Guest Post: Same Old GOP on Climate?
May 21, 2013
Last week I linked to Coral Davenport’s notable article in National Journal, “The Coming GOP Civil War on Climate Change”. I still think it’s a significant indicator that we are nearing a turning point on climate science for the Republican party.
Rob Sisson, President of ConservAmerica, an organization of Environmentally minded conservatives, agrees that the problem is urgent, and that there are those in the Republican party who recognize the problem. He sends me this in an email:
“The sand in the hour glass is slipping away from my party. If we don’t begin to lead on climate and energy issues, we will not be capable of winning national elections. We will struggle to win the hearts and minds of young voters, under the age of 30, who understand the science of climate disruption and worry about their own future. More problematic for the GOP is the awakening of pro-life, faith voters who increasingly view strong environmental protection as part and parcel of a non-hypocritical pro-life ideal.”
More and more on the conservative side know that they are as far from the mainstream on science as they are on immigration, and that an adjustment is coming.
I’ve shared it around, and I hope it will be a catalyst for more conversation on the topic at the grass roots.
Not everyone agrees with the premise. D. R. Tucker, a frequent contributor here, doesn’t hold out much hope.
D. R. Tucker is a conservative writer and blogger whose recent essay “Confessions of a Climate Change Convert” crystalized the angst of intelligent, scientifically literate conservatives who have seen their movement taken over by Rush Limbaugh sensibilities and Sara Palin science.
“I hear it, but I don’t buy it.”
That’s something my old mentor the late David Brudnoy used to say when confronted with something that didn’t pass his common sense test. I remembered his line—and found myself saying the same thing—upon reading Coral Davenport’s newest piece in National Journal, “The Coming GOP Civil War Over Climate Change.”
The piece contends that a plucky band of Christian conservatives and reformist Republicans are trying to pry the lips of Republican representatives and senators away from David Koch’s rich rear end.
Good luck with that.
Does anyone seriously believe that the GOP will return to climate sanity anytime soon? The goings-on in my home state, Massachusetts, suggest otherwise.
On June 25, climate hawk Congressman Edward Markey (D) is scheduled to face Navy SEAL and businessman Gabriel Gomez (R) in a special election to fill the vacant Senate seat held for nearly three decades by another climate hawk, Secretary of State John Kerry. Gomez is being aggressively promoted as a “new kind of Republican,” just as Michael Steele was in his high-profile 2006 Senate race against Democrat Ben Cardin in Maryland. While Gomez doesn’t come across as a Tea Party freak in interviews, his campaign advisers are the old kind of Republicans—namely, former members of Team Romney (presumably the ones who convinced Romney to tell that dopey climate-change joke at the 2012 Republican National Convention.)
Gomez does not deny climate change, but he opposes the needlessly controversial Cape Wind project and is an enthusiastic backer of the Keystone XL pipeline, apparently ignoring James Hansen’s warnings about the danger of that particular project. Recently, ThinkProgress.org uncovered evidence of Gomez’s investments in dirty energy. Gomez also refuses to join Markey in signing an agreement intended to discourage third-party television advertising, a clear signal that he would like to have American Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity dominate Bay State airwaves with anti-Markey spots.
With Big Oil-backed conservative publications urging GOP moneymen to enter Massachusetts to attack Markey, it’s hard to buy the notion that Republicans are having a change of heart.
The fossil fuel industry, and the Republicans financially backed by that industry, are scared to death of Markey, filled with fear that he will add his authoritative voice to the climate chorus comprised of Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). With Gomez, they’ve found someone who comes across as a moderate, but sends a signal that he will not necessarily legislate as a moderate on energy issues.
In addition to the political realm, the GOP’s lack of seriousness on climate is also revealed by the over-the-edge denial that still dominates Republican media. Last week, the Wall Street Journal went back to the “CO2 is good for us all” well, promoting the discredited rantings of William Happer and Harrison Schmitt. The Journal just can’t let go, and neither can Fox News and Republican talk radio. There are no signs that these entities will drop their denial anytime soon.
Set aside the GOP’s alliance with Big Oil for a moment, and realize that in order for the GOP to accept climate reality, it must accept the reality that government has to play some sort of a role in solving this problem, either through EPA regulations or, preferably, a bill that places a gradually rising fee on carbon emissions, with all proceeds rebated to the public. How many members of the GOP base are willing to accept government playing this sort of role in the economy? Even after Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, the resistance to regulation is still rampant on the right.
I stopped trying to get my Republican ex-friends to come around on climate around the time one called denialist columnist Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe a “climate realist.” This was after months of being called “intellectually deficient,” a “warmist,” a “fool,” and other such insults from those who took their science from pulp fiction novelist Michael Crichton. When I told a progressive friend about my frustrations, he told me something I’ve never forgotten:
“If you keep banging your head against the wall, you’ll just end up with a severe concussion.”
The folks trying to get the GOP to knock it off with climate denial will surely suffer severe concussions, since they’re trying to convince people who are out of their minds. In fact, in the National Journal piece, the notorious Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity declares: “We’ve been having this debate with the Left for 10 years, and we welcome having the debate with [pro-science Republicans]. If there are [pro-science Republicans] who want to do a niche effort with the Republican electorate, we’ll win that debate…Let them bring a carbon tax on. They know it’s political death for them to bring this forward on their own.”
Sooner rather than later, Republicans who recognize that human-caused climate change is not a hoax will have to make a choice between political loyalty and fidelity to science. The folks who run the GOP have made it quite clear that at the end of the day, they will put nothing ahead of the concerns of the fossil fuel industry. If you’re a Republican who accepts the laws of physics, you must decide: do you walk away from a party that has been so thoroughly contaminated? Or do you continue to go against the wind?