A Candid Assessment of Some Presidential Candidates

Dear Friends,

Remember how the Republican field shifted in the 2012 and 2016 Iowa Caucuses? The lead changed so many times that emergency rooms across Iowa saw a drastic increase in whiplash cases.

Ok, I made that last part up. But seriously, remember one-time 2012 front runner Herman Cain? I didn’t think so. How about 2016 flash-in-the-pack leader Ben Carson? Or shoe-in-for-the-nomination Scott Walker? And oh, how I miss Michele Bachmann.

The horde of Democrats running for president this year may or may not experience the same level of volatility, but we’ve already witnessed some surprises. A year ago, how many of us had even heard of …

PETE BUTTIGIEG? This spring, polls had Buttigieg running third among Iowa Caucus-goers. He’s now fourth, and downward may well be his trajectory. Buttigieg is a captivating speaker. But my guess is he was Iowa Democrats’ first flavor of the month. With so many flavors to choose from and voters hungry for change, another new and exciting prospect is likely to slip past Buttigieg. But, it won’t be …

JOE BIDEN. Name recognition has carried Biden thus far, but his descent has begun. There’s more and more chatter about the astounding inconsistencies between Biden’s past record and his rapid transition to progressive policy advocate. Case in point: Biden’s excellent climate plan, which magically morphed out of his intent to find “middle ground” on climate. How’d that happen? Simple: Biden’s advisors discovered that a milktoast climate strategy would bomb with the base. So they quickly retooled and spit out a plan that looked, well, remarkably like the progressive climate proposals of other candidates.

Few Iowans are fooled. Besides Biden’s climate-plan flip-flop, his recent boast about US oil production hangs around his neck like an endangered albatross (sad but true, Climate Change Threatens Survival of Albatross):

“The United States is soon going to be the largest producer of energy of any nation in the world by the end of the 2020s.” — Joe Biden, May 1, 2019, Des Moines, Iowa

Ouch. My prediction: 2020 will be the third time Joe Biden fails in a presidential primary. Meanwhile, on the other side of the sincerity spectrum …

BERNIE SANDERS. Sanders inspires like no other candidate. It’s not just his rhetoric. It’s his consistency over the years. Unlike Biden, Sanders means what he says. His 2016 campaign changed the debate, forcing even Hillary Clinton to pretend she was progressive. Sanders’ 2016 message has set the tone for 2020.

Yet … the Sanders campaign claims to have 24,000 volunteers. Where are they? This army of believers had better deploy soon because Sanders can’t simply do well in Iowa. He has to win Iowa. No doubt, die-hard Sanders supporters will turn out to caucus for him even in a polar-vortex-induced blizzard with a windchill of -79°F. (That is, in fact, the coldest windchill I’ve experienced in Iowa. Take note, campaign workers from milder climes.)

Sanders essentially tied Clinton in the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. But he should have won. In various other states, we can blame the Democratic Establishment for stacking the deck against Sanders. But not Iowa. Here, Sanders has only himself to blame for not beating Clinton, as I recall story after story of wannabe volunteers drooling to help but unable to get even a response from Sanders’ people.

His campaign needs to figure out a way for that not to happen again. Logging 24,000 volunteers on paper is one thing. Effectively managing them in the field is a whole ‘nuther ball game.

The even bigger challenge for Sanders is that most of those who supported him in 2016 seem willing to give other candidates a serious look. Maybe it’s not too late for Sanders to bring a majority of his 2016 supporters home, but the competition is stiff, especially …

ELIZABETH WARREN. Who knew that Iowa Caucus-goers actually cared about issues? Well, yeah, we do — and Warren is proving it. She’s strong on policy with a solid track record to back it up. Despite what the Establishment would have you believe, issues matter, both in the primary and general elections.

Warren’s star continues to rise, and not just because of her strength on policy. She’s running the ground game that Sanders failed to fully mobilize in 2016 and has yet to mobilize this time around. Warren also has survived a few bumps, and that bodes well for her durability.

But this election season is still young. Plenty of candidates are poised to see their prospects improve, such as …

ANDREW YANG. No one does a better job at messaging their uniqueness than Yang. He’s built a deep following nationally, and his peeps are all over social media. Criticize their man and the Yang Gang’s cyber-hammer comes down hard. I’ve got 60+ communiques to prove it.

