With Planet and the Future on the Line, Sunrise Movement Doubles Down on 2020 After RBG’s Death

The Sunrise Movement aims to reach more than one million young voters in swing states (Image: Sunrise Movement) 

By Julia Conley | Common Dreams

The Sunrise Movement on Monday launched a new swing state mobilization campaign, aiming to lead the way as Democrats fight to get out the vote among young Americans, pressure Republican senators to delay a vote on a new U.S. Supreme Court justice and flip the Senate and the White House on November 3.

The climate action advocacy group began its new effort before the sun rose on Monday morning, with more than 100 organizers assembling outside the homes of Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). Both senators face tight re-election races and pressure to live up to their earlier statements in which they said a Supreme Court justice should not be nominated close to a presidential election.

The Sunrise Movement rebuked Tillis on social media for calling the police on the peaceful protesters and fleeing his home as the organizers chanted, “Shame!”

Young voters like the ones who took part in the early morning protest, Sunrise says, are the key to removing Republicans like Tillis, Graham, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and others from office in November. The group says strategic grassroots pressure will also be critical to ensure the winner of the presidential election is able to nominate a new Supreme Court justice following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday.

“Our generation’s demands for a more just and equitable future will be upheld or struck down by sitting justices—everything from abortion to segregation, transgender rights to climate change, big money in politics to same-sex marriage.”
—Aracely Jimenez, Sunrise Movement

“We have one mission right now: to delay, delay, delay,” wrote the Sunrise Movement on Friday as it launched a call-in tool for young voters to pressure their senators to oppose Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to hold a confirmation vote before November. “McConnell has made his move. He already put out a statement saying that he’ll bring a Trump nominee to vote in the Senate.”

“But his colleagues are already starting to break from him, and if we can pressure each senator to uphold the precedent that McConnell himself set—to not appoint a Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year—we have a good chance at delaying this vote until we elect Joe Biden and keep Trump from appointing another nominee,” the group said.

Following Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) statements opposing a pre-election vote—but not ruling out a confirmation in a potential lame-duck session—the Sunrise Movement aims to pressure at least two more Republicans from backing McConnell’s plan.

The group will target Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) on Tuesday and Gardner as well as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) on Wednesday. Sunrise will also hold a direct action on Wednesday targeting federal judge Barbara Lagoa, who is believed to be at the top of President Donald Trump’s shortlist of potential Supreme Court nominees.

The appointment of another conservative Supreme Court justice by Trump, Mark Joseph Stern wrote at Slate on Saturday, “would be a catastrophe for the climate.”

Federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett, another judge believed to be a top contender for Ginsburg’s seat, “may well overrule the landmark 5–4 decision, long despised by conservatives, that compels the federal government to regulate carbon emissions,” Stern wrote. “Even if Congress passes new legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the court’s conservative supermajority may strike it down, much as the Republican-appointed justices blocked the Clean Power Plan in 2016.”

The Sunrise Movement said Monday it is committed to doing “everything in our power to hold vulnerable Republicans and also Senate Democrats accountable in order to prevent an appointment to the bench before Biden is sworn in.”

“Our generation’s demands for a more just and equitable future will be upheld or struck down by sitting justices—everything from abortion to segregation, transgender rights to climate change, big money in politics to same-sex marriage,” said Aracely Jimenez, deputy communications director at Sunrise. “We only need four Republicans to do the right thing and stick to the McConnell precedent.”

Over the next 43 days, the group plans to reach millions of young voters in swing states including Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

An earlier goal to send 100,000 postcards to young voters urging them to vote was shattered within one day; the Sunrise Movement now plans to send one million postcards to key voters. The group will also send more than a million texts, call 500,000 voters through phone banking campaigns, and reach 100,000 people through targeted ads.

On social media, following progressive leaders like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and U.S. House candidate Cori Bush, the group urged young voters to develop a plan to vote before ballots are counted on November 3.

“This moment is a critical opportunity—not only to activate every young voter in swing states but also to catapult emergent Green New Deal champions running for Senate into the spotlight and secure upsets in red states,” Michelle Weindling, Sunrise’s electoral campaigns coordinator said.

“Over the next seven weeks, we’re going all-in for underdog champions like Marquita Bradshaw in Tennessee, Paula Jean Swearengin in West Virginia, and tight races like Mark Kelly’s in Arizona,” she added. ‘With the Supreme Court in freefall, there’s no telling what kind of wins we can get in states that were once deemed untouchable.”

