Joe Manchin is a Democrat

On the League of Conservation Voters' fawning celebration of a petrostate presidency


The League of Conservation Voters is hosting its annual gala tonight, honoring Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Joe Biden at a $1,000- to $5,000-a-plate dinner at the 6,000-seat Anthem venue on the DC waterfront, where participants can watch the oil-heated tidal basin rise. 1

Two weeks ago, Biden and Pelosi worked together with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-Carbon) on the debt ceiling deal to cripple the National Environmental Policy Act and to fast-track the Mountain Valley Pipeline—the latest in a series of carbon bombs lit by the administration. So youth activists with Climate Defiance are understandably planning to protest LCV’s celebration of Biden as “the most pro-environmental president in American history.”

Within the constraints of political “reality,” the debt ceiling deal was admirably handled. Biden managed the process smoothly, and even got a majority of the Progressive Caucus to back the dirty deal. Like the LCV’s beloved Inflation Reduction Act last year, the debt ceiling deal was another clear victory for the Democratic Party. Both the IRA and the debt deal include gross environmental injustices—but unlike the IRA, the debt deal doesn’t have any climate benefits whatsoever. By the orange-sky standards of real reality—for which the environmental movement fights—Biden isn’t looking so hot.

As an organization, LCV is caught between these two countervailing pressures—to act as the political arm of the environmental movement, and to act as the green-marketing arm of the Democratic Party.

The young environmentalists who founded LCV in 1970 intended it to act as a non-partisan political pressure group for the nascent movement, and its board still includes a few environmental leaders like former Earthjustice president Tripp van Noppen and GreenLatinos’ Mark Magaña. But the leaders of environmental organizations are now mostly part of an “honorary” board.

Meanwhile, Democratic party leaders like President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) want to use LCV as the party’s marketing arm to reach climate voters—and they do, transferring millions of dollars to LCV for climate-themed campaign ads. Foundation representatives and multi-millionaires dominate LCV’s actual board, which is quietly managed by the strategic advisory firm Corridor Partners .

It’s a good thing that the Democratic Party seeks the climate vote; but it’s a bad thing that their primary vehicle for doing so pretends to be anything other than that. The upstart organizations that have honestly tried to compete on the electoral stage on behalf of the climate movement—350 Action, Climate Hawks Vote, the Sunrise Movement—have notched some achievements but mostly scratched the surface. More success has been found in multi-issue groups with strong climate politics, such as the Working Families Party and the Democratic Socialists of America.

Bobby Kennedy Jr, saying anti-vaxxers have it worse than Anne Frank

The Republican Party has moved into a full embrace of the petro-military racist-capitalism side of American politics, seeking to shake off the last inconveniences of democratic pluralism. Donald Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), and the ever-growing cast of “mainstream” GOP presidential contenders are competing for the eco-fascist partisans.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is still trying to succeed with the uncomfortable straddle of an optimistic embrace of all of the above. Biden’s impossible balancing act is understandably cratering his appeal to youth voters, who are big into democratic pluralism on a livable planet:

A new poll from left-aligned firm Data for Progress found roughly 48% of likely voters aged 18-34 were somewhat or much less likely to vote for Biden because of his “approval of new oil and gas drilling projects on public lands, such as the Willow project in Alaska."

So what are citizens of this pluralist, eco-democratic petro-military superpower built on racist, extractive capitalism who want a livable planet to do in the 2024 election? We should not be surprised if many climate voters move to the fringes of the political arena.

Naomi Klein has penned a super-important piece about MAGA-Democratic primary candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whose message is that racist capitalism and eco-pluralism are one and the same—all you have to do is, like he did, cast off your rational mind. He is dangerous wingnut with the power to sound like a standard-bearer for environmental justice, even though he is now a hard-right climate denier:

“Kennedy is fluent in the language of heartbreak about dead rivers and devastated fisheries; of asthmatic lungs and increasingly silent springs. As smoke blots the sun across entire continents, this is not a skill to dismiss lightly. Who else has it? Not Joe Biden. Not Kamala Harris. Not even Barack Obama. Bernie Sanders was great on the facts of the climate crisis when he ran, and full of righteous fury at fossil fuel companies – but I don’t think I ever heard him speak with unabashed emotion about extinction. This is another vacuum that RFK Jr is skillfully filling.”

Democrats need the suburban mothers to whom RFK Jr.’s anti-vax woo-conspiratorialism can strongly appeal. Klein offers this warning to the “Democratic consultant class” who run organizations like LCV:

“As Kennedy’s fortunes soar, the Democratic consultant class continues to sneer – seemingly learning no lessons from Trump’s rise, or the current unpopularity of their leader, or the desperate desire of so many members of their party for something that feels close enough to courage, truth, and justice that they are willing to fall for a counterfeit copy of a copy of a copy.”

Those citizens who simply want an anti-racist, pluralist eco-democracy now have a candidate in their corner: Cornel West. The charismatic, uncompromising Harvard-Princeton polymath is now running as the Green Party candidate for president.

Democrats need overwhelming support from the Blacks and progressives to whom West’s honest argument on behalf of courage, truth, and justice can strongly appeal. West doesn’t need much of a political operation to demonstrate a clear contrast to the ugly compromise of the Democratic Party coalition.2

Meanwhile, the dirty work of Congress continues: This morning, House Energy and Commerce energy and climate subcommittee chair Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) hosted an oversight hearing with the members of the the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, including Jeff Baran, whose renomination for a third term was approved by the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee this morning on a party-line vote. Federal Highway Administration administrator Shailen Bhatt testified before the Senate committee on her agency’s implementation of the Bipartisan infrastructure law and Inflation Reduction Act.

Also this morning, there was a House Ag hearing on the Farm Bill’s agricultural research funding; and House Oversight criticizes Biden administration regulatory reform. In the afternoon, House Natural Resources subcommittees considered western water legislation and mining legislation.

Senate appropriators looked at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC)’s $1 billion budget request with DFC CEO Scott Nathan. And in the afternoon, DFC Chief Development Officer Andrew Herscowitz testified with State energy official Geoffrey Pyatt and former Visa executive Arun Venkataraman (now at Commerce) about countering China’s global Belt and Road Initiative before the House Foreign Relations Committee.

Hearings on the Hill:

Climate Action Today:

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1 In fact, the NOAA tidal buoy for Washington, D.C. is just south of the Anthem, where it’s been measuring uninterrupted data since 1924. Check it out:

2 The coalition in which the author stubbornly belongs.

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