Political capital has a lot to do with momentum, and Yang is building it slowly and steadily. He’s poised to be the flavor of the month, though I’m not sure he can ride that wave to a top-three, or even top-five, finish in Iowa. As good as he is, there is one candidate who has Yang beat when it comes to clever and creative, and that is …

KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND. Many have written off Gillibrand. That’s a mistake. If I were to vote for a candidate for president based on the desire to have someone fun in the White House, it’d be Gillibrand. The Ranch dressing thing. The dressing like a drag queen thing. Beating the ISU student in arm wrestling. What’s not to love about all that in a world leader? “My president is stronger than your president and looks great in drag.” Gillibrand would restore America’s credibility on the world stage in ways Donald Trump could never imagine.

Gillibrand is no policy schlep either. When pushed by Bold Iowa’s bird dogs to feature climate more prominently on her website, she did it — immediately! Her embrace of the urgency of the climate crisis speaks well of her policy priorities.

But when it comes to climate, one candidate has Gillibrand and all the others beat …

JAY INSLEE. Not only is Inslee laser-beam focused on climate, as Governor of Washington he’s got a solid record of action to back it up. Given that the climate crisis is Democratic voters’ top concern and that the impacts of climate change are likely to increase over the summer and fall, Inslee should see his stock rise. But he needs a ground game in Iowa. He needs to talk more about his track record on a range of issues and what he would do to address them as president.

Finally, Inslee — and all the candidates — must address the one consideration on voters’ minds even more pressing than climate. That is …

WHO CAN BEAT TRUMP? Trump will only be defeated by a candidate who can’t be pegged to the status quo. That rules out Biden. It’s remarkable to me, astounding in fact, that anyone still believes that a self-described “centrist” (read “corporate-friendly”) Democrat stands a chance against the madcap faux populism of Crazy Uncle Donald. Fretting over the criteria of electability fed to us by insider pundits who take their orders from the Establishment will give us the same result we got in 2016.

You want electability? Nominate a candidate who’s a decent person, whose rhetoric and record on key issues is strong and consistent, and who demonstrates a solid commitment to tackling the existential threat of climate change. That’s how we beat Donald Trump and assure leadership in the White House that represents the public interest, not the corporate thugs who’ve held sway over America for far too long.

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Bold Climate Penguins grill Andrew Yang

Dear Friends,

We kick-off this week’s Fallon Forum with Dara Jefferson and Oliviah Walker of the Meskwakie Tribe, discussing the upcoming National Day of Awareness rally for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. It’s at the Iowa State Capitol, Sunday, May 5 at 1:00. Come stand with our Native allies who are fighting to let people know of this tragedy — and let’s do something about it!

On this week’s Forum, I also talk with Sam Kuhn and Matthew Peirce — two young activists who have been instrumental in the success of Bold Iowa’s Climate Bird Dog campaign. Sam and Matthew share a bit about their backgrounds, what brought them to Iowa, and how they’ve been able to make a difference for Planet Earth through asking questions at presidential candidate events.

Bold Climate Penguins with Andrew Yang: Sheila Knoploh-Odole, Kathy Byrnes, Matthew Peirce, Sid Barfoot, Lysa Fisk and Sam Kuhn.

Well, Sam and Matthew’s work goes beyond simply asking questions. On two occasions, Sam and others have pushed the envelope by displaying “Climate is a Crisis” signs at events where they weren’t allowed. Just this week, Sam, Matthew and nine others launched the Bold Iowa Climate Penguin brigade at an Andrew Yang rally.

Yup. Penguins. Like most of the presidential candidates, Andrew Yang seems to get the urgency of the climate crisis, yet fails to prioritize it. Yang claims that poor people don’t care about climate change, and that their attitude is “the penguins can wait in line.”

So, dressed as penguins, six Bold Iowa members sat in the front row at Yang’s Des Moines rally on Sunday. One penguin — Sid Barfoot — asked Yang if he would prioritize climate change, saying, “Full disclosure, I’m not a penguin. I’m a person with financial struggles dressed as a penguin. Those of us at the bottom, we’re the least responsible for carbon emissions — yet we’re the most vulnerable to the consequences of a changing climate.

Video of Penguins talking with Andrew Yang

“Sure, we penguins would love an extra $1,000 per month. But we just found out that the second largest penguin colony in the Antarctic collapsed due to ice melt. Meanwhile, 150,000 people were displaced last year by the deadliest wildfire ever in California, and just this year, thousands were displaced by the unprecedented flooding in the Midwest.

“Neither people nor penguins have time to wait in line while our next president spends political capital on anything like universal basic income. Our question is, will you adjust your campaign’s focus and make averting climate catastrophe your number-one priority, so that both people and penguins win?”

