Commentary | Energy Was On The Ballot This November
Here’s What 2020 Can Tell Us About 2022
Two years ago, Democrats won back control of the U.S. House by nominating largely moderate candidates in swing districts who ignored litmus test issues like the Green New Deal and refused to be defined by extreme economic and energy policies like bans on fracking.
Two years later, despite a massive fundraising advantage, predictions by political analysts of significant gains in the House and Senate, and a favorable political environment that allowed the party to recapture the White House, Democrats now hold their tightest House majority since World War II. And as many as 13 seats could still flip Republican when the counting is finally completed in the remaining races in states like Texas, Florida, Ohio, California, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
It’s no coincidence that in each of the states where Democrats fell short, energy is a critical economic pillar for local communities and a job creator for thousands of families. It’s clear that a failure to push back forcefully against extreme policies like the Green New Deal and to articulate a strong economic message focused on jobs and low energy costs were deciding factors in many of these races.
The warning signs were there in pre-election polling. In September, the Progressive Policy Institute released a poll which found that voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania opposed a ban on natural gas extraction by a 53-point margin. 75% of them said they viewed natural gas as a major employer in their state, and 73% viewed it as important to their local economy. Similarly, API released a poll conducted by Morning Consult which found that two out of three voters in key presidential battleground states would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports access to natural gas and oil produced in the U.S., including 60% of voters in Pennsylvania and 68% of voters in Ohio.
Now, leading Democratic officials are sounding the alarm that an urgent course correction is needed if Democrats hope to hold the House majority in 2022. It is these voices that will form the nucleus of the House Democrats’ Frontline program for 2022 and hold the keys to preserving that majority.
Take for example what Pennsylvania Congressman Conor Lamb told the New York Times:
“I’m giving you an honest account of what I’m hearing from my own constituents, which is that they are extremely frustrated by the message of defunding the police and banning fracking….If someone in your family makes their living in some way connected to natural gas, whether on the pipeline itself, or you know, even in a restaurant that serves natural gas workers, this isn’t something to joke around about or be casual about in your language. That’s what we’re trying to say: that the rhetoric and the policies and all that stuff — it has gone way too far.”
What Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party and resident of the Rio Grande Valley, told the Wall Street Journal:
“Democrats didn’t counter Republican messaging on three issues important to Latino voters: pandemic shutdowns, oil jobs and abortion….They worried Mr. Biden would hurt the oil industry. ‘For our community, all the good work is in the oil lines,’ Mrs. Lazo, who doesn’t speak English, said in Spanish. ‘There are no factories here. No work. The biggest thing is Walmart.’ Workers who travel to oil fields around the state make $30 to $40 an hour, high pay in a county where the average per capita annual income is just over $14,000.”
What Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar told Axios:
“Defund the Police” rhetoric and fears that progressive climate policies could cost oil jobs boosted President Trump’s performance in blue, largely Latino Texas counties bordering Mexico.
What Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader told Politico:
“From my standpoint, as a moderate Democrat … it’s crystal clear we need a different message than what we’ve been having.”
Or what Virginia Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger told Speaker Pelosi directly:
“We need to not ever use the word ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again. . . . We lost good members because of that. If we are classifying Tuesday as a success . . . we will get f—ing torn apart in 2022.”
In race after race on November 3rd, many Americans made clear that while they rightly support efforts to address climate change, they do not support extreme environmental policies that will hurt American jobs, raise household energy costs and put our country’s energy independence at risk.
As the largest trade association representing the oil and natural gas industry, API was proud to be a leading voice in this national conversation throughout the election season. API ran a national advertising campaign in more than 30 battleground House and Senate races this Fall called “Conversations and Consequences.” One series of ads highlighted everyday conversations about practical solutions to climate change, while another series provided sharp contrast to show what’s at stake if harmful policies like a federal fracking ban was enacted.
Reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign energy was the stated goal of every one of our last seven Presidents – Democratic and Republican. These leaders all understood that affordable, reliable and cleaner American energy served both as the basis of economic growth here at home and security abroad. Now, finally, the United States has achieved this bipartisan goal and one key message voters sent in this election is that we must preserve it.
The wrong policy choices could cost hundreds of thousands of good-paying union jobs and millions of dollars in revenue for states, all at a time when lawmakers should be working to find ways to recover from a disastrous pandemic and an economic crisis that has destroyed businesses and left millions of Americans out of work.
As this conversation around America’s energy future continues into the next Congress and in all 50 states, the U.S. natural gas and oil industry will continue to highlight what’s at stake for our country and underscore the clear message that voters sent this November.
Ben Marter is API’s Director of Communications. He previously served as Communications Director for Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin.