D. R. Tucker: No Hope for Conservative Change

January 30, 2012

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 don’t believe in being optimistic unless it’s justified.

Thus, despite the courageous efforts of such groups as Republicans for Environmental Protection, I can’t honestly say I’m holding out hope that the Republican Party and the larger conservative movement will ever return to its conservationist roots and join the fight to reduce carbon emissions. The conspiracy-theory wing of the GOP just seems to have too much power.

Sure, I’d love to be proven wrong. I’d love to wake up one morning and hear prominent Republicans say that James Hansen was right all along, that the Competitive Enterprise Institute was in fact a front for ExxonMobil’s interests, that it was immoral for right-wing political operatives to launch smear campaigns against Katharine Hayhoe and Kerry Emanuel. I’d love to see Republicans recognize that there’s no political downside to taking action against climate change.

What I wouldn’t give to see Republican candidates and conservative pundits suddenly have a massive attack of conscience and acknowledge that the Wall Street Journal editorial page spent years shamelessly shilling for fossil-fuel interests, that Fox News brazenly lied about how many jobs would be created by the Keystone XL pipeline, that libertarians have an obvious ideological interest in opposing any form of environmental regulation, and that nationally-syndicated conservative radio hosts are, generally speaking, not climate experts.

My heart would leap in the air if more right-wing writers expressed solidarity with former George W. Bush speechwriters Peter Wehner and Michael Gerson, both of whom recently wrote courageous pieces about the rising temperature of the political debate on this issue.  In December, Wehner noted that the overwhelming majority of the world’s climate scientists “make a scientific, not a polemical, case for [anthropogenic global warming]. It’s possible they are wrong. But their case has been made in a persuasive and empirical manner. And while there are some serious scientists who dissent from this finding, and their concerns are certainly worth taking into account, it matters that all the world’s major science academies have said that AGW is occurring, and they have supplied the empirical case for their findings. The challenge for conservatives is to engage the most serious and honest arguments of those who believe in AGW, not simply lock in on the global alarmists. And the temptation conservatives need to resist is to portray the entire climate change movement as consisting of individuals who are more interested in ideology than science…[F]or some on the right…to insist that AGW is a hoax, the product (more or less) of a massive conspiracy, is, I believe, damaging to conservatism.”

In January, Gerson lamented Newt Gingrich’s betrayal of Hayhoe and the fact that scientific facts have become part of a “culture war.” “Even if all environmentalists were socialists and secularists and insufferable and partisan to the core,” Gerson observed, “it would not alter the reality of the Earth’s temperature. Since the 1950s, global temperatures have increased about nine-tenths of a degree Celsius — the recent conclusion of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project — which coincides with a large increase in greenhouse gasses produced by humans. This explanation is most consistent with the location of warming in the atmosphere. It best accounts for changing crop zones, declining species, thinning sea ice and rising sea levels. Scientists are not certain about the pace of future warming — estimates range from 2 degrees C to 5 degrees C over the next century. But warming is already proceeding faster than many plants and animals can adapt to.”

A year ago, I believed that climate conspiracy theories would lose their power within the Republican Party and the broader conservative movement. I dreamed that conservative commentators’ devotion to denial would soon be placed in the past.

I know now what happens to a dream deferred.

I no longer have any intellectual or emotional connection to the right. Now, if I hear a pundit or politician claim that the science isn’t settled, I say to myself, “If they’re willing to lie to me about scientific facts, what else will they lie to me about?”

David Roberts has argued that Democrats should exploit the GOP’s unwillingness to take action to combat climate change.  It’s a sound strategy. After all, if Republicans insist upon playing exclusively to people who hate Al Gore more than they love their own grandchildren, why shouldn’t the Democrats try to grab everyone else?

13 Responses to “D. R. Tucker: No Hope for Conservative Change”

  1. Martin Lack Says:

    Why isn’t D. R. Tucker running for President. No, don’t tell me, he has not got the necessary financial backing… Like I said on my own blog recently, the US political system is “quite possibly more corrupt than North Korea”; it is certainly structured in such a way as to ensure it is at least equally undemocratic…

    However, before you attack me for simply being anti-American, I should also repeat that the UK was last year shown to be no better, when the two major parties joined forces to ensure that a first-past-the-post system will probably not be replaced for at least another decade, despite it being correctly identified as being “no longer fit for purpose in a multi-party democracy”.

    Having said that though, at least the UK has a multi-party democracy…

  2. otter17 Says:

    >>”I no longer have any intellectual or emotional connection to the right.”

    I know the feeling, Mr. Tucker. About 5 or so years ago, while in undergraduate college, I started taking an objective look at quite a few issues. Climate change was one of those primary issues that drove me from the right. Now, I take things on an issue-by-issue basis before looking at what party better represents the most rational approach to the issue.

