Who would do a better job protecting the environment as president? Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or John McCain?
A glance at the records the three senators have racked up over the last three years makes it pretty clear that either of the Democrats would be a greater advocate for the planet than the Republican. The League of Conservation Voters releases a voting scorecard that rates all members of the House and Senate in every Congressional session. In the109th Congress (2005-2006), Barack Obama voted to protect the environment 96% of the time; Hillary Clinton did so 89% of the time. So far in the 110th Congress, Obama has supported the environment 67% of the time, while Hillary has a 73% favorable rating (both of the candidates missed several votes, presumably while they were out campaigning, which counts against them in the tally).
Meanwhile, Senator John McCain racked up a mere 41% positive approval rating in the 109th Congress; so far, in the 110th, he’s got zero. That’s right: in 2007 on no issue did he vote to protect the environment, according to the LCV scorecard. So the choice between the candidates — or at least between the parties the candidates represent — is very clear.
But what happens when you look specifically at the issues? Among all candidates, the entire debate right now essentially revolves around their positions on energy policy, and specifically on global warming. (You can read a quick summary of each candidate’s positions over at New American Village, along with links to each of the candidates’ web sites.)
While our energy future is clearly a priority, it’s startling that none of the candidates’ environmental proposals consider citizens’ exposure to toxic substances, water pollution, or air pollution – the issues that connect human health and the environment. Where do any of the candidates stand on reauthorizing Superfund legislation to clean up toxic waste sites? Closing loopholes in the Clean Air and Clean Water Act to decrease threats to our health as well as that of wildlife? Quelling the rise in asthma rates, especially among kids? Initiating research to understand what appear to be the increasing links between environmental health and breast cancer, autism, and learning disabilities?
These issues aren’t on any candidate’s agenda – but they should be, especially given the importance of the women’s vote in the 2008 election. Women and children are disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation (e.g., women suffer more heart attacks than men in cities with poor air quality). The candidate who breaks away from the party line on energy to address the links between pollution and human health could muster a real advantage as the race tightens and voters look for ways to distinguish among their choices.