D.R.Tucker: Dawn of the Deniers

October 3, 2011

One of an endangered, but not vanished, breed of conservatives who still believe in, like, gravity and stuff, D. R. Tucker contributes another perspective piece from a Republican “warmist”.

Recently, a friend asked me if I still had any respect for the conservative op-ed columnists and talk-radio hosts I once admired, since so many of those pundits remain committed to the view that anthropogenic global warming is something Al Gore and Carol Browner cooked up to destroy free-market capitalism. “Let’s just say it’s getting a little harder to respect them,” I responded.

I’ve reluctantly concluded that the conservative pundits who repeatedly and forcefully deny the accuracy of climate science will never change their views; on their deathbeds, they will mutter profanities about Ed Begley Jr. and Solyndra seconds before checking out. These pundits aren’t all elderly, but they are all mentally old and set in their ways.

To ask veteran conservative pundits to recognize scientific reality is to ask them to surrender a bit of their identity. That’s not going to happen anytime soon: you’ll have to pry their denial out of their cold, dead hands.

Conservatism is a force that gives its adherents meaning. Just as there is a “black community,” a “Jewish community” and an “LGBT community,” so too is there a “conservative community” in the US, unified by a vision that defines the federal government’s only proper role as the protection of the country from foreign and domestic attacks.

I no longer believe there can be common ground between conservatives and environmentalists. Modern conservatism holds that environmentalists are demonic forces, radical anti-capitalists who wish to swell government in order to run, and ruin, people’s lives. Republican environmentalists in particular are held in deep contempt: scroll through the comment sections of posts on Hot Air or Free Republic about Jon Huntsman and you will see the former Utah governor attacked with language one wouldn’t even use to describe sex offenders.

The modern conservative movement cannot countenance climate science or environmentalism.  Accepting the idea that human activities can harm the planet means accepting certain governmental regulations to protect the planet from such harm. If one’s ideology holds that all governmental regulations are by definition repugnant, one cannot accept the science that justifies those regulations. (It’s interesting to note that according to a recent Public Opinion Strategies poll, 55 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of Fox News viewers actually support government efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, despite the vehemence with which Republican politicians and Fox News talking heads attack the very idea of anthropogenic global warming. Public Opinion Strategies notes that “a majority across the political spectrum support EPA requiring these reductions even when the goal of the action is specifically stated in terms of reducing global warming pollution.” Presumably these right-leaning respondents do not consider themselves hardcore conservatives, because the results would be far different if they were.)

Climate science and environmentalism go against the modern conservative vision of the way things ought to be (not for nothing did climate-denier Rush Limbaugh use that phrase as the title of his 1992 bestseller). It’s an extraordinary struggle to accept ideas that conflict with the way one feels society should be ordered, a struggle that many conservative pundits are seemingly unwilling to endure.

I used to think that epistemic closure was the American left’s trademark. For years, I was convinced that it was progressives who had a stock set of ideas they never deviated from, a template that had to be followed at all costs. My conflicts with progressives only served to reinforce this view.

However, I realize now that I was also wrong on this point. When it comes to epistemic closure, American progressives are rank amateurs compared to American conservatives. The negativity I received from the right for accepting climate science was unlike anything I have ever experienced—but I’m actually glad to have experienced it, since it forced me to confront some inconvenient political truths.

Looking back, my disputes with the left gave me the fortitude I needed to deal with the right’s aggressively enforced epistemic closure. The progressives who gave me grief for supporting President Clinton’s impeachment and John McCain’s White House bid gave me the best training possible to deal with a far more pernicious, and far more pervasive, form of ideological intolerance.

Being branded a “RINO” and a “warmist” by the close-minded conservative class was the wake-up call I needed. In a weird way, I want to thank the conservatives who condemned my conversion on climate change. They helped me realize that a “warmist” is merely someone who accepts scientific reality instead of denying it—and that a “RINO” is another word for a Republican with an IQ above room temperature.


15 Responses to “D.R.Tucker: Dawn of the Deniers”

  1. sinchiroca Says:

    The central question facing the Republican Party is the battle between the moderates and the extremists. The Democrats faced exactly the same problem in 1972 when they nominated George McGovern and subsequently got creamed in what was perhaps the biggest presidential electoral rout in American history. They learned their lesson and in 1976 nominated a much more centrist candidate, who went on to win the election.

