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When a Democratic Politician Sounds Like Donald Trump: Dick Saslaw on Clean Energy Options

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by Adam Siegel

Virginia Senator Dick Saslaw (D-35th), the Senate minority leader, is on the right side of many social issues (e.g., abortion, guns) and has been a fundraising machine (albeit heavily from bad actors like Dominion Energy and other big corporate sources – the Virginia Bankers, Verizon, auto dealers, realtors, Altria, fossil fuel interests, TitleMax and other payday lenders, etc.) for Democratic politicians across the state for decades.

All is not rosy when it comes to Dick Saslaw. For example, Saslaw is a death penalty enthusiast. Saslaw has been a big supporter of predatory lenders. Saslaw is strongly opposed to ethics laws of any kind. And … Perhaps the most damaging Saslaw element is his very close relationship with Dominion, where much of his fundraising has come from over the years (more than $75,000 this cycle alone). That relationship is, in part, why Lowell Feld refers to him as Dick $a$law in his “Pay-to-Play” Corruption. When it comes to helping advance Dominion Energy’s interests and promoting their climate-havoc agenda, Saslaw sounds more like a Dominion lobbyist rather than a public servant.

Within this overall situation, Saslaw goes places where no self-respecting corporate lobbyist would go.  In his defense of Dominion’s agenda and attacks on paths to address the climate crisis, $a$law’s words are often indistinguishable from Donald Trump’s.

With that in mind, here is a quiz:

Who said each of the following? Your choices are:
a) Donald Trump
b) Dick Saslaw.

Quote 1:

[a woman complaining to her husband about clean energy’s supposed unreliability] “I can’t watch television, darling. Darling, please tell the wind to blow.”

Quote 2:

“…so-called Green New Deal … if you don’t mind being without electricity about 16 hours a day.”

Quote 3:

“Everyone knows [the Sierra Club] is crazy.”

Quote 4:

“When the wind stops blowing, there goes your electricity.”

Without looking at the answers below, are you sure that you know who said what? Or are you, like I am, concerned that Dick Saslaw and Donald Trump appear to consult the same clean energy [non] experts?  Honestly, if I had been presented the above quiz without having tracked this already, I wouldn’t have been sure who said what.  Simply put, when it comes to clean energy and tackling the climate crisis, as laid out by Vox Fairfax, Dick Saslaw seems to often take his talking points from Fox News and “parrots the ideology of the opposition.”

What makes this so serious is that the climate crisis is the defining – existential, in fact – issue of our times, one that has (finally) arrived in our politics. Sadly, Virginia is far from a clean-energy leader, no matter that some leading Virginian’s political rhetoric falsely claims otherwise.

When (if?) sanity returns to the Virginia legislature, with Democratic Party majorities in the House and Senate ready to address seriously the challenges and opportunities before us, we need leadership to move aggressively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (through, in no small part, aggressive embracing of clean energy and energy efficiency that won’t just reduce pollution but which will boost the economy with reduced costs and job creation), to improve resiliency against climate impacts, to put in place appropriate government oversight/regulation of our utilities, and otherwise to put Virginia on a path of leadership in addressing the climate crisis.

Does anyone honestly believe that “Dominion Dick” Saslaw will provide that leadership if he becomes the Senate Majority Leader?

This brings us to the Tuesday’s Democratic Party primary

Now, a bit of context as per the above, I (along with essentially any rational person) would prefer Dick Saslaw be in charge of the State Senate rather than a member of today’s Cult-of-Trump Republican Party. Saslaw is fine, even good, on social issues. Saslaw is, however, a holdover elected in a time when Virginia and his district were more conservative politically.  Today, “the times they are a changin” is a reality in the Commonwealth. Virginia has turned blue, over the past decade or so, and Saslaw’s 35th State Senate district is certainly deep blue (it went 75% for Northam in 2017, 76% for Kaine in 2018). Which means that the option before Senate District 35 voters is not about risking giving up a Senate seat (and a path to a Senate majority) to the Republican Party, but about who better represents their views and values, who has better concepts and approaches for a pathway toward a more prosperous, climate-friendly future for the Commonwealth.

When it comes to the climate crisis, the defining issue (and intersectional issue — intertwined with essentially everything), it is quite clear that Saslaw is not the leadership Virginia needs.  The 35th is a safe district for the Democratic Party. This primary will determine who represents the district. And, when it comes to clean energy (along with many other issues), it is clear that Yasmine Taeb will provide the leadership that the district deserves and Virginia needs, while Saslaw absolutely will not.

Answers: How many did you get right? Was this hard?

  1. a) Donald Trump
  2. b) Dick Saslaw
  3. b) Dick Saslaw
  4. a) Donald Trump

Video of Saslaw stating that Green New Deal would mean no electricity for 16 hours a day in 2030.

And here’s Trump.

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