Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Gillian Caldwell Headshot

WaPo Slow to Cover Real Grassroots Climate Actions

Posted: Updated:

"Americans are against climate and health care legislation." These are overwhelming themes of the summer, according to certain segments of the mainstream media. Over and over, we hear that the only groups and organizations mobilized and motivated this summer are a motley assortment of "Tea Party" protesters, "Birthers", far-out conspiracy theorists, and well-paid lobbyists skilled (or unskilled) at manufacturing Brooks Brothers riots and sending fraudulent letters to members of Congress. Today we saw the latest version of the story, in a very one-sided Washington Post piece that put an Astroturf-generated oil industry "event" on the same level as the thousands of grassroots events throughout the country in favor of clean energy legislation.

This meme is becoming frustrating. While it's clear we have an uphill battle on our hands to outflank right-wing fear-mongering, and while we recognize that highlighting the challenge we face is good and necessary motivation to keep organizers and concerned citizens nationwide engaged, the dominant media theme this month is that all America is churning out right now are millions just like this man: (photographed by the Washington Post at the recent Arlen Specter town hall):

Angry town hall protester

While many have documented the organized effort to get pompous loudmouths to as many town halls as possible with specific instructions to disrupt freedom of speech, the media is portraying this trend as much more than that. They've been calling them true insurrections, giving the vocal actions of some ill informed props legitimacy in the eyes of the many. More problematically, the media in some cases has given these protests the feel of having overwhelming numbers on their side, especially when compared to the Left.

That is lazy, irresponsible, and potentially quite harmful. It gives people the impression that there is no grassroots energy for a clean energy bill or health care reform, and that the weight of this country is leaning against the changes we so desperately need now, even though the polls say otherwise. While some were undoubtedly caught off guard by the shameless mob/scare tactics of the "protesters," to make the case that no one on the progressive side of things has been doing anything is factually inaccurate.

For instance, on August 10th, 1Sky and our allies throughout the country held 69 events in 28 states outside Senate offices calling for comprehensive climate legislation in the U.S. Senate. The events were meant to remind senators and their staff that there is widespread support for climate legislation.  Our rallies succeeded in hitting multiple swing Senate offices and generating widespread regional media coverage to highlight support for climate legislation, refuting the idea that only right-wing forces trying to halt our progress towards a clean energy jobs bill are active and mobilized this summer.  No national press covered the mobilization (see this list for local and regional coverage).

Last week, 1Sky released a list of almost 1,100 small business owners throughout the country and in targeted states that support clean energy legislation and we delivered the endorsers to their home state senators.

This week, we will help local advocacy and community groups throughout the country launch another series of actions designed to remind senators -- right before they head back to Washington for the fall session -- that many of their constituents are firmly in favor of a strong climate and energy bill this year. Already over 400 1Sky volunteers from 49 states and the District of Columbia have signed up to visit their senators' local offices and over 20 major events are planned throughout the country. And those are just a few actions generated by our campaign: environmental groups and many others are planning a series of events throughout the country to remind senators of the amazing potential of clean energy to create millions of jobs and urging them to "Bring Jobs Home."

But these combined, authentic grassroots actions will have nowhere near their desired effect if we aren't able to get the message out on a national level and start to turn the tide against this misguided idea that only one side is getting involved and getting loud right now.

Local and regional media have been on point about what's going on in their backyards. Unfortunately, local media does not create a national theme that is greater than the sum of its parts -- which is exactly what the right wing has managed to do. For that, we need the media to wake up and cover what's going on around the country.We must push back on the storyline that gives the right wing the grassroots power lever. 1Sky and its allies will be doing everything it can to generate the raw material to push back. But everyone will need to help in order to turn that raw material into a finished product that can give the sense of momentum we will need for legislative victories in the fall. Email the Washington Post's David Fahrenthold and let him know that real grassroots activists who support climate legislation are getting just as loud (if not more) as big polluters and their Astroturf campaigns.