    The Republicans have allowed themselves to be overrun by the extremists. At first, the party elders thought that it would be nice to tap into the energies of the fanatics; hence Mr. McCain’s selection of Ms. Palin. But once the opened the door to that crowd, the fanatics came pouring in and shouted down everybody else. The party elders all realize that the Republican Party has painted itself into a corner and needs to shift closer to the center. That’s why, despite all the brouhaha raised by the extremists, Mr. Romney remains the likely nominee. He doesn’t enjoy the support of the Tea Party nitwits, but the Republican establishment is solidly behind him; they know perfectly well that nominating Mr. Perry or any of his ilk would lead to electoral catastrophe, not just at the presidential level, but also at the House and Senate level.

    I don’t know how they will resolve this internal civil war. The Tea Party nuts are still full of themselves and still think that they enjoy the support of the whole country (except, of course, for all those degenerates on the Left). They’re in no mood to compromise. I thought that the Republicans would be wise enough to clean up their act after the debacle of 2008, but they didn’t, and the flukes of the 2010 elections (few people recall that the most dedicated Tea Party candidates got clobbered) have pushed the Republicans in the wrong direction.

    The Republican nominations (not just presidential, but Congressional as well) of 2012 will be the most fascinating political story of this electoral cycle. The Democratic Party’s work will, by contrast, be completely boring.

  2. Martin_Lack Says:

    This is a truly-fascinating open window on to the US perspective of an issue that is very close to my heart (i.e. conservatism). I live in the UK and, having briefly flirted with the UK Labour Party from 1996 to 2004 (by when I was completely disillusioned with Tony Blair), and having got angry with all poiticians and our ludicrous first-past-the-post electoral system from 2004 to 2010, I have now seen the light and relaised that I have been a natural conservative (rather than liberal) all along (i.e. because I believe people are inherently flawed and a socialist utopia is therefore impossible).

    Therefore, in the course of doing my (just completed) MA in Environmental Politics, I was really encouraged to find out about and read some of the writing of John Gray (esp. 2009 edition of False Dawn: the Delusions of Global Capitalism). Much more recently, I was very heartened to see the results of a new survey that suggested that climate change denial was very much now the sole preserve of the Tea Party (sorry can’t find reference now).

    However, your post is a perhaps necessary correction because the battle is far from over; and those that remain to be converted have very strong ideological reasons for being deaf. However, I should not be so surprised: This is exactly the message of Clive Hamilton’s Requiem for a Species.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      see the league of conservation voters survey above. you can google that for more results.

    • sailrick Says:

      “(i.e. because I believe people are inherently flawed and a socialist utopia is therefore impossible)”

      What socialist utopia are you talking about?
      The vast majority of those who are left of center (I would venture 99%), have no interest in a socialist utopia. What they want is regulated capitalism that includes social programs and support for labor, like every successful economy in the world already has.
      The belief in a utopian free market of unregulated capitalism,
      that it can never work? Now that is a utopian dream

      Otherwise, we are in agreement.

      • sailrick Says:

        It’s not just the tea party that denies global warming. Libertarians, including those who favor Ron Paul, are mostly deniers. And there is a history of denial among Republicans, before the tea baggers came along.
        Senator Inhore, Rep Joe Barton and many others, including the Bush administration, which censored climate scientists and had a Petroleum Institute lawyer edit the federally funded climate study, to water it down.

      • Martin_Lack Says:

        I guess what I mean is that, in the current economic climate for example, I believe in small government, low taxes, and that you cannot spend your way out of a debt crisis that has been induced by Limits to Growth in a world that has run out of “the ability to cope” with the environmental problems we are creating (see page 223 of Meadows et al 2005).

        How much of that do you agree with? 🙂

        • Martin_Lack Says:

          I may have to retract some of my preceding statement as I would appear to have been far too kind to laissez-faire global Capitalism in general; and Alan Greenspan in particular: Yes, that’s right I have only just gotten round to watching a DVD of the award-winning 2010 documentary, Inside Job, brilliantly narrated by Matt Damon, which tells the story of how a de-regulated financial sector has led to 30 years of instability and 4 financial crises (so far). It’s like a real-world version of the Bourne Identity – only without a happy ending.

          By the way, if any of you have not seen this street-level interview on the Wall Street protest, recorded by FOX News (but not aired for some reason?), you should… Did the film lead to the protest? It sure should have done. Has it led to calls for limited re-regulation, I hope so. Will it lead to anyone being put in prison? I doubt it.

  3. One has to understand the republican party today fits easily into the dictionary definition of Fascism- they employ all the classic modus operandi

    extreme nationalism
    obscene banners and nasty slogans, distortions, , and denial of reality.
    rampant cronyism, corruption
    disdain for intellectuals and the arts

    • sailrick Says:

      You forgot Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini’s definition of capitalism, the merger of corporate and state.

  4. […] words. They come from Tucker’s most recent piece, which was published over at Climate Crocks, the website run by the notorious climate denier […]

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