Timothy Egan has a New York Times column on “The Coming Green Wave,” which offers an optimistic outlook for rising environmental awareness, which is good news, particularly for Democrats. As Egan writes,
A Green Wave is coming this November, the pent-up force of the most overlooked constituency in America. These independents, Teddy Roosevelt Republicans and Democrats on the sideline have been largely silent as the Trump administration has tried to destroy a century of bipartisan love of the land.
But no more. Politics, like Newton’s third law of physics, is about action and reaction. While President Trump tries to prop up the dying and dirty coal industry with taxpayer subsidies, the outdoor recreation industry has been roaring along. It is a $374-billion-a-year economy, by the government’s own calculation, and more than twice that size by private estimates.
Egan notes, further, that “if just one unorganized voting segment, the 60 million bird-watchers of America, sent a unified political message this fall, you’d have a political block with more than 10 times the membership of the National Rifle Association.” Egan faults Trump for “drafting rules to make it easier for major polluters to drive up the earth’s temperature,” weakne rules protecting endangered species and “while lovers of the outdoors break visitation records at national parks and forests, Trump is removing land from protection.”
Egan believes that “144 million Americans who participated in an outdoor activity last year” and the 344 million visitors to national parks are getting ready to “flex some muscle in the upcoming midterm elections.” He notes also that,
Only one in 10 voters think Americans should use more coal. And more than 80 percent of millennials, soon to be the largest cohort of voters (if they ever turn out), believe there’s solid evidence behind these freakish manifestations of an overheated earth…hese people are now ready to “put aside our differences and stand together for the places we love,” as Tawney and Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, wrote in The Denver Post.
You will see it in Minnesota, where the 140,000 people who work in outdoor recreation are furious at Trump’s attempt to open a sulfide-ore copper mine near Boundary Waters Wilderness. You will see it in a half-dozen tossup congressional races in California, where the administration is mounting the biggest assault yet on public health, with its attack on emission rules.
Whether or not Egan’s predictions materialize in the midterm elections, there is surely a lot of room for improvement in Democratic outreach to voters who are alarmed about the environment. It may be that, with a little more effort, Democrats could win some new voters who are concerned about quickening environmental deterioration, a broad-based constituency that is bound to grow in the months and years ahead.
Egan concludes with a hopeful observation that “the silent green majority has had enough.” If there isn’t yet a “silent green majority,” Democrats should be be about the business of organizing one.