Green New Deal Breaker? Not in This Election..

November 11, 2020

The Conversation:

During campaigning, Pennsylvania received a lot of attention from both presidential candidates. The state sits atop the Marcellus shale, a major source of natural gas; it is the second-largest producer of natural gas in the U.S., after Texas. The industry employs about 32,000 people in Pennsylvania, but clean energy is among the fastest growing sectors in the state.

Some speculated that Biden’s stance on fossil fuel divestment, especially his comments during the final presidential debate on moving away from fossil fuels, might have turned away voters worried about their job security in these key states. Yet, the election results have shown the opposite. 

During the final presidential debate, Biden argued that he would “transition [away] from the oil industry … because it has to be replaced by renewable energy over time.” The principal policy he proposed was to stop federal subsidies to the oil and gas industry. After the debate, Biden’s team clarified that his proposal means a gradual phase-out of fossil fuels and he would not impose bans on the oil and gas industry.

In short, Biden has been strategically ambiguous about the timeline of decarbonizing the U.S. economy. He supports the idea of achieving net-zero emissions in the U.S. by 2050, yet serious questions remain whether his budget-saving and market-oriented approach to fighting climate change would effectively discourage a carbon rebound after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Comparing this year’s election results with the final polling average and previous election results, two divergent trends emerge. In Colorado, which produces the most shale oil and gas in the U.S., voters remain supportive of Biden. Despite being defeated in Texas, the Democratic share of popular votes there increased to 46.4 per cent this year from 43.2 per cent in 2016. The results suggest one of two things: Either Biden’s talk of fossil fuel divestment did not substantially change voters’ minds, or it led to larger voter turnouts of progressive young voters.

The results in Ohio and Pennsylvania followed the same trend. Although Biden’s performance in both states has been worse than the national polling average numbers, he gained a larger share of votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016. 

In Pennsylvania, Biden has managed to win 49.8 per cent of the votes, which is a solid performance considering Trump’s strong pro-fracking push in Pennsylvania days before the election.


The dust hasn’t even settled on the 2020 election (stares intently at Georgia’s two Senate runoffs), but the sniping has already begun. Establishment House Democrats who have either spent decades in Congress or ran as conservative Democrats spent the end of last week blaming progressives for the party running behind President-elect Joe Biden.

But it’s not clear at all that progressive policy is the culprit in Democrats losing seats in the House. With the caveat that more 2020 election data will still come out, Earther dove into the last week’s results and looked specifically at the Green New Deal’s impact on races across the country. Simply put, the Green New Deal is not a political loser.

Earther looked at the Green New Deal, another bête noire of conservatives and Fox News, to see if it sank Democrats chances. The bill has 101 co-sponsors in the House and 14 co-sponsors in the Senate. Of the 93 House co-sponsors who ran for a seat in Congress’s lower chamber in 2020, only one lost reelection.

Using Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index, Earther found four House co-sponsors who are in districts that range from very slightly Democratic to moderately Republican. Of those four, three decisively won their reelection bids, including Reps. Mike Levin, Jahana Hayes, and Peter DeFazio. The fourth, Rep. Tom Suozzi, is currently behind in his race in New York by about 4,000 votes, but is projected to “easily win” once all mail-in ballots are counted, according to Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman.

Outside of Suozzi, the only Green New Deal co-sponsor to lose is Florida Rep. Debbie Murcasell-Powell. She lost what was a moderately Democratic-leaning seat, though it was previously represented by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, arguably the most outspoken Republican on climate change prior to losing the seat in 2018 to Murcasell-Powell.

This is quick-and-dirty analysis aligns with other data showing that representatives who have sponsored and voted for progressive policies were not punished by voters. An analysis commissioned by the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats and shared with Intercept Washington, DC, bureau chief Ryan Grim shows that Democratic House candidates in more liberal swing districts won by greater margins than more conservative ones. 

Basically, the people who actually back progressive policies came through the election largely unscathed and, in many cases, fared better than their more conservative Democratic counterparts in swing districts. And lest we forget, Kamala Harris, one of the Senate co-sponsors of the Green New Deal, is now vice president-elect. To be fair, there were also high-profile examples of progressive Democrats running on a Green New Deal failing to pry swing-ish districts out of Republican hands, notably the Texas race between organizer Mike Siegel and Rep. Mike McCaul, and a post-mortem on that race is certainly something to watch out for. 

The Conversation again:

At the (Pennsylvania) county level, the dynamics become more complicated. In the southwest and northeast corners of the state where fracking activities concentrate, Trump held a decisive lead. In Bradford County, one of the most fracked places on the planet, Trump received over 70 per cent of the votes.

Although election results suggest that fossil fuel divestment did not negatively impact Biden’s overall election performance, it remains a pivotal and polarizing topic for many states, and could be a challenge for future progressive contenders.

Does such a political dilemma mean little political actions against the fracking industry and its lobbyists in the near future? We have to patiently wait for the next administration’s climate policies.


3 Responses to “Green New Deal Breaker? Not in This Election..”

  1. Do you want to cut down on fracking? Build more nuclear plants. It will cut demand for gas and lower its price and help keep energy affordable to poor people.

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