Western Wire

Activists in Denver hoped that an afternoon rally and personal appeal might make a prominent convert of one of Colorado’s two U.S. Senators and a possible Democratic candidate for president to the so-called ‘Green New Deal.’ Protesters with the Sunrise Movement held signs and hoped to meet with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s staff on Tuesday.

Bennet has so far not endorsed the Green New Deal even as he flirts with a 2020 bid for president in visits to Iowa over the past week. Bennet said the idea does deserve an open dialogue.

“We owe the American people a durable solution to address climate change, not one that whipsaws back-and-forth with changing political winds. The Green New Deal continues a much-needed conversation on how combating climate change and creating jobs are not at odds with one another. I spent the last year talking to farmers, ranchers, and rural communities in Colorado about how climate change is making it harder for them to hand their family farms to their children and grandchildren. I’m going continue talking to these communities and more to identify what’s possible to address this critical issue,” Bennet said in a statement to Western Wire.

In Iowa a week earlier, Bennet said he had not made a determination on the plan just yet.

“I’m not going to pass judgment one way or another on the Green New Deal,” Bennet said. But, he added, “I’m not in any way saying anything negative about the Green New Deal.”

“I’m all for anyone expressing themselves about the climate anyway they want… But, I am deeply concerned…,” Bennet continued.

A group of no more than a dozen activists affiliated with the Sunrise Movement met in front of Bennet’s office in Denver, Colo. Billed as a “Nationwide Day of Action for a Green New Deal” and heavily promoted by California billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen America as a “massive” event, the activists had visited Sen. Cory Gardner’s office in Fort Collins earlier in the day for a “meeting,” whereas the Bennet event was pitched as an opportunity to “Make Bennet Support the Green New Deal.”

Western Wire

“The twin resolutions for a Green New Deal introduced by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Senator Ed Markey are the first to tackle climate change in line with what science and justice demand, and have amassed unprecedented support, especially in the House,” wrote the Sunrise organizers.

“#OilMoneyMitch McConnell can see this momentum and wants to destroy it before we’re able to build support in the Senate. He has called for a vote on the Green New Deal resolution in Senate in the next few weeks,” the authors continued (emphasis in the original).

Sunrise said that vote required putting everyone on record. “This is likely to be our biggest opportunity of the year to put pressure on Senators, and urge those who have already backed the resolution to get their colleagues on board,” including Bennet.

In an interview on February 13, Bennet told Fox News that he was “looking at the resolution” and knocked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for “trying to trap people on either side of that [vote]” on the Republican’s push to call a vote on the resolution.

After a brief rally and photos, activists were allowed to proceed to Bennet’s Denver office. Members of the press, including Western Wire, were not allowed to join.

The Sunrise Movement has emerged on the national stage thanks to the Green New Deal’s backing by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.), after the principal activists in the failed divestment movement switched to a campaign footing in 2017, as reported by Western Wire. With initial funding support from the Rockefeller Family Fund and Wallace Global Fund, Sunrise has seized on a political moment and the Democratic takeover of the House in November 2018.

The group has not shied away from aggressive campaigning at the offices of lawmakers, with children supported by the movement confronting U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein last week, demanding that she support the Green New Deal in its entirety. The exchange drew national attention and Ocasio Cortez’s furor.

Bennet has been a target of “ban fracking” activists with a protest two years ago also designed to push Bennet on environmental policy failing to garner more than 20 people.

In 2017, Bennet received considerable pushback from activists because of his support for the Keystone XL pipeline, and drew criticism at numerous townhalls, including one in Boulder, Colo. But Bennet responded by saying the unflinching “Keep It In the Ground” campaign had done little to sway popular opinion.

“My objection to it is that it did nothing to build the environmental movement,” Bennet said in May 2017 at the Boulder townhall. “It did nothing to persuade people that didn’t agree with us that climate was something really important.”

Later that year at an event with Gardner, Bennet called the activists’ message a difficult one. “My party has struggled on this issue [“keep it in the ground”] not because they have had a principled position,”

“If your position is, ‘I’d rather have less coal generating electrons, but I’m going to oppose fracking,’ that feels to me like a far less principled position. Because nothing has done more to displace coal than cheap natural gas,” Bennet explained. “When people hear a message that says, ‘we should displace coal and we believe that fracking is terrible,’ what they hear is an anti-jobs message and an anti-science message.”