Over the past few days, I have been writing about how there has been little to no response to Peterson's actions from climate change activists and organizations (see here and here). Now, yesterday's 4-page New York Times spread on Peterson (yes, he is earning quite the power, media, and lavish praise for doing the bidding of evil) explains why. Environmental groups hate Peterson, but have no idea how to apply pressure to him:
"He's tough -- he doesn't always get the value of conservation," said one environmental lobbyist who did not want to be named because of ongoing negotiations with the Agriculture Committee. "His policy and heart and soul are all in supporting big ag."(...)
Environmentalists that were at odds with him on some issues said they could find no effective way to pressure him -- that attempts to do so would often just send him in the opposite direction.
OK--this finally makes sense. Environmental groups are aware of Peterson. They hate Peterson. They are trying to fight Peterson behind the scenes, even. However, they have no idea how to use public pressure on Peterson to influence his actions.
Admittedly, figuring out a strategy to pressure Peterson requires some difficult and unconventional choices. A conservative, ten-term Democrat from an R+5 district with no media market is a tricky case, especially when he is completely in the service of Big Ag. However, it is still doable for any non-partisan group that is willing to play real hardball. And, if there is any member of the House with whom we need to play real hardball right now, it is Collin Peteron.
(Warning: What I write below will freak out many Democrats. However, from the perspective of a non-partisan advocacy group, it is a viable solution to dealing with the specific case of Collin Peterson. Further, that many people would freak out at even the suggestion of this idea is probably one of the reasons why environmental groups have no response to Peterson's ongoing efforts to water down the ACES).
Here is how you pressure Peterson if you are a non-partisan green group: overtly target the left-wing voters in his district during a general election. Run ads that highlight Peterson's terrible record on climate change and the environment, with a goal of pushing left-wing voters to either stay home or vote third-party (the latter is particularly viable in Minnesota, which is one of the most pro-third party states in the entire country). Make it clear that not only don't you care if this results in Peterson's defeat by an even more anti-climate change candidate, but that having an even more anti-climate change candidate defeat Peterson is actually your goal.
From the perspective of a non-partisan climate change organization, a relatively powerless, more conservative anyone is preferable to a very powerful, conservative, committee-chairing Collin Peterson. This is even the case if Peterson is replaced with an even more anti-climate chnage member of Congress. Given the wide Democratic majority in Congress, and given the specific case of Collin Peterson, exchanging a ten-term committee chair with a freshman member of the minority party results in a net loss of conservative power over climate change legislation. Further, such a radically aggressive act of pressure would demonstrate to the new Agriculture Committee chair that environmental groups are willing to take out anyone who fraks with climate change legislation.
I am not even saying that I am advocating for this. What I am saying is that all of these non-partisan environmental groups do have a realistic way of pressuring Collin Peterson. They can either choose to use it, or keep watching him water down their legislation. It is a rare case where progressive power on an issue can be increased by electing a less progressive candidate on that issue. For a non-partisan issue group, it should be pure gold.
This strategy is akin to the en passant rule in chess, in that is both rare and a result of an attempt to create an abnormally advanced and powerful position for an otherwise weak pawn. In this case, Collin Peterson is the pawn trying to move two squares when he should not be allowed to do so. The opposing player just has to understand the rules, and her / his own position of power, to prevent it from happening.
Update: Because some people don't seem to understand what I am suggesting non-partisan environmental groups should to Peterson, let me make it clear: pressure Peterson from the left in a general election with the goal of electing a more conservative Republican.
I am not naive enough to think that a left-wing third-party candidate would actually win in Peterson's district. Further, I am not naive enough to think that a nattional left-wing third-party would somehow increase progressive power. Those are separate discussions that have been beaten to death. I am just trying to think of a way for Collin Peterson to lose his Agriculture Committee Chair before he destroys the planet. Doing so will take something highly unusual and extremely aggressive.