On Monday, March 10, 2014, Senate Democrats spend the entire night discussing climate change. Where Republican Senator Rand Paul tried to used his 13-hour filibuster to block the nomination of John Brennan and Texas Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis used her 13-hour filibuster against tighter restrictions on abortion to advanced her political career, Senate Democrats hoped this latest copycat stunt would lead to greater coverage for the issue of climate change. This is likely an attempt to shift the focus of voters and taste the waters for the upcoming election season.
Unfortunately, it seems this type of political grandstanding is only useful when elected officials are trying to impede government or looking to advance their personal interests. Paul and Davis were successful at getting so much attention, because Paul was the first to do something like that in a very long time while Democrats liked the idea of a Democrat doing the same thing. In other words, there was a sense of novelty and genuineness to these actions. The more often these events happen, the more they seem to be about drawing attention to public officials who are looking to reenergize their reelection campaigns.
Meanwhile, climate change is a very important issue, but it is not one of the most pressing issues of the day in the minds of voters. In fact, it gives Republican’s fodder to use against Democrats in elections, because most people view the established solutions to climate change as damaging to our already hurting economy while the Democrats already appear disconnected from the need for economic growth. Only if Democrats can push, in the minds of voters, credible solutions to climate change that have actually been shown to spur economic growth will the climate change issue resonate with voters. For this reason alone, Democrats should have used their little sleepover to focus on economic inequality, tax inequality, etc.
More importantly, the reason that these types of protests can only be used to impede the functionality of government or help politicians get attention is the same reason the American People are so angry with our government. The people in Washington seem to think change happens when Washington decides change will happen. The real power in our country stems from the American People. The only time politicians change their minds when it comes to key issues is when the American People pressure them to do so. If Democrats want Republican support to deal with climate change, or any other Democratic priority, they need to take effective, balanced solutions directly to the American People, not talk about it in the Senate.