Besides the penguins, others participating in the action were Todd Steichen and Osric Jamerson holding the sign. Not pictured were Pascha Morgan, Beth Chrzastek and Ed Fallon.

The penguins were supported by other Bold Iowa members throughout the audience, two holding a large banner reading “LET THE PENGUINS SPEAK!” Yang’s answer was, well, less than satisfactory. Bottom line is this: If the next president is serious about reducing US carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 (the target given to us by scientists, not politicians), some version of a Green New Deal will have to be their highest priority.

Also, this action resulted in the mainstream media reporting on climate change, in the Des Moines RegisterWHO TV Channel 13, and a brief mention in Politico.

Also on this week’s program, I talk about the Extinction Rebellion (ER) and the incredible ten days of action that shut down big chunks of London and compelled the political establishment to meet with the movement’s leaders. As ER talks about launching a similar campaign in the US, it’ll be interesting to see how authorities here respond.

Ed

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Make climate the litmus test for presidential candidates

Dear Friends,

“It’s so easy to look at the big picture and get completely disheartened. … What we need to remember is what is my own personal moral obligation. When I wake up each day thinking about what I might do from that perspective … when I come at it from a deep sense of moral obligation, it really doesn’t matter what the results are. What matters is am I doing the right thing, and am I doing all I can right now at this time of crisis?”

That’s Dahr Jamail, author of The End of Ice, discussing climate change with Amy Goodman this week on Democracy Now. Much of their conversation is, frankly, depressing. When contemplating the irrefutable certainty of sea-level rise, species extinction, and other impacts of climate disruption, it’s easy to see how people might simply give up and wallow in despair.

Yet the moral path — and our path out of despair — is through action. Individual action is important. Collective action is essential. United, we are strong, and our prospects for achieving meaningful reform are greatly amplified.

Like Jamail, the question I frequently ask myself is, “What is the most important thing I can do right now to address climate disruption?” Sometimes, there’s no easy answer. In Iowa in 2019, the answer is obvious: BIRD-DOG PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES!

Sid Barfoot questions Marianne Williamson on her stance on the Green New Deal.

Over the next 12 months, Iowans have a unique opportunity to transform the national conversation on climate disruption. Seventy-five of you already have signed up to bird-dog presidential candidates and make climate change the topic that no longer can be ignored by politicians and the media.

Yet, there are so many candidates, and so many events all across Iowa, that even with 75 volunteers we can’t keep up. Bold Iowa and the other groups grilling presidential candidates on climate need your help!

WE’RE AT 75 CLIMATE BIRD DOGGERS. LET’S REACH 100 TODAY! SIGN UP HERE.

Already, we’ve had an impact. Our bird doggers have talked with and questioned candidates about the urgency of the climate crisis, the promise of the Green New Deal, and the impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Native communities, farmers, and our soil and water. Check out some of our candidate interactions:

Andrew Yang
Cory Booker
Elizabeth Warren
John Hickenlooper
Marianne Williamson
Michael Bloomberg
Sherrod Brown

Over the next two weeks, we’re preparing to bird-dog Eric Swalwell, John Delaney, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, and John Hickenlooper. So, yeah, we need your help!

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is lead sponsor of the resolution proposing a Green New Deal.

Regarding the Green New Deal … contrary to what the fossil-fuel-funded talking heads want you to believe, it does NOT ban cows and airplanes. In the process of moving America to 100% clean and renewable energy, the proposal creates livable-wage jobs, assures “that eminent domain is not abused,” and requires the “informed consent of indigenous peoples for all decisions that affect indigenous peoples.”

The resolution also contains language requiring government to work “collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including by supporting family farming; by investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health; and by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food.”

See, nothing in there about banning cows. That’s not to say there aren’t issues with methane emissions from cattle. But banning cows is not on the table, nor should it be. My hope is that the transition from corn-fed to grass-fed beef accelerates. Cows aren’t designed to eat corn. They’re a lot happier in a field than in a feedlot, and their environmental footprint is a lot lighter in a pasture than when force-fed corn.

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Packing dirt around glaciers to slow climate change?

Dear Friends,

Bold Iowa’s effort to bird-dog presidential candidates on climate change is going well. What’s missing is more people doing it.

SIGN UP TO BIRD-DOG PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ON CLIMATE CHANGE!

