The opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of RedState.com.
I’ll be completely honest with you. Joe Biden’s State of the Union address was harmless enough. He didn’t really offer a whole lot that was new. He stuck to the usual Democratic talking points, took jabs and returned them to the GOP hecklers in the crowd, and generally seemed to be alert and awake – a victory in and of itself.
The simple fact is that the State of the Union address is almost never really remembered for its content. Its more noteworthy aspects are always the crowd and the reception, and we as a country tend to move on somewhere between 24 and 48 hours. By Friday morning, we’ll have moved on and this speech will go down in the history books as A Thing That Happened.
Everyone has their takes on what happened – from the “decorum of the GOP hecklers” to “Biden’s extreme views on guns” and everything in between – but there is something not getting nearly as much attention as what wasn’t said at the State of the Union address.
BIDEN: "The Inflation Reduction Act is also the most significant investment EVER in climate change. EVER." pic.twitter.com/HQLLaT9dPO
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) February 8, 2023
Yes, Joe Biden did mention the environmental bill that we cynically call the “Inflation Reduction Act,” and he did attack oil companies for making huge profits… but that was it. He didn’t offer any new plans for fighting climate change, nor did he really go into what the environmentalism bill Congress passed would do. He was fairly mum on those subjects. Why is that?
An organization called “Grist” made a note about Biden’s lack of commentary on the future of fighting climate change, though, and the environmental left’s reaction to last night is something to watch. Here’s what Grist said.
Unlike his calls for tax reform and protections for Medicaid and Social Security, the State of the Union lacked a clear vision for how his administration hopes to tackle the many climate deadlines looming for the last two years of his term, from new emissions limits on coal-fired power plants and vehicles to efficiency standards for appliances and industry. There is also the issue of the delays and staffing shortages at the Environmental Protection Agency, and fear of a blockade on climate action within federal courts, spurred by a deep bench of conservative judges appointed during the Trump Administration.
Jamal Reed is the executive director of Evergreen Action, a climate change political advocacy organization based in Washington state. Ahead of Tuesday’s address, Reed told Grist that Biden’s investment has been monumental for the transition to a clean economy, but he agreed that there is a lot left on D.C.’s climate to-do list.
“The IRA and the current baseline do not get us where we need to honor climate commitments,” Reed said, referring to how the law is projected to reduce emissions by 42 percent by 2030 – 8 percent less than what the U.S. committed to in international agreements. “We need to push states to go further faster than they ever were before with these investments. We need to implement rapidly, equitably, and efficiently the Inflation Reduction Act and make sure we’re getting those dollars out the door.”
In fact, Biden made a very familiar political call to action last night – a return to American manufacturing dominance, something environmentalists aren’t actually fans of. The president also mentioned off-hand that “we’re going to need oil for at least another decade,” also not an admission the left is all too happy to hear.
Among registered voters ahead of the November midterm, only 38 percent total said that climate change was a top priority – far down on the list of key issues, according to Pew. It did not even register as a key issue in a Gallup poll released in late January.
Biden and his team see and understand this. That is why Biden’s speech focused instead on the economy and bipartisanship – that same Gallup poll showed voters are most considered about leadership in office first, followed by inflation and the economy. Biden has a “climate change” record now, something he can run on to appease his base. But it seems unlikely he’s going to push for more between now and the 2024 presidential election (assuming he’s even running).
He and his team also know that it’s going to be all but impossible to get the House to put forward anything remotely close to what they want, and with as expansive an agenda as Biden called for last night (police reform, gun control, pay raises for workers and teachers, etc.), there are going to be fights that have to be strategically picked, and climate change may not be worth the (pardon me) energy that the White House would have to expend on it.
But, that could backfire. Biden is already unpopular even among his own party. His hope is that those base voters who fixate on green issues more than any other issue will still vote for him simply because they hate Republicans more – a safe bet, but a bet he nonetheless will hate taking.