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Fueled by ‘Eco-Anxiety,’ Majority in US Believe Climate Crisis Most Crucial Issue Facing Society: Poll

The youth-led Sunrise Movement held a three-day protest in July 2019 outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee to demand a climate-specific 2020 debate. (Photo: Sunrise Movement)

By Jessica Corbett, | Common Dreams

New polling results published Thursday revealed that a majority of U.S. adults believe climate change is the most important issue facing society, have made an effort to reduce their contribution to the global crisis, and are willing to vote for a candidate based on their position on the topic.

Among those aged 18–34, 47% indicated that “the stress they feel about climate change affects their daily lives.”

The American Psychological Association (APA) survey—conducted in December 2019 by the Harris Poll—comes on the heels of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses for this year’s presidential race, where entrance polling showed that the climate crisis was the second-most important issue to caucusgoers, behind healthcare.

According to the online APA poll, 56% of respondents said climate change is the most important issue, 60% have changed a behavior to cut their contribution—such as reducing waste, using renewable energy, and altering transportation or diet choices—and 62% are willing to vote for a political candidate based on their climate position.

The survey showed that people were most motivated to change their behavior based on a desire to preserve the planet for future generations (52%) and after hearing news reports about the climate crisis and its impacts like more devastating extreme weather (43%). APA also found that respondents, particularly those aged 18–34, are stressed about how the planetary emergency impacts their lives.

More than two-thirds of all adults surveyed (68%) said that they have at least a little “eco-anxiety,” which Oxford Dictionaries defines as “extreme worry about current and future harm to the environment caused by human activity and climate change.” Among those aged 18–34, 47% indicated that “the stress they feel about climate change affects their daily lives.”

In a statement announcing the poll results, APA chief executive officer Arthur C. Evans Jr. said that “the health, economic, political, and environmental implications of climate change affect all of us. The tolls on our mental health are far-reaching.”

“As climate change is created largely by human behavior,” Evans added, “psychologists are continuing to study ways in which we can encourage people to make behavioral changes—both large and small—so that collectively we can help our planet.”

The number of young American adults stressed about the climate crisis, as captured in the APA’s new survey, could have an impact on upcoming political contests in the United States, including the Democratic presidential primary race and the general election in November.

The nation is still waiting on the final outcome of the Iowa caucuses due to a debacle with collecting and reporting the results. However, the data released so far from 97% of precincts—which are “riddled with inconsistencies and other flaws,” according to a New York Times analysis—show Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) leading the popular vote while effectively tied with former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg when it comes to state delegates.

Entrance polling from Iowa reported by the Washington Post showed that 21% of caucusgoers said climate change was the “most important issue” in the vote. That compared with 42% who said healthcare, 18% who said income inequality, and 13% who said foreign policy. That polling also showed 37% of participants were first-time caucusgoers and the youth voter share rose a third from 2016.

Responding to those results in a statement Tuesday, the youth-led Sunrise Movement—which endorsed Sanders last month—said that “we don’t yet know everything that happened last night—but we do know this: there is a broad, widespread mandate for the Green New Deal, and Iowans turned out in force last night to make sure presidential candidates don’t forget it.”

“We’re particularly proud of the historic levels of turnout among young people who caucused last night, many of whom were brought into the movement by our efforts to engage them in college classes and high school gyms across the state,” Sunrise said. “The level of youth turnout and concern about climate change in the Iowa entrance polls is incredible It’s a major mark of success for our Iowa team’s work these past six months. They got 7,000 young people to pledge to vote for the Green New Deal, organized hundreds of volunteers, and canvassed thousands of people across the state.”

Now, all eyes are on New Hampshire, which will hold the nation’s second nominating contest on Feb. 11. The Sunrise Movement took to Twitter Thursday to share a report from The New Republic entitled “The Youth Climate Movement Comes to New Hampshire.”

As The New Republic reported Wednesday:

Many of the volunteers and organizers spoke of the difficulty balancing urgency and sustainability in building a youth movement. Climate anxiety can be either a motivating or paralyzing factor. “Sometimes you’re thinking ahead about the future, and then you’re like, Oh, but is that even going to exist then?” said Esther, 16, from New Jersey. “Like, fuck, New York City is going to be underwater in 50 years, according to these reports.”

Though it takes a personal toll, a sense of urgency may be needed to address the climate crisis, the report noted. “The only time that we have seen substantial change in society,” Dana Fisher, a professor at the University of Maryland who studies the environment and American protest movements, said, “is when there is this extreme sense of risk that either comes from a true disaster or a sense that a disaster is looming.”

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