Red State Democrats Risk Becoming Carbon Heretics

In the late 1980s the Democratic Party decided that appealing to its donor base required strict adherence to the notion of abortion on demand. Anyone who was pro-life (like Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, and Harry Reid) either switched sides or was chased out of the party.

Today, there are virtually no pro-life Democrats. And soon, thanks to a major push from Barack Obama to please his Sierra Club and Hollywood donors by saddling the coal industry with strict new regulations, there may be no pro-carbon energy Democrats. In turn, this may create a long-term advantage for Republicans in the Senate similar to their strength in the House of Representatives, which the GOP has held for all but four of the last 20 years.

In the holy Democratic Church of Enlightened Environmentalism, red-state Senate Democrats are becoming Carbon Heretics. They risk excommunication -- from a steadily shrinking church. Even if the Democrats are correct in believing that demographics give them a long-term advantage in the presidential sweepstakes, they may find their progressive agenda permanently bottled up in Capitol Hill.

Obama’s proposed new anti-coal EPA regulations and continued dithering on the Keystone Pipeline are costing him support in a large number of states you might call the Energy Belt. Thanks to fracking, traditional fossil fuel-producing states like West Virginia, Kentucky and Louisiana have been joined by North Dakota, Colorado and Pennsylvania as major energy producers. “Battle Over Fracking Poses Threat to Colorado Democrats,” read a recent New York Times headline.

Meanwhile, intense support for the Keystone Pipeline and the jobs it would create in Nebraska are making Democratic Senate candidacies there nearly as unlikely as they currently are in Oklahoma and Texas (both of which sent Democrats to the Senate as recently as the 1990s but are now essentially written off by the party).

The potential exists for Democratic Senate candidacies to become increasingly farfetched in ten or more Energy Belt states. Even the most liberal presidents in the future will have difficulty getting anything through Capitol Hill when Democratic energy policy looks increasingly like a writeoff of 20 Senate seats.

Energy Belt Democrats are furiously distancing themselves from their president. “I will fiercely oppose the president’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority,” declared Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is trying to unseat Mitch McConnell. In West Virginia, where Democrat Natalie Tennant was already an underdog against Republican Shelley Capito in the race held by the retiring liberal Democrat Jay Rockefeller, Tennant sounded a similar note when she said she would “stand up to” the president and “anyone else who wants to undermine our coal jobs.”