The Sciences

Refuting A Big Election Lie: The Claim That Supporting Clean Energy Doomed House Democrats

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyNov 3, 2010 11:45 PM

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Among post election stories, this reaction at Politico really left something wanting in the correlation-is-not-causation department:

House Democrats who voted for last year’s cap-and-trade bill took a beating last night. Nearly 30 (and counting) who cast ‘aye’ votes for Waxman-Markey were swept away on Tuesday’s anti-incumbent wave. The casualties ranged from 14-term Rep. Rick Boucher to freshman lawmakers like Betsy Markey, Mark Schauer and Tom Perriello.

The implication here is that in an election driven by economic anger, Democrats who had voted for the 2009 Waxman-Markey comprehensive climate and energy bill paid a devastating price. But there's just one problem--it was an election driven by economic anger.. That means that voters overwhelmingly rejected political incumbents (read Democrats), but it also means that issues like climate and energy weren't exactly at the front of their minds. Pocketbook issues were. Jobs and taxes. And health care.

The Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund has now done the definitive refutation of this bogus claim about the negative electoral consequences of voting for the 2009 climate bill--technically the American Clean Energy and Security Act, or ACES. Their post--and accompanying figure, which I'm including here--show that both Democrats who voted for Waxman-Markey and also Democrats who voted against it sustained losses. Indeed, taken as a percentage, the latter (and much smaller) group actually fared far worse. But in neither case was the outcome because of these candidates' votes on climate and energy. Rather, it was because a 'wave' election swept in and punished Democrats across the board. In other words--to quote a recurring truth of elections--it was the economy, stupid. It wasn't the climate bill. Read NRDC's full post here.

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