We’re at 54 volunteers, which is a great start. But we’ll need at least 250 climate patriots across Iowa to maximize this tremendous opportunity to shape the national debate.

And “shaping the national debate” isn’t an overstatement. Not even close. In just three weeks, we’ve already seen results from this effort:

— Our questioning of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper about his support for fracking was picked up by the Denver Post. The video of that conversation received over 1,000 views, and four Colorado climate organizations wrote to thank us.

— Keith Puntenney and Vern Johnson, two farmers along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), met with US Senator Sherrod Brown and reported that the meeting seemed more like a photo op than a chance for genuine dialogue. Vern and Keith made the news in Ohio and two Iowa tv stations.

— Kathy Byrnes and I talked with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who, despite his excellent film on climate change, told us he supports DAPL and fracking. Such a disconnect. Go figure.

Bold Iowans speak with Marianne Williamson in Des Moines, Iowa

— In addition to bird-dogging Marianne Williamson at two of her events, Bold Iowa organized a forum for her attended by over thirty people. Click here for a highlights video. We’re eager to organize similar forums for other presidential candidates.

— This weekend, bird-doggers plan to attend five candidate events with Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Tulsi Gabbard.

— Finally, at a cafe last week, Kathy and I questioned Andrew Yang on climate change. Indicative of the disconnect that many politicians and candidates exhibit, Yang spoke forcefully about climate change, calling it “existential threat 1A.” Good, but then he went on to propose solutions that were, to put it mildly, off the wall.

Here’s the video of our conversation with Yang, in which he offers three specific proposals to address climate change:

Andrew Yang speaks in Johnston, Iowa

1. Give every American $1,000 per month, which would move poor people beyond “a mindset of scarcity.” The poor would then begin to care about climate change and the future. Kathy and I found this idea embarrassingly out of touch and, well, demeaning.

2. Pack dirt around glaciers to slow the rate of melt. For real. He said that. Check out the video at minute mark 1:58.

3. Since money in politics is partially to blame for America’s inaction on climate change (we agree), Yang wants to give every American $100 to donate to the political candidate of their choice. I’d love to see the bureaucracy needed to enforce such a bizarre scheme.

We’re just getting started on this, folks. Bold Iowa needs your help! America needs your help! Earth needs your help! SIGN UP HERE TO HELP! Humanity’s time is short to come up with a comprehensive, historic response to the climate crisis. For the next twelve months, Iowans have a huge megaphone — the Iowa Caucuses — which we will use to change the debate on climate change.

Even if you can’t help bird-dog, please help with a contribution. All donations are appreciated. Click here to donate $5, $10, $25, $100 or whatever you can. Thanks! – Ed

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Are Democrats also climate deniers?

Dear Friends,

“The Democrats Are Climate Deniers.” That’s the jarring headline of an article this week in Jacobin that Jon Neiderbach brought to my attention. The sub-heading reads, “If the Democrats really believed the science on climate change, they’d be offering far more radical proposals. We have to make them.”

Sad but true. It’s one thing for a politician to say, “I support the Green New Deal (GND).” But when pushed for specifics, most aren’t on board with GND’s “transition to 100% renewable energy within 12 years — the time frame set by the world’s leading climate scientists.”

Ed Fallon, Kathy Byrnes, and Sarah Spain bird-dog former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

In Iowa, we have a unique opportunity to change this. Bold Iowa is building a squad of 100 “bird-doggers” statewide. Check out last Sunday’s livestream from our conversation with Colorado Governor John Hickenklooper. Sarah Spain later asked Hickenlooper if he backed the Green New Deal — given the Governor’s support for fracking, his nuanced response was no surprise.

Over the next week, we’re planning to talk with at least three other presidential candidates: Marianne Williamson, Sherrod Brown, and Andrew Yang. This is important and exciting work — and it’s work that Iowans are uniquely positioned to accomplish.

But we need YOU to make it happen. Sign up here if you’re willing to talk with candidates when they come to your community. You won’t have to go it alone. We’ll connect you with others who are ready to help, who understand that this is some of the most important work we can do right now.

The key climate concerns we’re pushing candidates to embrace are:

— Support the Green New Deal and an all-out mobilization to fight climate change;
— Oppose the expansion of oil and gas pipelines, fracking, and other fossil-fuel projects;
— Stand with Indigenous communities to defend their sovereignty, land, and water;
— Oppose the use of eminent domain to take farmers’ land for pipelines, fracking, etc;

Thanks, and let’s tackle this work as if our future and very survival depend on it — because they do!

Ed Fallon

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