissions, issue pollution allowances and set up a program for the allowances to be traded among polluters.
The complex program, “cap-in-trade” in Capitol Hill shorthand, is running into difficulty with Republicans and Democrats from southeastern and Midwestern states, who fear their local economies will suffer. But Third Way spokesman Sean Gibbons said the firm’s research found that there is a broad appetite for action on “clean” energy, and that can bridge the difference.
“The really extraordinary finding of this report is that if you live in Charlotte, if you live in St. Louis, if you live in Little Rock, you’re going to find yourself agreeing with people living in Boston and San Francisco,” he said. “The swing states have made up their minds and the swing voteres want clean energy, despite the recession — that’s extraordinary.”
In the memo, Third Way argues against reform supporters of promising “energy independence” — a common refrain during last year’s political campaign — arguing that it’s likely an impossible goal, and that Democrats will be blamed if the reform plan falls short.
Instead, the memo suggests Democrats tap into Americans’ optimism that clean energy can, and should, be achieved. The memo argues that the term “green energy” should be dropped in favor of “clean energy.”
The 13-page memo also has a warning for Democrats, following months of headlines about ballooning government spending and federal takeovers of companies: “Voters are not responsive to government ‘investment.’ They do like the idea of government-sponsored ‘research and development.’”
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