- - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Democrats are desperate to change the subject. The hottest stories in Washington are about Benghazi, the IRS, a collapsing foreign policy and the fact that Americans are abandoning the search for a job and dropping out of the workforce by the hundreds of thousands.

There’s only so much mileage in yarns about the “war on women,” on “income inequality” and the Koch brothers. What works with Democratic activists usually doesn’t resonate with ordinary folks.

But maybe something the White House calls “climate disruption” will work. “Climate disruption” sounds like an unexpected heavy rain or a hot spell, but a 840-page doomsday tome released Tuesday tells the scary story formerly known as climate change and, before that, global warming. Floods, droughts, cold winters and hot summers are the fault of oil, gas, coal and pampered Americans enjoying the good life they’ve earned.

This is “red meat” for the vegetarian base of a Democratic Party, which sorely needs a lift. New polls give Republicans eager to take control of the Senate in November a big edge in enthusiasm. Unlike Democrats, Republican and independent voters can hardly wait to hit the road to the voting booths.

White, liberal upper-class nannies love to play the superhero, imagining they’re single-handedly rescuing the planet by screwing in curlicue light bulbs, driving an electric car or at least a Prius, and sorting plastics and paper for the garbage can. They boast to everyone on Twitter how they’re leading an environmental crusade, keeping the polar ice caps unmelted and the polar bears safe for the moment on a shrinking ice floe.

Tom Steyer, the hedge-fund manager turned environmental geek, has taken ownership of the crusade with his checkbook. He has pledged to spend at least $100 million this fall supporting candidates who share his fear of the Keystone XL pipeline and of the terror that the world faces an apocalypse triggered by the conveniences of the modern world. The president’s opposition to the Keystone pipeline is likely traceable not to science, but to fear that Mr. Steyer will hide his moneybags. Mr. Steyer is unaccountably missing in the credits of the Tuesday doomsday tome.

Renewing Democratic credentials in the war on the modern is especially important as traditional Democratic voters and their representatives in the House and Senate abandon the fight against the Keystone. They’re more concerned about the threat to their own job prospects.

Fifteen or more Democratic senators may be ready to join Republicans to reach the 60 votes needed to force approval of the Keystone over an expected filibuster. Unless Mr. Obama can get his troops in line, this could open a rift in the liberal ranks with what looks like a devastating election on the horizon.

The government’s doomsday report might keep a few strays in line, but those 15 or so rebelling Democrats will be more interested in the views of their constituents and saving their own hides than in Mr. Steyer’s millions.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced earlier this week that he might even schedule a vote on the pipeline. This makes the president nervous and Mr. Steyer angry, but Mr. Reid has more to lose in November than they do. He might be doomed to a back bench in the next Congress.