The Road Forward From Cap-and-Trade

What went wrong?

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As I wrote yesterday, political scientist Theda Skocpol’s magisterial new assessment of the cap-and-trade fight [PDF] gets the diagnosis basically right: The radicalization of the Republican Party doomed the inside-game, partner-with-business strategy. Everything else followed from that.

When Skocpol pivots from diagnosis to prescription, however, things go a little hinky.

Much of her piece involves a comparison of the cap-and-trade bill with the healthcare reform bill (“Obamacare”), which moved forward at roughly the same time. One failed and one succeeded. Why?

Skocpol ascribes a great deal of significance to Health Care for America Now, a networked organization linking up grassroots groups in all 50 states. HCAN kept the inside D.C. negotiators working on health care connected to the grassroots. It advocated for the “left edge of the possible” — as Skocpol put it in an interview with Brad Plumer today, it “allowed people to push for the health care bill without feeling like they were selling out” — but above all, it kept pressure on legislators to move forward in the face of setbacks and fear.

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