When Hillary Clinton announced her opposition to the Keystone pipeline from Canada, she said climate change was the reason. In the first Democratic presidential debate (CNN), Martin O’Malley listed the greatest national security threats to America as nuclear Iran, ISIS, and “climate change, of course.” And in the second Democratic debate (CBS)—it was the day after the Paris terrorist attacks—Bernie Sanders insisted climate change “is directly related to the growth of terrorism.”
These comments were disingenuous (Clinton), exaggerated (O’Malley), and absurd (Sanders). But there was another problem, the issue of global warming itself. In polls, voters list it as one of their lowest priorities, even while paying lip service to it as a serious matter.
Yet President Obama and Democrats can’t stop talking about it. Obama regards the United Nations Climate Change Conference he’s set to attend in Paris this week as a significant response to terrorism. “What a powerful rebuke to the terrorists it will be when the world stands as one and shows that we will not be deterred from building a better future for our children,” he said last week. No, he wasn’t joking.
Perhaps the hubbub and press coverage at the conference will make global warming a salient issue. But it has a long way to go. In 2013, it came in 21st and last in a Pew survey of what should be the priorities for the White House and Congress. It trailed “curb lobbyists,” “moral breakdown,” and “infrastructure.” And just last month, in a Gallup poll on “the most important problem facing this country,” the environment and pollution, much less climate change, barely registered a blip.
So we get to the question: Why do Democrats and their presidential candidates treat global warming as a paramount issue in the 2016 campaign? Do they truly believe it has created an existential crisis for the United States and the world? Some do: Sanders, for instance. He sounds as if he sees himself as a prophet. Unless global warming is curbed, he said in the first debate, “the planet that we’re going to be leaving our kids and our grandchildren may well not be habitable.”
But there’s a simple explanation for the emphasis on global warming: It’s what the liberal coalition at the top of the Democratic party wants to talk about. It especially matters to what has become the most influential interest group, environmentalists. If they prevail on global warming, they will decide how Americans live. No wonder they brook no dissent.
Everyone else in the coalition—unions, feminists, the intelligentsia, mainstream media, rich and upper-middle-class progressives, urban dwellers, gays—has adopted the issue. Similarly, they’ve embraced the threat of Islamophobia, the need to welcome Syrian refugees, gay (especially LGBT) rights, bigger government, and taxing the wealthy.
Issues like global warming seem politically harmless. But they can be a drag on Democrats as finger-pointing issues—that is, pointing to Democrats’ infatuation with matters of little importance to most voters. Why, voters may ask, are the candidates yapping about global warming when the economy is stagnant?
Democrats ought to understand this. They claim Republicans are fixated on same-sex marriage, an innovation a majority of the public has accepted. Why are Republicans obsessed with a controversy that’s been decided?
Islamophobia is different. Despite the growing threat of Islamic terrorism post-Paris, Democrats are preoccupied with keeping Muslims and Islam from suffering blame. And they go to politically correct extremes to do so.
In their second debate, moderator John Dickerson noted that Marco Rubio had said the attacks the day before in Paris “showed that we are at war with radical Islam. Do you agree with that characterization, radical Islam?”
Clinton was evasive and answered what hadn’t been asked. “I don’t think we’re at war with Islam,” she said. “I don’t think we’re at war with all Muslims. I think we’re at war with jihadists who have . . .”
Dickerson interrupted her. “He didn’t say all Muslims. He just said radical Islam.”
Clinton responded, “You can talk about Islamists who clearly are also jihadists . . . [but] we are not at war with Islam or Muslims. We are at war with violent extremism.” A week later, Clinton tweeted this: “Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.”
O’Malley, too, balked at “radical Islam,” preferring “radical jihadis.” Then he took his turn knocking down the straw man: “Let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that all of our Muslim-American neighbors in this country are somehow our enemies here.” Sanders dismissed the term as unimportant.