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Death Match: Greens vs. Big Labor

The most entertaining fight of the election may not be the one between Obama and the Republican nominee. Big Labor and environmental groups have been feuding for a while over the Keystone XL pipeline (which greens argue would hurt the environment, and unions argue would create jobs). And now environmentalists are reportedly holding their political support hostage unless Obama agrees to block the pipeline from getting built:

Activists calling on Obama to scuttle the project expect thousands of people at a major demonstration outside the White House Sunday afternoon.

They’re arriving with a warning: Environmentalists say a federal permit for TransCanada would sap their appetites for door-knocking, political giving and other work on behalf of Obama next year.

Who wins this battle? Labor has the money and the organization, but environmentalists have the passion. They also have the crazy on their side. You won’t see a labor leader throwing himself in front of a bulldozer to protest Obama’s decision, but don’t put those tactics past the environmentalists.

Do environmental groups have the political power to back up their threats, though? It’s not like they have any other 2012 option besides supporting Obama – Republicans are largely in favor of the pipeline, as well as other policies that greens despise.

There are two political hazards here for environmentalists: 1.) If they succeed at damaging Obama’s reelection chances, they risk ushering in a GOP president who would be even more opposed to their goals, or 2.) If they fail to hurt Obama, they’ll severely dent their political clout. As Julian Zelizer explains to The Hill:

“Whenever any political movement/organization/interest group challenges a president, and warns about the electoral implications of ignoring them, they are in the spotlight as well,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

“If the president does ignore them and there is no political fallout, their clout will vastly diminish in the next fight that they have,” he said.

My money is on Big Labor. Obama would have to be suicidal to block the Keystone XL with unemployment hovering at 9 percent. But, as with most intra-leftist feuds, it’s fun to watch no matter who comes out on top.


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