As midterm spending intensifies, Republicans should prepare to talk about Democrats’ green agenda as another front in the elite culture war on America’s middle class. Amid the GOP’s struggle to bridge pre-Trump establishment politics with post-Trump populism, Democrats’ class warfare makes that task much easier.
Establishment Republicans who cut ads and cash checks are inclined to talk about dollars and cents, assuming it’s enough to motivate voters in a bad economy. They see this approach as one that is mutually exclusive with the culture war, allowing them to avoid the issues that make cocktail parties uncomfortable while also amassing power in Washington and keeping special interests happy. It’s a win-win!
Trump-aligned populists, on the other hand, saw vindication in Glenn Youngkin’s blue-state gubernatorial victory last year. One lesson of that election, as we’ve written here for years, is to understand the culture war as “the big tent” — a narrative that when properly framed is more moral and more politically expedient than avoiding the matter altogether.
This is at least somewhat fueling the ongoing feud between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. As Federalist Senior Editor Christopher Bedford wrote last week, McConnell “is angry the base didn’t choose his guys” in midterm primaries. Scott then took a shot at McConnell for publicly grumbling about certain candidates. But McConnell’s distaste for culture warriors like Blake Masters needn’t linger into the fall.
When California asks people to buy electric vehicles, then tells them not to charge the cars, we witness more than fiscal stupidity. The middle class is being forced to shoulder the burden of a haphazard green agenda that squeezes regular Americans in the short term for the sake of achieving foolish long-term energy goals. California’s clumsy attempt to transition to renewable energy is mirrored nationally by the Biden administration.
Americans are paying higher prices now because of Biden’s regulatory war on fossil fuels. Senior Editor David Harsanyi put it well when he wrote, “Democrats are rigging the market to force you to buy a car that has a 200-mile reach and uses erratic and expensive energy when you already have increasingly efficient models in your driveway and tens of billions of easily accessible barrels of offshore fossil fuels here at home — and much more around the world.”
“We have centuries worth of the stuff waiting in the ground,” he added. “Which gives us enough time to come up with some better ideas.”
As David points out, a Berkeley study found over 90 percent of taxpayer subsidies for electric vehicles went to the top income quintile as of 2015. The numbers overall are striking. “Since 2006, U.S. households have received more than $18 billion in federal income tax credits for weatherizing their homes, installing solar panels, buying hybrid and electric vehicles, and other ‘clean energy’ investments,” wrote the authors. “We find that these tax expenditures have gone predominantly to higher-income Americans. The bottom three income quintiles have received about 10% of all credits, while the top quintile has received about 60%.”
Taxpayers have been funding subsidies for people who can already afford them. Money goes out of their paychecks and into their rich neighbors’ Chinese solar panels. Renewables in general will replace our dependence on OPEC with dependence on China. Alternatively, we could allow Americans to go about business as usual while eliminating excess emissions where it’s affordable (see: carbon capture), improving nuclear technology, and making other energy sources more efficient.
If countries like China and the quickly growing India don’t meet emission reduction goals, Americans will have suffered needlessly. China emits more greenhouse gases than every developed country combined.
Higher fuel prices don’t affect John Kerry like they affect the 58 percent of Americans living paycheck to paycheck. For the laptop class, much of which resides in walkable cities, an extra few bucks in gas or taxes is annoying but fine. For others, it’s enormous stress, it’s a second job, it’s less time with their children, more debt, or fewer drives to see relatives.
Overall, to put it bluntly, high-profile environmentalists want to normalize a world with fewer children, less steak, and less driving. That amounts to a war on American culture. It’s a political gift to Republicans and a moral imperative to fight. Not for the sake of cheap cuts of beef at Outback Steakhouse, but for the sake of communities and human flourishing.
When white-collar Republican politicians talk about “pain at the pump” this fall, what they’re really talking about is the consequence of a culture war on America’s middle class — one that burdens the unwashed masses with lifestyle sacrifices our elites can weather more easily or simply refuse to give up altogether.
Many wealthy policymakers and investors will profit majorly off the transition to “clean” energy while they force others to change their lives and fork over more of their paychecks. This is easy messaging for Republicans. Worried about culture warriors talking about Drag Queen Story Hours and abortion? First, don’t be. Second, consider “ESG” — environmental and social governance — as an all-encompassing corporate agenda to join forces with groups like Planned Parenthood to bulldoze our culture. The left sees these causes as intertwined, and the right must understand that.
As working-class voters shift away from the Democratic Party, the left’s agenda becomes increasingly entangled with the interests of elites, from environmentalism to student loan bailouts to marriage to policing. Republicans should be shrewd enough to recognize the opportunity and smart enough to understand the stakes are higher than partisan politics.