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Salena Zito


Climate Change Creates a Wave

by Salena Zito
 

Delvis Dutton shuts the door of his white-and-blue utility truck and walks up to the camera.

"The other guys are running for Congress," he says. "Well, me, I am running against Congress. If you want more of the same, I am not your guy. But if you want to send a message, I am your man."

Smiling, dressed in a blue short-sleeved shirt, one arm leaning on his truck, he ends his ad: "I am Delvis Dutton and I am running against Congress."

Rarely have 15 seconds so captured the sentiment of most of America beyond Washington.

It doesn't matter what team jacket you wear: This guy says what everyone else is thinking, that Washington is broken.

Most campaign ads tell no story; most can compel even the calmest viewer to contemplate hurling the television into the yard of the candidate in the ad – and that's what we want to do to the ones we like.

Sometimes, though, political ads define the moment.

Dutton is a young man with a wife and two kids; he grew up on the family farm, attended Georgia Southern University and, at age 22, started a small water-well drilling business, General Pump and Well. In 2010 he decided that the way to make more of a difference in his community was to run for state representative in Georgia.

No one knows yet if Dutton will win his bid for Congress; he is just one candidate in a five-person Republican primary in Georgia's 12th Congressional District, fighting to face U.S. Rep. John Barrow, an Augusta Democrat.
One thing Dutton already has won is the sentiment of a country dumbfounded that President Barack Obama last week defined climate change as the most pressing issue facing the country. Obama did so as part of a huge public relations campaign – yes, campaign – that included asking people to pressure Washington to act on the issue.

Not jobs. Not the economy. Not rebuilding our aging infrastructure. Not gang violence, or education.

Climate change.

And he and his party ridiculed anyone who disagrees.

A couple of things about all of this smack the sensibilities of regular folks.

First, most people know Earth's climate always has changed; everyone knows about this little thing called the Ice Age. What most people don't care for is the issue being used politically to slice and dice the country, the same way the minimum wage, gender, race, immigration and religion have been used by this administration.

This is why folks do not look toward Washington, D.C., to solve problems anymore. This is why young people – the Millennials – are so turned off by the brands of both political parties, a one-time advantage that Democrats have completely squandered.

And this is why we have wave-election cycles.

Also, most folks who don't live in the privileged enclaves of high society or high academia or high government would argue that other, more pressing crises – most of them hidden in plain sight – should be considered the gravest threat to our country in our lifetime.

Things such as subpar graduation rates in our inner-city schools, or the 90 million people who have left the nation's workforce in the past six years, or our economy being less entrepreneurial now than at any point in the last three decades – or that a Brookings study showed, between 2009 and 2011, small businesses were collapsing faster than they were being formed.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka cautioned Obama and Democrats to consider how millions of livelihoods outside of D.C. would be impacted: "We are prepared to ... make sacrifices, but not while the most privileged in our society stand on the sidelines and expect our poorest communities to bear the costs."

A wave election is building beyond Washington – not a tsunami, but a wave – yet most experts don't see it because they define an electoral "wave" as a large flip to the party in power; Republicans already control the House and probably will add more seats to their list.

Those experts should review the results of November's races for state legislatures, governors' mansions and the U.S. Senate, and then rethink their definition of a wave.

And Democrats should rethink what really constitutes a "pressing issue."

Salena Zito
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Political Reporter
412-965-9094
@SalenaZitoTrib
@OffRoadPolitics


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