Yesterday’s vote in the Senate leaving passage of approval for the Keystone XL pipeline just one vote shy of success doesn’t mean much to anyone but Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu.
Although I support her Republican opponent in the December 6th runoff, Congressman Bill Cassidy, I have to give Senator Landrieu credit for putting up a good fight to keep her seat. If she’d fought this hard during her most recent term in office for the people of Louisiana as she is fighting for herself right now she might actually have stood a slim chance of winning.
The fact is that the Keystone XL Pipeline bill will pass and go to President Obama next year. It’s inevitable. Whether he really goes forward with the promised veto is not so clear. Politically, he’s in a pickle.
Keystone XL Pipeline fully encapsulates one of the biggest problems facing the Democrats. On one side are the environmentalist extremists who consider the slightest compromise on an issue like this akin to signing a death warrant for the entire human race. Funny, because rather than camp out in front of Mary Landrieu’s front lawn with a 30-foot-long inflatable pipeline and chanting, they might have better made their case by publicly trading in their cars for a horse and buggy. Scratch that. Horses pollute with methane gas. Make that a rickshaw instead.
I know a lot about environmentalists. I practiced environmental law and consider myself an environmentalist. I want clean water and air. In fact, I served on a board appointed by the president that studied the effects of air pollution on human health and the environment.
Most people are in fact environmentalists in the sense that they all want what’s best for the environment. I don’t know anyone who thinks the brown hazy ring of pollution hovering over a city each morning is a wonderful thing.
The sort of people like those appearing on Landrieu’s lawn, however, are different. Let me illustrate. I once dated an EPA attorney for a while. He was a very nice guy, and we parted quite amicably. The only argument we ever had that I remember is when he told me he’d rather have the entire human race go away and preserve the Earth than to do anything that might harm it. I told him I thought that was a bit extreme. You get the idea.
So on one side you have people like the Landrieu lawn squatters and my former boyfriend voting and supporting Democrats. They will not tolerate anything they perceive as harmful to the environment. Period. These people are very important to the Party and make up a significant part of the base.
Unfortunately, another part of the base is comprised of union members. A major contribution they make to the Party is by providing lots of organization and volunteers. They want jobs, particularly those that are already unionized or where they think bringing in unions is possible. Construction jobs are particularly attractive to them. The Keystone XL Pipeline is predicted to bring in such jobs.
So if you’re President Obama, which side of the Democrat Party do you want to tick off by vetoing the bill he knows is coming? Unions or environmentalists?
In the end, he must decide which constituency is more important. It appears now he fears the environmentalists more. And who can blame him? With all the breaches in security on the White House lawn, the last thing he needs is to wake up to a 30-foot-long inflatable pipeline sitting in the Rose Garden.
Republicans obviously are not immune to our own similar dilemma. But you know the old saying, “misery loves company” so it’s somehow comforting to know we’re not the ones caught in such a mess this time around.