Why We're Winning
When people learn the truth about the environment and crime, everything changes
Over the last 30 years, liberals and progressives have operated under a very specific set of assumptions about how to address environmental and social problems, including climate change and crime. Climate change was the most important problem in the world, many came to believe, and would be addressed by moving away from fossil fuels and nuclear to renewables. Crime and homelessness would be addressed by reducing the size of the criminal justice system, decriminalizing drugs, and giving mentally ill and drug-addicted homeless people their own apartments and equipment with which to reduce the harms of addiction like HIV-AIDS.
Today, those assumptions are in serious question. Progressive efforts to expand renewables and shut down nuclear plants and natural gas production created global energy shortages, a return to coal, and rising emissions, raising questions about the sincerity of their concern for climate change. Efforts to defund and demonize the police caused police withdrawal, officer shortages, and criminal emboldenment contributing to record-high homicides in 2021. And efforts to provide housing, drug equipment, and other services to, without requiring anything in return from, mentally ill and drug-addicted homeless people, contributed to record high (~100,000 in 2021) drug overdose and poisoning deaths.
Many and perhaps most progressives still do not recognize the implications of real world events for their policy agendas. Most progressives and the mainstream media still refuse to acknowledge the role their policies and advocacy played in creating the global energy crisis and return to coal, while Germany and Belgium are going forward with nuclear plant closures. And few progressives or mainstream journalists have properly reported on how progressive policies enabling and subsidizing hard drug use, including through the provision of free housing and equipment, and the elimination of tough love/carrot-and-stick policies, including bans on public camping, contributed to the spread of open drug scenes in major American cities, not just ones on the left coast.
But a growing number of more moderate liberals in the United States and around the world are waking up to the trouble with progressive policies on the environment and crime, and responding appropriately. Senator Joe Manchin recently killed President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better omnibus legislation in part because it doubled down on unreliable renewables and undermined reliable sources of energy, while France, Japan, Britain, and The Netherlands have all announced a return to nuclear power. And a growing number of moderate liberals and Democrats, including New York Mayor-Elect Eric Adams and San Francisco Mayor London Breed, are pushing back against dogmatically Woke policies on drugs, crime, and homelessness.
As the policymakers change course, the news media are changing their tune. The Washington Post published today an article pointing out that the vitriol progressive Democrats directed to Sen. Manchin after he opposed Build Back Better is self-destructive. It has become the consensus view of mainstream energy and environment reporters that Germany’s closure of nuclear plants, particularly during Europe’s electricity shortages, is irrational. And Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle yesterday argued that progressives more than others should care about reducing crime since so much of their agenda depends on safe cities, while the day before that the newspaper published a long feature on the growing conflict among Democrats over record homicides in Philadelphia.
Environmental Progress and I are happy to have contributed to these policy shifts and public debates. Our work on energy and the environment is bearing fruit in many ways, including in greater support for nuclear, and greater skepticism of renewables. And our work on drugs, crime, and homelessness has similarly resulted in policymakers, journalists, and influencers rethinking their prior assumptions. How and why we have done so is important for us and our supporters, including readers of this newsletter, to understand, since it contradicts many widespread, and wrong, theories that both liberals and conservatives have about how change occurs in the real world.