Is the glass half full, or half empty? That’s what I found myself wondering all morning (and well into last night) as I followed election results. I’m going with half full — more than half full, in fact.
Don’t believe the pundits who tell us that climate issues are not among voters’ tops concerns. That argument has always bugged me; it sets up false expectations. Voters will always care most about our jobs, our paychecks, our ability to feed and house our families. Our ability to keep ourselves and our families healthy, and to be able to take care of ourselves and our families when we are sick should be at the top of everyone’s list.
That doesn’t mean we don’t care about the urgent, looming crisis of climate change. Just ask anyone suffering loss from supercharged storms and droughts and fires. We care deeply, across the country, about climate change.
But we expect our government to keep us safe. Keep. Us. Safe. Polls show that more people than ever before recognize that we are not on the road to climate safety. The pattern of voting yesterday underscores that citizens want the government to move us to climate safety and a clean-energy economy.
We are not naive. Polluter millions and disinformation campaigns still have power; we saw that in a ballot defeat in Colorado, the country’s sixth-largest oil and fossil gas producer; sunny Arizona, too, moved away from a natural solar energy future. A carbon tax was defeated in Washington state — after fossil fuel lobbyists poured 30 million dollars into the state fighting against it.
None of this means game over, not by a long shot. Lots of climate deniers have been sent packing. Voters in Oregon passed sweeping new clean energy measures; Governor Kate Brown is committed to moving a policy to limit carbon pollution, with a legislature that is similarly committed. Pennsylvania saw a big victory on renewable energy commitments. Re-elected Governor Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania has taken important leadership in crafting protections from fossil gas emissions and industrial smokestack pollution.
Voters in Colorado elected a governor who has pledged bold action on climate — who can take action to put limits on climate pollution and to push renewables; though he did not support the ballot initiative, Jared Polis has stated he is not in favor of drilling near homes and schools and playgrounds. Governor Polis will also shepherd Colorado’s participation in the Clean Car Coalition of thirteen states, led by California.
A new governor in New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, is remarkably consequential; this is a state that depends on oil and gas to provide education for its children. We hope she will address harmful methane and other pollution from the oil and gas industry. Wasteful and completely unnecessary, methane emissions have a fast and furious impact on global warming. This pollution can be stopped.
Governors in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan will move us closer to climate safety with clean-energy economies. In Minnesota, Governor Tim Waltz is committed to putting policies in place to hit ambitious climate targets. In Maine and Nevada and elsewhere there are now new opportunities for strengthening climate safety and health protections for all of us.
States matter. This is where hope for climate safety lives and breathes and grows. And more:
Look at the joyous fullness of the victories. Record turnout. New voices, new faces, new backgrounds in the House. That’s huge. Women. Running in record numbers, and voting in record numbers, women broke glass walls across the country. More than a hundred women winning congressional races. For the first time: female governors in Kansas, Michigan, and New Mexico. Texas: Purple now. Wow.
Some shocking surprises: what kind of person thinks outright racism and sexism is just fine in a political representative? How could people like that become….Senators? We have a lot of work to do, as a country, in shaping our character, and in finding shared ground on what are acceptable attitudes towards one another. Starting with our president, who has made it permissible — made it a winning strategy! — to voice racism and sexism.
This is just the beginning of a battle for the White House that will continue over the next two years. Stay with us. Fight for climate safety with us. Help us stand for sanity and civility.
And to all of you who worked so hard to register people to vote, to help with turnout, an enormous thank you.