Sierra Club plays role in politics

By Stephen Fox, Santa Fe
Posted 12/23/16

Steve Terrell's in depth article ["Cabinet members create controversies for Gov. Martinez," Santa Fe New Mexican] is an excellent analysis of New Mexico cabinet matters — a thorough job by one of New Mexico's top three …

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Sierra Club plays role in politics

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Steve Terrell's in depth article ["Cabinet members create controversies for Gov. Martinez," Santa Fe New Mexican] is an excellent analysis of New Mexico cabinet matters — a thorough job by one of New Mexico's top three political journalists.

I am impelled to add only one important point, something I know a lot about — and that is the role the Sierra Club played in shooting down Harrison Schmitt's erstwhile appointment as secretary of energy and minerals. The Sierra Club of New Mexico targeted three swing vote senators in the rules committee (the committee that has to pass on an appointment before it goes to the Senate floor), and deluged them with hundreds of letters ripping up Schmitt as a "climate change denier." That was what scuttled the nomination, in truth, when he realized that the votes were not there, and that no one had written in support of his nomination.

Maybe he thought that his status as astronaut, Cal Tech undergrad and Harvard Ph.D., and former U.S. Senator would carry him through — but the piles of letters from New Mexicans overwhelmed all of that (as it should in a true democracy when that many constituents take the time to write in letters). When Schmitt saw the Senate committee votes simply weren't there, he pulled the plug on his own nomination in a face-saving objection to the required background check required of all nominees as "too partisan."

This is the kind of people-power that works at state levels, and might still work at national levels in terms of cabinet appointments. Could the Sierra Club kick it into high gear and oppose even one of the four prospective climate change deniers with potential cabinet appointments thus far? Not too likely, even if the top brass at the Sierra Club could make a quantum leap and overcome the kind of timorous and pusillanimous mousiness it exhibited throughout the primary campaign when it completely ignored the hundreds of thousands of petition signers who asked it to endorse Bernie Sanders.

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