Helluva week in politics, right? And yet in the background the world is still warming, the fires are still burning, the future is still darkening. There will be many consequences for the coming elections. But I wanted to take a step back and talk about a part of politics that is often ignored, but on which our world can literally depend.
During the campaign season, candidates make extravagant promises about any bills they will pass. The implicit promise is that passing these bills will solve the problems they are meant to address. But it often doesn't work that way. Between passage and reality lies what Leah Stokes calls the "fog of enactment": a long, quiet process in which the language of the bills is transformed into the specificity of laws and in which interest groups and other actors can organize themselves to pass the strictest laws. Here profits can become losses. where historic legislative achievements can be turned into desperate, embarrassing failures.
Stokes is a political scientist at UC Santa Barbara and author of Short Circuiting Policy: Stakeholders and the Clean Energy Struggle and Climate Policy in America. Her book traces the fate of a number of clean energy standards adopted in the States over the past few decades and examines why some of them have failed so miserably and how others have succeeded. But her book is more than that: it's a theory about how policymaking actually works, where it's hijacked, how power is actually exercised, and how policymaking can be made better.
So this conversation on the Ezra Klein Show is broadly about policy making – we're talking a lot more than just climate, and the principles here apply to just about everything – but also about the key question for the next few years: how to write we a climate? Bill that actually works?
My conversation with Stokes continues The Ezra Klein Show.
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Book recommendations from Leah Stokes
Getting up from Elizabeth Rush
The training of an idealist from Samantha Power
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
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