Scott Peters

Scott Peters

Scott Peters wants bipartisanship while the world burns

Politics are funny. 

If someone had told me a year ago that Rep. Mike Levin would be the gold standard of progressivism in the House, I would have scoffed. The freshman representative, who trounced Diane Harkey last year to give Democrats a win in the 49th District for the first time since the Clinton administration, was the first of San Diego County’s five congressional representatives to support the Green New Deal despite the fact that his seat is anything but safe from a Republican challenge

Almost none of this can be said for the rest of our House reps, despite the fact that the majority of them represent thoroughly bluer districts than Levin. And while a lot of attention is understandably being paid to the 50th District—what with Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter’s myriad legal problems and political has-been-turned-talk-radio-jockey Carl DeMaio attempting to primary the incumbent—not a lot of attention is being paid to the incumbent Dems who likely see themselves as safe from any substantial challenge in 2020.

But the natives are getting restless. 

Take Rep. Scott Peters, for example. Just before the news of the devastating fires in the Amazon jungles of Brazil and Peru began to garner national attention, students and young people gathered outside Peters’ office to stage a die-in to pressure him to support the Green New Deal. This came after months of Friday protests outside of Peters’ office from groups such as SanDiego350 and the Sunrise Movement. Peters also cancelled a climate change town hall in July, citing that it conflicted with one of the Democratic presidential debates. He is yet to reschedule the town hall and as this issue went to press there were no scheduled events on his website despite the House being in recess until after Labor Day. 

So why, exactly, is a Democratic incumbent from arguably one of the bluest districts in California (Peters has won nearly every reelection bid by more than 10 points) and who has no discernable GOP challenger (the only one with any name recognition is Famela Ramos, a pro-life zealot who is way too polarizing to be taken seriously) not get on board with legislation his local colleagues (Reps. Susan Davis and Juan Vargas) have already co-sponsored? 

Well, it seems Peters isn’t exactly sure himself. In an interview with KPBS’s Erik Anderson last week, Peters touted his own “climate playbook,” a “a compendium of bills Congress can act on now to take immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gases.” One blog characterized the playbook as a “recycled” “Green No Deal.” Peters’ main criticism of the Green New Deal was that it wasn’t bi-partisan and that “action means bringing Republicans to the table.”

On this, Peters has a point, but not in the way he thinks. There’s no way Republicans in Congress would ever support the Green New Deal, especially when Democrats don’t even have a united front. But the logic here seems to be that while Peters agrees in principle with reducing carbon emissions, he can’t do anything if his Republicans colleagues don’t also like it. Where else have we heard this type of logic? Well, it wasn’t so long ago that the same logic was being used by fence-sitting Dems when it came to voting on the Affordable Care Act.

And while Susan Davis and Juan Vargas have come around on the Green New Deal, the pressure on Peters will only intensify as the fires continue to burn in the Amazon and Trump skips climate change meetings at the G7 summit. It’s becoming increasingly clear that this is not a debate that the party of Trump is ever interested in having. How can Peters tackle climate change in a bi-partisan manner when the other party won’t even come to the table? A playbook is for naught if the other team doesn’t even want to play ball.

Enter Nancy Casady, a La Jolla Democrat who officially announced on Monday that she would be challenging Peters in the March primary. Like many, she is frustrated with Peters for not supporting the Green New Deal and has made that the central message of her campaign. It will be the first time another Democrat has challenged Peters in a primary and while Casady faces an uphill battle, it is yet another example of how the incumbent may be out of touch with his constituents.