Greenwire on Obama's Strategy to Morally Stigmatize Conservatives Who Dismiss Climate Change

Last week I spoke with Elana Schor of Greenwire about the Obama White House and Organizing for America's strategy to pre-empt efforts by conservatives to undermine support for the proposed EPA limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The strategy marks an important shift in communication focus, as Obama and allies make the moral case for action on climate change and in the process morally stigmatize their opponents. For more background on this strategy, see this recently published book chapter with Ezra Markowitz and John Kotcher.


Here's an excerpt from Greenwire's reporting on the strategy:

Another Republican blasting the OFA campaign is Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, a walking, talking symbol of fossil-fuel influence for most green activists, who began on Wednesday to investigate potential coordination between the Obama administration and the White House's nonprofit cavalry (E&ENews PM, Aug. 14).

"There's no better measure of success than when you can get the chief climate denier in Congress to start throwing out conspiracy theories," David DiMartino, a veteran Democratic aide turned strategist who worked closely on the cap-and-trade battle, said in an interview. "The reality is, he's out of touch."

The urgency created by a response such as Inhofe's probe aligns with the general mission of the OFA effort, according to American University associate professor of communication Matthew Nisbet, who studies in depth the tactics used by both sides of the debate.

"What they're doing is socially and morally stigmatizing those political opponents who deny the science of climate change," Nisbet said in an interview.

"So instead of leaving the middle-ground public to be caught in these cross-pressures as the issue gains more salience for them, instead of it just being a 'he said, she said'-type echo chamber, they're sending a very strong message: ... Just like the birther claims were wrong and morally outrageous, and 'death panels' were wrong and morally outrageous, so are climate [deniers wrong] when people's health and safety are at risk."

The "high-end viral potential" of the unicorn-trophies strategy contrasts with the cap-and-trade era during Obama's first term, when "the issue was discussed almost exclusively in technocratic terms," Nisbet added. He and Leiserowitz of Yale University agreed that OFA's new approach is well-suited to engage sectors of the public previously distant from the risks of greenhouse gas emissions, even if it does not pay off at the ballot box against Republicans.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Space toilets: How astronauts boldly go where few have gone before

A NASA astronomer explains how astronauts dispose of their, uh, dark matter.

Videos
  • When nature calls in micro-gravity, astronauts must answer. Space agencies have developed suction-based toilets – with a camera built in to ensure all the waste is contained before "flushing".
  • Yes, there have been floaters in space. The early days of space exploration were a learning curve!
  • Amazingly, you don't need gravity to digest food. Peristalsis, the process by which your throat and intestines squeeze themselves, actually moves food and water through your digestive system without gravity at all.
Keep reading Show less

Carl Sagan on why he liked smoking marijuana

Carl Sagan liked to smoke weed. His essay on why is fascinating.

Photo: Photo by Robert Nelson on Unsplash / Big Think
Mind & Brain
  • Carl Sagan was a life long marijuana user and closeted advocate of legalization.
  • He once wrote an anonymous essay on the effects it had on his life and why he felt it should be legalized.
  • His insights will be vital as many societies begin to legalize marijuana.
Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Photo: Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less