Friendly Fire: What will it take for Republicans to act on climate change?

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Can Americans still have a sensible and friendly political discussion across the partisan divide? The answer is yes, and we intend to prove it. Julie Roginsky, a Democrat, and Mike DuHaime, a Republican, are consultants who have worked on opposite teams for their entire careers yet have remained friends throughout. Here, they discuss the week’s events with Editorial Page Editor Tom Moran.

Q. Bill Cosby is a free man, and the women who stepped forward to testify against him are horrified. Do you blame the Pennsylvania Supreme Court or former District Attorney Bruce Castor, who agreed not to prosecute Cosby when the charges first came up in 2005?

Julie: As uncomfortable as it must be for justices to set aside a jury verdict, especially in a high-profile case where the defendant is clearly guilty, it is necessary when a defendant’s due process appears to have been violated. The real villain here, aside from Cosby, is Bruce Castor, who, like so many other prosecutors, cut a horrific immunity deal with a rapist without the consent or even the knowledge of his victims. We’ve seen this time and again – prosecutors who single handedly act as judge and jury to let perpetrators off the hook without a grand jury even hearing testimony. If you want to know why women so rarely go through the trauma of reporting sexual assault, undergoing invasive rape kit examinations and reliving their assaults through countless retellings to law enforcement officials, this is yet another reminder. Why bother, when justice is so rarely served and when prosecutors so often act as de facto defense attorneys for the accused?

Mike: I was horrified to hear he was set free, but equally troubled by the deal cut to give him immunity. I was unaware of it. Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court justices were not exonerating him from guilt, just saying the immunity deal that wasn’t honored. Apparently, that deal was never put in writing, it sounds like bad lawyering on all sides, so I was surprised on the verdict. This is a guy who deserves to be in jail.

Q. Temperatures in Canada reached 121 degrees, a sentence I never thought I’d write. At the same time, Republican who negotiated a compromise on President Biden’s infrastructure plan insisted on removing much of the spending on climate change — and they are the party’s moderates. Is there anything that will move the Republican Party to urgency on this issue?

Julie: Nothing. Not a thing will move Republicans as long as the Koch network pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into their coffers and the Murdoch empire laughs off climate change every time there is a snowy day in January.

Mike: Oh, come on, both of you. If you want to deal on climate change, do a deal on climate change. If you want to do a deal on infrastructure, do a deal on infrastructure. If Democrats try to get everything in one package it won’t get done. They know that. Maybe Democrats should have linked climate legislation to COVID relief instead, or the next tax increase bill, then they could have rammed it through.

Julie: Stop it. You know full well that there is a snowball’s chance in hell that Republicans would ever go for any climate change legislation, even if it were stand-alone. (Come to think of it, with climate change, there probably are snowballs in hell now.) It is conservatives who came up with cap and trade and the right-wing in Congress has gotten so hysterical on this issue that even that wouldn’t go anywhere.

Mike: That’s my point. Democrats shouldn’t pretend Republicans wouldn’t make a deal on infrastructure, when they would.

Julie: No, they wouldn’t. A deal on infrastructure would put a win on the board for Democrats, which doesn’t help McConnell going into the midterms. As we know from long and bitter experience, he is more interested in helping the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee than helping the American people.

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Q. Has the fiasco in New York City discredited the idea of ranked-choice voting? If Kathryn Garcia overtakes Eric Adams after all the votes are counted, as now seems possible, will voters see the results as legitimate?

Julie: I wouldn’t blame this fiasco on ranked choice voting. The New York Board of Elections has been a four-alarm dumpster fire long before New York City instituted ranked choice voting. As for the legitimacy of the election, Eric Adams has not been anointed by God to live in Gracie Mansion, last time I checked. There has been precedent in other ranked-choice elections where the initially second-ranked candidate has ultimately been declared the winner when all the ballots from lower-ranked candidates were reallocated. Andrew Yang, for example, told his supporters to rank Garcia second, and it’s possible that when the absentee ballots are counted, his voters could be enough to put her over the top. It seems most likely that Adams will still prevail but I wouldn’t bet the whole farm on it.

Mike: Can it be both incompetence at the Board of Elections and the stupidity of ranked choice voting? All eyes could have been on New York and New Jersey last November if the presidential election was close here. It took New York months to get some elections right, and some New Jersey counties were counting weeks later. Ranked choice voting is not helping. It will ensure no one is happy with the result. Life is full of difficult choices. Get a helmet, and pick one person in your elections. It’s not that hard.

A guide to ranked choice voting

Q. Prosecutors in Manhattan filed criminal charges against Donald Trump’s long-serving chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, and the Trump Organization, and a recent national poll showed Republican voters prefer Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as the party’s nominee in 2024. Are we entering what one Trump biographer calls the “Fat Elvis” stage of Trump’s career?

Julie: Just wait until Trump unloads on DeSantis and you’ll see DeSantis’ numbers drop. That’s why I wouldn’t count Trump out. Cult followers rarely transfer their adoration from one leader to another. And because Trump heads a cult, any indictment by a grand jury of his organization, his right-hand staffer or, potentially, even his children or him, won’t stop his base from supporting him.

Julie: When you believe Republican officials in Arizona and Georgia “stole” an election to benefit — umm — Joe Biden and you believe that the January 6th terrorists were all peaceful protesters simply petitioning their government, you will believe that this is yet another liberal witch hunt against poor Donald Trump and his highly ethical, brilliant children.

Mike: Trump will be the front runner if he runs, but the longer he is out of office, the more he will fade in political strength, even among the base. People move on. And while some Trump supporters will go the grave believing he is the next Lincoln, the stories of indictments and January 6th will undoubtedly chip away at his support.

Q. In Trenton, Senate President Steve Sweeney shocked his allies by proposing a bill that would strengthen the bargaining position of public worker unions, likely driving up costs. After local governments protested, the Legislature rejected it late last week. But what do you make of this about-face for Sweeney? A sign he’ll run for governor again in 2025?

Julie: I suspect Senator Sweeney is attempting to reestablish relationships around the state that might have languished for the last several years. It’s not exactly a state secret that he has long harbored gubernatorial aspirations and if he sees an opportunity to run and win in 2025, I don’t see any reason today why he wouldn’t take a shot.

Mike: Sen. Sweeney would be formidable if he runs. I’m not sure of the motivation for the bill, but I am glad it was beaten back as local governments need more tools to keep local property taxes under control, not fewer.

Q. Finally, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is leaving the administration for a senior job at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Why is he leaving, and what’s his legacy? Might he run for governor down the road?

Julie: Gurbir Grewal has served longer than most other attorneys general in recent history and he is leaving at the end of the governor’s first term for a highly influential federal post. I wouldn’t read anything more into that, other than he just got a really cool gig that will likely lead to a really lucrative law firm job down the road.

Mike: Attorney General Grewal is well-respected, a trailblazer and served the state with distinction. The SEC role is just another opportunity in a strong career of public service. He is also one of the few people in our state appointed to high-profile positions by Gov. Christie and Gov. Murphy, proving his legal ability transcends partisanship or ideology.

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