    • Martin Lack Says:

      I had a very comfortable upbringing in the Home Counties around London (i.e. no doubt the equivalent of a well-to-do commuter belt around any Western city); and did not question the orthodoxy of Mrs Thatcher until I went to University in the mid-80s. By the end of the decade, I was campaigning for the Liberal Democrats (whilst trying to ignore their more liberal ideas). Since then, despite being briefly seduced by Tony Blair’s charm into membership of the Labour Party (1996-2002), I have always remained socially and environmentally conservative. Since the Iraq War, I may well have been equally-erroneously seduced into befriending the Conservative Party once more because David Cameron promised to lead the greenest government ever. Sadly, this appears to be yet more greenwash; and I find myself drawn at last to the Green Party (GP). However, I am still not comfortable with the more liberal aspects to GP policy (i.e. I am still socially conservative rather than progressive).

      Am I going insane, or does everyone that chooses to back a political party have to compromise at least some of their principles?

      In fact, is the truth of the matter that all those who join any party are intellectually dishonest prisoners of ideology? Is the only logical position the one you describe; of someone who makes their decision on who to vote for on a case-by-case basis? If so, this is the strongest argument yet for banning all fund-raising by political parties and the strictly-limited funding of elections entirely with taxpayers’ money. If the UK and the US could achieve this goal, they would both at last stand a fighting chance of establishing genuine representative democracies. Then, the only remaining challenge will be to make it participatory democracy as well (rather than the play-thing of a political elite).

      I know, I know – I am just another crazy dreamer…

  3. Peter Mizla Says:

    The GOP Conservative T Party will not admit climate change till it becomes so obvious we are being pummeled by one disaster after another. When the costs add up= and there is no Government around to help- look out. This will begin to happen in the 2020’s sometime- but by then it will be too late, unless we see draconian cuts to fossil fuels, which will cripple an economy already reeling from storms, fires, droughts and social chaos.

    • Martin Lack Says:

      “…we are being pummeled by one disaster after another.” Didn’t that happen last year? Just how bad must it get? Maybe another “1 in 100 year” storm over NY NY might register?

  4. Yes, it happen last year, for the US. It started happening a couple of years back for the rest of the world. If we get a new record Global Temp then its going to be it. I expect one before 2015. This essentially will be the tipping year for societies. Between 2014 and 2020 we will essentially have lost our Arctic ice, weather systems will be chaotic and completely off the scale as this happens.

    On the GOP…. this is relevant.


  5. adelady Says:

    “In fact, is the truth of the matter that all those who join any party are intellectually dishonest prisoners of ideology? ”

    No, it isn’t.

    But at the moment, I feel very sorry for people like you and DR Tucker. People here used to complain about “factions” in the Australian Labor Party, but at least that system (for want of a better word) meant that one party could attract, accept and hold onto people with wildly different views, on social policy especially.

    The radical right leanings of American Republicans have always been there – as a bit of background noise for the most part. But in the last couple of decades they’ve not only surged to the forefront, they’ve bullied and shunned and silenced the formerly mainstream proponents of conventional conservative thought. There seems to be no tolerance for sensible discussion or negotiation or flexibility in even the smallest arena of difference. Principles are all well and good, but these people seem to have turned intransigence into a a principle of its own.

    It really looks as though, having lost their external Communist enemy, they’ve turned their strident anger inward and are now eating their own.

  6. Peter Mizla Says:

    Martin Lack
    disasters in the US during 2011 has made the public somewhat more concerned about climate change- they are beginning to see a connection of these events to AGW- the Media has reported these catastrophes at times well mentioning GHG as the likely cause. But other times the MSM has totally dropped the ball in making this connection.

    When costs begin to rise exponentially from damage- caused by extreme weather events- we will see more public concern- with increasing questions to what the causes are.

    When storms of monster proportions cause massive destruction on a regular basis , crop failures in this country’s agricultural belt force food prices spiraling, heat waves lasting for months outside of Texas and OK, and the lower Great Plains, instead happening In Chicago, Cincinnati, or Washington- this will be the turning point. When will this happen- could be in a few years- end of the decade- or sometime in the 2020’s.

    • Martin Lack Says:

      Thanks Peter. As other contributors have suggested – because the signs are things are going pear-shaped fast on many different fronts – I think the Eureka moment for deniers will (hopefully) come within the current decade.

      What makes me so mad is that it has been necessary for us to melt all mountain glaciers (i.e. they will all be gone in 30 to 50 years) in order to get these recalcitrant fools to accept they are wrong.

  7. At last I’m not alone. Being a conservative and a scientist is a hard job at the best of times.

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