Ringside Seat: Greens Catch the Messaging Bug

The Republican Party and the environmental movement, through some strange twist of fate, are suffering from similar strategic snags. The GOP has worked itself into a well-documented rebranding tizzy in the months since November, trying to refashion itself into the “exciting party that smiles." The party appears blind to the fact that it's policy, not presentation, that voters outside the base are rejecting. Meanwhile, the environmental effort to combat climate change, a cause championed and led mostly by elite whites, has hit its own dead end in appealing to non-elites. Thirty-seven percent of voters think global warming is a hoax according to a poll from Public Policy Polling this week. Only 33 percent think it's a serious problem, according to another poll this week from Pew. Sixty-six percent are gung-ho for the Keystone pipeline. 

Opposing the pipeline has been the movement's main public focus of the past few years. So, clearly, something isn't working—even though environmentalists successfully turned the pipeline into a metaphor for the fate of the climate. But are metaphors enough? A recent Bloomberg Businessweek story noted that "the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline is as much symbolic as it is practical." Yes, but, to borrow advice from Republican messaging makeover critics, reality trumps symbolism when it comes to broadening your appeal. 

Here's some all-too-vivid reality: Last Wednesday, a pipeline transporting Canadian crude oil spewed about 15,000 gallons of the black sludge into snowbanks in Western Minnesota. Three days later, the nearly 65-year old Pegasus pipeline ruptured in Arkansas, sending 12,000 barrels of oil through the streets of Mayflower, forcing 22 families to evacuate their homes. Such communities, not always known for their progressive spirit, no longer need convincing that our energy systems are degrading into antiquity. Why not recruit their citizens into an environmental army centered around the positive solution of pushing for better energy infrastructure? 

They could join the thousands of urban poor who've seen firsthand how hurricanes can topple not one, but two cities. Farmers across the country, plowing acres in our country's libertarian belt, who are watching their finances crumble. “If you want to gain the trust of the emerging non-white majority, it’s not just a messaging thing,” one legal counsel at an environmental nonprofit told Colorlines. “It’s a values thing. You must understand the values of these communities and craft policy around that.” It's worth a thought, for environmentalists and Republicans alike. 

So They Say

"It’s now been just over 100 days since the murder of 20 innocent children and six brave educators in Newtown, Connecticut, shocked this country into doing something to protect our kids. But consider this: Over those 100 days or so, more than 100 times as many Americans have fallen victim to gun violence. More than 2,000 of our fellow citizens, struck down, often just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And every day we wait to do something about it, even more are stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun."

 — President Barack Obama, at today's event to rally support for gun control in Denver 


Daily Meme: Ain't No Party Like a Prez Club Party

  • The members of the country's most exclusive club are getting together again at the end of the month.
  • No, we're not talking about the Five-Timers Club.
  • It's the Presidents' Club! The living former inhabitants of the White House and president-elect Obama were invited over by President Bush in January 2009 for a quick photo-op—the first meeting of all living presidents since 1981...
  • ... and the gang's getting back together at the end of the month for the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University. 
  • Apparently, "It's something of a presidential tradition for members of the presidents' club to attend library openings."
  • Bush and his successor met last year too, at the unveiling of Dubya's official portrait at the White House. They were just full of jokes, and hopefully the mirth continues on April 25.
  • If not, we'll always have this fake presidential reunion.
  • But for now, we're crossing our fingers for Bush to paint a picture of his White House buds, and and for Bill Clinton to mark the moment with an impromptu"Careless Whisper" performance. 

What We're Writing

  • Steve Erickson writes that "gun-safety advocates would be better advised to note the phrase that precedes that word militia: 'well regulated.'"
  • Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen reviews a new book that tackles accusations of liberal campus bias and finds herself missing the good old days of early culture wars.

What We're Reading

Poll of the Day

Americans overwhelmingly want stricter gun laws, according to a new poll from Marist and MSNBC's Morning Joe. Eighty-seven percent favor universal background checks—a proposal the Senate will consider next week. A solid 59 percent of Americans want to ban assault weapons, the study found—but a new ban is unlikely to even receive serious congressional consideration.