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On Thursday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is from neighboring Minnesota, was elected in a landslide to a third consecutive term as governor after an election campaign that was partly overshadowed by the May 3 tornado that devastated his state, claimed dozens of lives and left scores more homeless. As he said of the wide swath of destruction left by the storm: “It’s awful, it’s awful.”
“People affected by that get mad,” Gov. Walker told CNN after emerging from a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden in Washington to discuss government assistance for the state. “They take it personally.”
On Friday, after President Donald Trump retreated from all public criticism of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable Americans as part of his tentative “compromise” with Congressional Republicans, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to take Mr. Trump to task for what he called a “very, very shortcoming” and “inexplicable and negative” decision.
“When you have half of this country, very poor people, who voted for this man, and you don’t invest in them, and you mean for them to be left behind and you mean for them to be severely punished, you are actually participating in cruelty,” he said.
Those words and accusations have come with a cost in politics. On Thursday, Vice President Biden responded to criticism of Mr. Sanders by attacking the Vermont senator, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, for his votes in Congress to support the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline, which were blocked by President Barack Obama and other federal agencies. Mr. Biden has not endorsed any Democratic candidates for the 2020 election.
“The Keystone Pipeline was built under Obama, under Clinton, under Bush, under all of the Republicans in Congress who say they’re climate champions, so why is Bernie against it?” Mr. Biden said at a campaign stop for former President Bill Clinton in Fairfax, Va. “He made a decision based on politics. There’s no question about it. It happened under Democrats and Republicans. When an issue becomes a partisan issue, the science gets pushed aside.”
During a chat Friday afternoon, Douglas Murray, a professor of politics at Aston University in Birmingham, England, and co-editor of Brexit and the Making of a Political Moment, told The Times of London’s Laura Kuenssberg that the whirlwind of Mr. Biden’s remarks had forced Democrats to make a choice.
“We’re about to return to about head-on confrontation between Trump and Hillary Clinton with Bernie Sanders going to the edge, to go with Hillary, and so I think that Hillary may have to battle Bernie in some of those midwest states, including Michigan and Pennsylvania,” he said. “That will shift the debate further on environmental matters. It may get to the softly turned argument, and Bernie might just end up winning them over.”
Echoing many experts in climate science, Mr. Murray continued: “I don’t think that people, especially in the Midwest, believe that climate change is going to play out in May or June. I do think though, if you look at actual impacts of climate change that are already unfolding, you’re going to see some pretty severe effects in some of these weather patterns, not just in the autumn and winter, but that’s going to be clear for all the foreseeable future.”
The current debate over the facts, the evidence and the moral arguments involved in climate change was defined by the Election of 2016, an election in which Republicans successfully appealed to working-class voters in rural areas and where millions more Republican than Democratic voters moved to the GOP. During his visit to Michigan on Thursday, Mr. Sanders, the party’s left-wing progressive, was his typical combative self, but he didn’t back down from Republican criticism of his votes to support oil pipelines, or from his support for Wall Street.
“Trump is tired of attacks,” he said of the president, saying that American voters shouldn’t be. “So he’s attacking Democrats, he’s attacking climate science, he’s attacking high taxes, and people are tired of it.”