ClimateDemocracyNews & Opinion
We saw big wins nationwide for our plan to curb the worst of climate change. It goes far beyond just electing Biden. Here’s what we did and what comes next.
by Sam Bernhardt, Political Director of Food & Water Action
The movement for a healthy future played a big role in defeating Donald Trump.
President-elect Joe Biden has served in public office for nearly five decades, and he’s got his ways of doing things. However, Biden will enter office with one of the most progressive Congresses in history, and he will need to govern with them. Among the 117th Congress will be a set of new climate champions like Mondaire Jones (NY17), and Jamaal Bowman (NY16) who we helped elect, and who will go to work every day fighting for a COVID recovery that creates millions of renewable energy jobs and bans fracking.
Biden will also need to govern with a powerful climate movement which this fall rallied behind him to defeat Trump, but which will pivot to pressuring Biden to transition our country off of fossil fuels now.
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Climate Movement Activists Helped Elect Biden And We Plan To Get Bold Climate Action
Food & Water Action played our part in defeating Trump. Our leaders drove a massive campaign to get voters in Pennsylvania signed up to vote absentee. In the last two weeks of the election, we pivoted to getting voters who weren’t registered to vote absentee to instead vote early or vote in person on election day. In total, we made 700,000 phone calls to voters around Pennsylvania, and engaged 25,000 voters in conversations to talk through their options for voting safely and securely. Food & Water Action volunteers also wrote 5,000 handwritten letters to voters in swing districts around the country, and sent hundreds of thousands of peer-to-peer text messages encouraging people to get out and vote, and to mobilize their friends to vote.
Our effort was part of an enormous mobilization of organizations fighting to protect our planet, with the understanding that defeating Donald Trump was step one. Not only did the movement to ban fracking do the work, but our messaging worked too. Trump tried to frame Joe Biden as the leader of the movement against fracking. We now know that Trump’s messaging pushed voters in Pennsylvania’s heavily-fracked counties towards Biden.
Now that that’s accomplished, we turn our focus to pressuring President-elect Biden to follow through on his campaign commitments, like banning fracking on public lands. And we need to prioritize electing a majority in the Senate that will act on climate change. That work starts in Georgia’s January 2021 Senate runoff elections, but we know that the path towards meaningful climate legislation also runs through states like Pennsylvania and Iowa, where we need to utilize power we’ve been building on the ground for years to elect climate champions to the U.S. Senate.
Nationwide Support For Bold Climate Action Resulted In Important Regional Wins
We also know now more than ever that our movement is more than just groups like Food & Water Action and the community leaders we work with. We know that we have broad-based support nationwide for climate action, because in races around the country where the main issue was climate change, voters sided with the science to vote for a livable future.
The township of East Brunswick, New Jersey passed a ballot measure to create a clean energy program that will transition every household in the community to 100% renewable energy by 2030. Food & Water Action brought this policy to East Brunswick after we passed a similar ballot measure in neighboring Piscataway in 2019. We collected 1,000 signatures to qualify it for the ballot in East Brunswick. Then, we engaged in hundreds of conversations with East Brunswick voters through phone-banking, texting, and friend-to-friend organizing. On election day, over 70% of voters cast their ballot in support of the measure, making East Brunswick the sixth community Food & Water Action has worked with to adopt this policy, called Community Choice Aggregation, since 2018.
Meanwhile, in California, two county races pitted people against the profits of fossil fuel corporations, and we came out on top. In Los Angeles County, the third-most drilled county in the state, we helped elect Holly Mitchell to the County Board of Supervisors, who will be the deciding vote to enact setbacks to keep oil wells away from homes. With Holly’s vote, we’re ready to kill the dangerous practice of urban oil drilling in LA.
In Ventura County, the second-most drilled county in California, we helped elect Carmen Ramirez, who will be the deciding vote in keeping recently passed setbacks in place. The oil industry didn’t go quietly. They spent nearly one million dollars to try to roll back our progress. But we out-organized, out-strategized, and out-mobilized them.
Even in Pennsylvania, where fracking spokespeople would have us believe that opposing their industry is political suicide, we made progress, roughly doubling the caucus of state legislators who support transitioning off of fossil fuels while defending our most vocal leaders against hundreds of thousands of dollars in attack ads funded by the fracking industry. In 2022, we will flip the Pennsylvania State House with the most progressive Democratic majority to ever hold power in Harrisburg, so stay tuned for ways you can help build toward that goal.
We have so much more work to do, but I know that by working together to make the most out of these important wins, we can build the power needed to get our country to a renewable energy future.
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