January 20, 2013 5:08 PM All Things Considered
A grizzly bear roams near Beaver Lake in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. Some environmentalists hope President Obama lives up to campaign promises regarding climate change in his second term. Jim Urquhart/AP
by NPR Staff
One of the chief expectations of those who voted for President Obama is that he moves assertively to pass climate change legislation, whatever the political climate in Washington.
“We have a bipartisan common interest in moving away from fossil fuels towards clean energy,” says Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club. “The sooner that members of both parties in Congress realize that and develop solutions, the better off we’ll all be.”
Bipartisan support is an elusive national beast these days. Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol published a report last week that says environmental groups doomed their 2009 carbon-emissions program, called “cap-and-trade,” by failing to recognize the divided reality of Washington.
Skocpol says that as late as 2009 people thought a bipartisan coalition would get the legislation through Congress because the idea had originated with conservative, market-oriented economists.
“What I argue in my report is that unbeknownst to the supporters, who were trying to put together a coalition of environmentalists and business people, was the radicalization of the Republican Party,” she tells Jacki Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered.
As early as 2006, Skocpol says, the party had a plan in place to discourage Republican politicians from going along with any kind of cap-and-trade compromise.