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Newsom leads California Democrats in drive toward green jobs

by Alan Markow, published

Democrats have a lot to crow about this week.  Their president has overseen the demise of Osama Bin Laden while the opposition party seems focused on tearing itself limb from limb over matters such as birther conspiracy theories and the role of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in uncovering the whereabouts of the head of Al Qaeda.

Meanwhile, the Democrats in California spent this past weekend strategizing for the 2012 election cycle at the annual convention in Sacramento.  The most galvinizing message that I heard among the series of the usual political chest-thumping came from the single most promising politician currently making the rounds in state Democratic Circles -- Gavin Newsom.  The Lt. Governor's focus is jobs, and his message links a favorite Democratic cause -- the environment -- with real world possibilities for jobs in the state.

After reminding his audiences of the dire conditions in California where unemployment can reach upward of 20 percent in some counties, and twice that much among minorities, Newsome notes that four developed nations that had adopted the Kyoto environmental protocol in 1997 -- Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom and Sweden -- are doing better than the United States in terms of unemployment and income disparity. The USA is one of the few nations in the world that failed to adopt the Kyoto protocol.

Newsom told the Democrats that green is a "job creator," and that Democrats have the opportunity to take that message as their own because Republicans have chosen to argue that protecting the environment is a job killer.  Newsom cited examples of the numbers of jobs that can be created with green technology, noting that the greatest bang for the buck comes from the retro-fitting of older buildings for greater energy efficiency. 

"It is a false choice to argue between a healthy environment and a healthy economy," Newsom said.  Given the overwhelming number of buildings that could benefit from an environmental upgrade, the energy savings such a retrofit would mean and the potential employment boost such a program could bring would be impressive.  Newsom argued that Democrats have the ideal message on jobs to counter the Republicans one-note tax-cutting answer to the nation's dire economic straits. 

Aside from Newsom's omnipresence during last weekend's convention, the highlight of the event was the keynote address by Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.  The tiny northeastern state is on the verge of introducing its own singe-payer health care plan that is essentially Medicare for all.  Sanders believes that Vermont's approach will lay the foundation for a national health care plan that truly controls costs while guaranteeing coverage to everyone.  Sanders favors paying for universal health care by reducing defense spending and getting the US out of its current entanglements in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.  Perhaps the demise of Osama bin Laden will hasten that day.

California Democrats were in a great mood at their Sacramento convention -- after all, despite the shellacking that their national party took this past November, the state Democrats won big and regained the governorship.  California remains a deep blue state, and the Democrats plan to keep it that way.

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