Walter Russell Mead: US Democrats Torn Between Greens And Browns
There are many reasons why neither party seems able to establish a permanent electoral hold on American politics. Problems in the GOP coalition have been clear for a while and have crystallized since the last election. But dealing with the energy boom will likely prove to be a severe test for the Democrats.
The FT reports that the fossil fuel industry is cozying up to President Obama, who for his part will find it difficult to resist the promise that the U.S. energy boom will have for the country’s economy.
After four years of combat between the American Petroleum Institute and the White House, Jack Gerard, the lead representative of 500 oil and natural gas companies, said he is hopeful that the president will keep his re-election campaign commitment to promote the industries as crucial to economic growth and energy independence.
Analysts see good omens for a second-term energy policy that has a place for fossil fuels, saying that the Obama administration cannot block the source of so much economic growth, no matter how unpalatable it might find the hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” that comes with shale gas development.
The green wing of the party pulls in one direction, the jobs, investments and prospects for energy independence that the energy revolution offers pull in the other. It’s going to be particularly tough for the Democrats because the politics of energy involve so many crucial swing states states as well as critical interest groups. Ohio and Pennsylvania have an immense stake in the revolution; the prospects of a revitalized Midwest largely hang on the ability of cheap and abundant energy to re-energize manufacturing and attract both foreign and domestic investors to big new industrial plants. The Democrats can’t afford to lose the Middle West, but greens are an important part of the base too.
We seem to be entering a time when domestic oil and gas producers and the interests associated with them are gaining power; it will be interesting to watch how the White House manages this transition while trying to keep the greens on board. Structurally, the political balance doesn’t look good for greens. The Democratic party establishment worries about business and blue collar voters deserting to the GOP, but it doesn’t lie awake at night worrying that the greens will join the Tea Party.