Dick Morris has an interesting piece in the Hill, where he argues that both Al Gore and Hillary Clinton recognize that there is a coalition forming among Reagan Democrats, environmentalists, Jewish voters, and others, who favor independece from foreign oil, and that the President ignores it at his own peril:
Gore, Hillary go where Bush fears to tread
Green isn’t what it used to be. It was once just the color of the trees and grass that the environmental movement tried to protect. But now it is also the color of the three dollar bills Americans must suddenly pay for a gallon of gas.
More broadly, our frustrations in Iraq and the stalemate in Iran give an indication that it is only by following where the green movement points — to independence from oil domination — that we can vindicate the red, white and blue and, for Jewish voters, the blue and white, the colors of the Israeli flag.
After five months of inaction, after his “oil addiction” reference in his State of the Union speech, President Bush now faces a Democratic Party galvanized by this new rainbow coalition of colors around a coherent policy theme. While Bush has dithered and the Republicans in Congress have failed to look beyond Alaska drilling as the solution to our dependence on foreign oil, first Gore and now Hillary have passed them by and staked out their claims to the issue.
Bush cannot afford to yield this ground because it is no longer the esoteric preserve of the environmental-policy wonks. Rising gas prices have generated a populist anger at the bottom of the social ladder. The former Reagan Democrats are outraged by pump prices and demand action. Just as Republicans once lured them with promises of lower taxes, so Democrats can now appeal to them with the lure of lower gas costs.
Morris is a bright guy. He can be spectularly right and spectacularly wrong. I don't think I'm with him here however, because I don't think the American people really believe gas prices are all that high. Sure, I don't want to spend $3 for a gallon of gas, and not many do. Plus, folks who spend a higher portion of their incomes on gasoline will feel it much more than others do.
That said, I don't see the revolution forming - at least not yet. People are driving as much as before, and the focus on policy in Washington has already moved way beyond gas prices. I mean, when was the last time it was the headline on the evening news?
I talk more about the excessive focus on gasoline prices here.
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