Should the Sierra Club Endorse Chaffee?

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Kos is pissed off at the Sierra Club for endorsing Lincoln Chaffee’s re-election in Rhode Island, despite the Republican senator’s “20 percent” environmental rating in 2004. (Presumably it was the local chapter, and not the national organization, that’s endorsing him.) So here we go again; a rehash of the old NARAL-endorses-Chaffee debates. Should liberal interest groups support Republicans who are good for their causes, even at the expense of the Democratic party?

Let’s just point out, first off, that I have no idea where that 20 percent rating that Kos cites comes from: the League of Conservation Voters gave Chaffee a 90 percent score in 2005 and a 72 percent score in 2004. He’s quite good on environmental issues. More to the point, he’s used his perch on the environmental committee to single-handedly hold up the Bush administration’s Orwellian-titled Clear Skies Act, and has helped slow Rep. Richard Pombo’s attacks on the Endangered Species Act. It’s not necessarily an exaggeration to say that thanks to his rather unique position, Lincoln Chaffee has been able to do more for the environment than most Democrats.

Now granted, granted, the best thing for the environment—okay, at least marginally better than the status quo—would be for the Senate to go blue. And one way to do that is to unseat Lincoln Chaffee and replace him with a Democrat. If Sierra Club was thinking long-term, the argument goes, it would ignore Chaffee’s record and endorse his opponent, no questions asked.

But here’s the thing: The Sierra Club has no assurances whatsoever that the Senate will revert to Democratic control this fall. Many people doubt it will happen. And if the Senate does stay in Republican hands, then Chaffee becomes very, very important from an environmental standpoint—he can do more to stop the Bush administration’s assault on green trees, happy fish, and breathable air than any freshman Democratic replacement ever could. That’s undeniable. Bush and Pombo and the rest of the crew want to do some very bad things to Mother Nature; presumably the Sierra Club feels like this is no time to screw around and risk losing a key strategic ally in the Senate.

At any rate, given that in the future Republicans, evangelicals, and conservatives out West are likely to look more favorably on environmental issues, it also probably behooves the Sierra Club to start building cross-party ties—just as the NRA has done. Despite the fact that Republican control of Congress is obviously better for gun rights, the NRA still supports gun-toting Democrats; partly as a result, it’s one of the most powerful interest groups out there. Perhaps there are counterarguments, but the Sierra Club (or it’s local chapter, if that’s who’s making this call) isn’t necessarily “moronic” to support Chaffee.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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