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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Is It Energy Independence, Stupid?

Thomas Friedman thinks energy policy, energy independence in particular, is the key to winning the election:

The Energy Mandate, by Thomas Friedman, Commentary, NY Times: James Carville, the legendary Clinton campaign adviser who coined the slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid,” knows a gut issue when he sees one. So when Mr. Carville contacted me the other day to tell me about the newest gut issue his polling was turning up for candidates in the 2006 elections, I was all ears.

“Energy independence,” he said. “It’s now the No. 1 national security issue. ... It’s become kind of a joke with us, because no matter how we ask the question, that’s what comes up.” ...

Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg, ...[said] “When we lay out different plans for how to deal with Iraq, any plan that also includes energy independence tops any other plan that doesn’t”... Mr. Greenberg ... added that people are not expressing this view because they are worried about price, but because they are starting to understand that our oil dependence is fueling a host of really bad national security problems. “There is frustration that leaders have not taken it up,” he added...

What this means for Democratic Party candidates, argues Mr. Carville, is that it’s no longer enough to have “energy security” as part of a 12-step plan for American renewal. No, it needs to become a defining issue of what Democrats are all about.

It should “not be part of an expanding litany, but rather a contracting narrative,” explained Mr. Carville. “It can’t just be that we are for a woman’s right to choose, and education and energy independence. This is the thing we need to get done above and beyond everything else.” People should associate “energy security” with Democrats the way they associate “tax cuts” with Republicans, he argued. “This is not something to add to the stew — this is the stock.”

The best way for a party that is often viewed as weak on national security to overcome that deficit is to be for energy independence, he noted. ...

So does this mean the public would accept a gasoline or B.T.U. tax? No, said Mr. Greenberg. The public wants government to impose much higher auto mileage standards on Detroit and much more stringent energy codes on buildings and appliances. People want a tough regulatory response, à la California.

Remember, Mr. Carville and Mr. Greenberg are professional campaign advisers. They get paid to get people elected — not to offer feel-good nostrums. So when they tell you that their polling and focus groups around the country show that “reducing dependence on foreign oil” is voters’ top national security priority, you know that this issue has finally arrived. The party that captures it most credibly will be rewarded.

Hello? Anybody listening?

I've been listening since this column came out a few days ago. I hear Bush and other Republicans making this point repeatedly, they even have plans on how to get there (ethanol production, Alaskan and offshore drilling, etc.), but I didn't hear much from Democrats. I'm not as sure as Carville is that this should be the signature issue, but Democrats could surely be more aggressive on this point.

    Posted by on Sunday, October 15, 2006 at 10:14 AM in Economics, Oil, Policy, Politics, Regulation | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (30)

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