Check the link below for more context-setting and analysis – and focus on constructive change in November, if you are a US voter
Today’s reality is quite different, of course. Since the stimulus, the Republicans have decided to oppose en masse all major legislation, and the Tea Party movement arose to punish deviationists. Health-care reform took nearly a year, and achieving it cost the president many approval-rating points and much political capital. And now, despite a seemingly favorable constellation of external pressures—the BP spill, rising oil prices, wide public concern about the climate–comprehensive energy legislation is dead. A modest bill might yet emerge from negotiations, but a large bill that establishes the principle of putting a price on carbon emissions will not happen. The New York Times‘s David Leonhardt recently reported that, on a NASA list of the hottest years on the planet since records were first kept in 1880, nine of the top ten spots are occupied by years in this young century (the tenth is 1998). But the American government did not and cannot act, and it’s difficult to imagine when it might.
What happened? As the above narrative suggests, with a weak economy and high unemployment rate, members of Congress were nervous about enacting too much “big-spending” legislation that, in the average voter’s mind, was not related directly to the economy. So they were willing to tackle one such bill, but not a second. One can criticize, as one always can, the administration’s political strategy: as with health care, the rhetoric wasn’t persuasive—Obama could never conjure up the language to sweep the right’s disingenuous “questions” about climate science to the side, and he did not seize the post-BP moment as he might have. But the deeper explanation lies with the Senate.