John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich stood out among Democratic presidential candidates in a national MoveOn town hall on the climate crisis this month. The two clearly captured a public desire for a president who offers a clear and strong “blue/green” vision — forthright action to take on the global climate crisis and also protect and enhance workers’ livelihoods.
At 1,300 house parties across the country and via the web, July 7, more than 100,000 MoveOn members watched all eight Democratic candidates answer questions on how they would deal with the crisis of global warming. Afterward, the viewers voted for the candidate they thought had the best position. The organization said it was the largest MoveOn event since 2004.
Edwards linked solving the climate crisis to strengthening the U.S. economy “not just at the top” but “from the bottom up.” This was a response to a question from MoveOn member Gary Barker, a retired educator in Denver: “How do you envision making certain that every American has the opportunity to participate in the benefits of new energy and not just large corporate players?”
Edwards projected involving “small towns, communities, grassroots organizations” and creating “at least a million new green collar jobs … to replace the blue collar jobs that we’ve lost.”
“We can build wind turbine factories, for example, in places where trade has been devastating and jobs have been lost,” he said. “So the direct result will be, we will put people to work, who in fact have lost jobs as a result of manufacturing jobs and other jobs leaving the United States of America.”
Calling for major investment into “transitioning our automakers into building more innovating, more fuel-efficient vehicles,” Edwards emphasized, “And we want those vehicles to be built by union workers.”
Kucinich evoked the New Deal and the Kennedy administration in projecting a comprehensive federal Works Green Administration. “President Kennedy inspired a nation to organize so we could get to the moon,” Kucinich said. “I know the country is waiting for a great vision, and I’m ready to call that forth, and you’re a part of it.”
Among his initiatives, Kucinich said he would create a green building program to retrofit millions of existing homes with wind and solar technologies and insulate them to save energy, as well as to build new green housing. He also called for “incentivizing mass transit.”
He spoke of “organizing the entire county along this area of green philosophy.”
Edwards won 33 percent of the MoveOn votes cast, more than twice the votes for the next candidates. Kucinich came in second with 16 percent, followed closely by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson. Interestingly, among those MoveOn members who attended house parties, Edwards and Richardson drew the most votes.
In a League of Conservation Voters chart, “Where the Candidates Currently Stand,” (www.heatison.org), Richardson’s positions on specific global warming policies are among the strongest. All the Democrats except Mike Gravel have come out for capping carbon emissions, raising vehicle fuel efficiency, requiring utilities to get a bigger percentage of electricity from renewable sources, and placing some restrictions on new coal plants. They differ on the numbers — the size of the limits they would impose on the country’s energy, auto and other industries, and when these limits would have to be achieved.
The Republican candidates distinguish themselves in the LCV chart by having “no articulated position” on any of these issues, or by opposing raising fuel efficiency requirements.
For some voters, the chart may offer an indication of how aggressively the candidates, if elected, would challenge big corporate polluters.
Following the climate town hall, MoveOn.org Political Action immediately began a national fund-raising campaign to pay for newspaper ads in Iowa and New Hampshire — two early primary states — featuring the three top-rated candidates, Edwards, Kucinich and Clinton, with the heading “Voted ‘most likely to succeed in solving the climate crisis.’”