San Francisco, CA -- Preparing to take the red-eye back to DC for the swearing-in of the new Congress, it's clearer and clearer that the country is not going to wait for Washington to lead again. Nor will the Sierra Club. Paula Carrell, who coordinates our state policy support efforts, reports that in a completely unprecedented clustering of state legislative interests, the 30 (out of 43) Sierra Club state lobbying offices that have already sent her their preliminary agendas, say they expect to actively lobby 90 state energy policy bills!
Luckily, there are many signs that the tide is making a momentous shift in Washington. A new poll shows that both Republicans and Democrats nationally want Congress to control U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases (Republicans 61%, Democrats 82%). Furthermore, majorities in both parties also favor requiring car makers to increase fuel efficiency even if it increases the cost of owning a car (Republicans 71%, Democrats, 86%).
Just before Christmas, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told the press that his role in 2008 was going to be to make sure that global warming was seriously addressed in the campaign. "There is a whole new movement because of the change of people sent to Washington," Schwarzenegger said in an interview this week. "We want to put the spotlight on this issue in America. It has to become a debate in the presidential election. It has to become an issue."
The Raleigh News and Observer featured Sierra Club organizer Tom Jensen as one of seven local residents who will matter in 2007, citing his Cool Cities work "to persuade North Carolina cities to sign a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.... based on a climate protection agreement by the U.S. Conference of Mayors," ... "sort of a local government version of the international Kyoto Protocol."
The New York Times just reported that while the new Democratic leadership is making some significant steps towards reforming the rules which encourage corruption, these steps pale by comparison with what has become standard in many states.
John Hurson, a former Maryland legislator turned federal lobbyist, told the Times that he was barred from letting a lobbyist buy him a cup of coffee under rules enforced by the Maryland Ethics Commission. Meanwhile, congressmen were flying across the country for golf trips with lobbyists and enlisting them as major fund-raisers for their re-election campaigns.
"It was amusing in a sad kind of way.... At the state level in Maryland a lobbyist can't even have his name on a campaign flier. And at the federal level some of these guys are basically running campaigns."
And finally, to impart a sense of the tidal wave I sense coming, imagine this scene: Bush has just finished his second term and stepped down. His successor, however, is another Republican. But here's what the newly elected executive says at his inaugural: "We have a common vision ... Meaningful, secure work with good pay and good benefits; Quality, affordable, accessible health care; A good home on a safe street in a safe neighborhood; World-class schools preparing our children for the jobs of the future; Clean rivers, beautiful beaches and coastlines free of oil drilling. This is a vision we can make a reality. If we come together, work together - we will succeed together. And to those of us entrusted with the public confidence, our mission has never been more clear: Solve problems, don't politicize them. Put the common good above partisan politics. We will work together to do what is right."
Sound unreal? Well, it just happened. The Bush who was stepping down, of course, was Gov. Jeb Bush, in Florida. The quotes are from the new Governor, Republican Charlie Crist.
Is Washington going to rise again and become our capital? I'll be interested to gauge the changing tides this week. But while I'm hopeful, I think there is still some risk that our nation's capital will fall victim to the bigotry of low expectations. After all, it has been down for a long time.