Progressives and Obama have mostly put the “professional left” era behind them and are determined to weather 2012 together. The friendship still has its strains, though, as a new fight over coal rhetoric shows.
The Obama campaign is running a virulently pro-coal ad in Ohio coal country that attacks Mitt Romney for his past coal industry criticisms. Here’s the audio:
On Wednesday the progressive group Credo Action called on Obama to take down the ad, launching a web petition pressuring the president’s campaign to drop the coal attacks on Romney.
“Drop your cynical pro-coal ad,” the petition reads. “Is the Obama campaign actually misguided enough to think that anyone whose number one issue is promoting dirty coal would also be misguided enough to vote for Obama instead of Romney?”
The group praises the Obama administration for doing “some very good things” on coal, including using the Clean Air Act to “limit, for the first time, toxic mercury pollution from coal plants” and instituting a “Carbon Standard.”
Credo believes Obama is actually anti-coal, but is attacking Romney to score political points. That would put Obama, ironically, on the same side as pro-coal Republicans who attacked the Obama campaign earlier this year for not including “clean coal” in its published list of energy priorities. The Obama campaign added the term to the list (dumping “fuel efficiency” for “clean coal” on the campaign’s seven-bullet energy priority list).
And that fight was reminiscent of one from 2008, when the Obama campaign was forced to publicly amp up its support for “clean coal technology” after Joe Biden said he and Obama were against it.
The coal fight in both instances exposed divides in the Democratic coalition. Progressive groups were upset Obama got behind what is still a fantasy technology with rhetoric supported by the coal industry, while union groups were happy Obama stood up for a industry that provides thousands of union jobs.
Coal is hugely important to states like Virginia and Ohio and Obama does not want to get on the wrong side of coal supporters. Clean coal was a rare moment of disagreement between the left and Obama during the 2008 campaign. Now coal is divide Obama from the left once again.