Is Climate an “Electoral Time Bomb”?

August 5, 2019

New York Times:

When election time comes next year, Will Galloway, a student and Republican youth leader at Clemson University, will look for candidates who are strong on the mainstream conservative causes he cares about most, including gun rights and opposing abortion.

But there is another issue high on his list of urgent concerns that is not on his party’s agenda: climate change.

“Climate change isn’t going to discriminate between red states and blue states, so red-state actors have to start engaging on these issues,” said Mr. Galloway, 19, who is heading into his sophomore year and is chairman of the South Carolina Federation of College Republicans. “But we haven’t been. We’ve completely ceded them to the left.”

While Donald Trump has led the Republican Party far down the road of denying the scientific consensus of human-caused climate change, Mr. Galloway represents a concern among younger Republicans that has caught the attention of Republican strategists.

In conversations with 10 G.O.P. analysts, consultants and activists, all said they were acutely aware of the rising influence of young voters like Mr. Galloway, who in their lifetimes haven’t seen a single month of colder-than-average temperatures globally, and who call climate change a top priority. Those strategists said lawmakers were aware, too, but few were taking action.

“We’re definitely sending a message to younger voters that we don’t care about things that are very important to them,” said Douglas Heye, a former communications director at the Republican National Committee. “This spells certain doom in the long term if there isn’t a plan to admit reality and have legislative prescriptions for it.”

President Trump has set the tone for Republicans by deriding climate change, using White House resources to undermine science and avoiding even uttering the phrase. Outside of a handful of states such as Florida, where addressing climate change has become more bipartisan, analysts said Republican politicians were unlikely to buck Mr. Trump or even to talk about climate change on the campaign trail at all, except perhaps to criticize Democrats for supporting the Green New Deal.

That, several strategists warned, means the party stands to lose voters to Democrats in 2020 and beyond — a prospect they said was particularly worrisome in swing districts that Republicans must win to recapture a majority in the House of Representatives.

The polling bears out Mr. Heye’s prediction of a backlash. Nearly 60 percent of Republicans between the ages of 23 and 38 say that climate change is having an effect on the United States, and 36 percent believe humans are the cause. That’s about double the numbers of Republicans over age 52.

But younger generations are also now outvoting their elders. According to a Pew Research Center analysis, voters under the age of 53 cast 62.5 million votes in the 2018 midterm elections. Those 53 and older, by contrast, were responsible for 60.1 million votes.

“Americans believe climate change is real, and that number goes up every single month,” Frank Luntz, a veteran Republican strategist, told a Congressional panel recently. He also circulated a memo to congressional Republicans in June warning that climate change was “a G.O.P. vulnerability and a G.O.P. opportunity.” 

A new Harvard University survey of voters under the age of 30 found that 73 percent of respondents disapproved of Mr. Trump’s approach to climate change (about the same proportion as those who object to his handling of race relations). Half the respondents identified as Republican or independent.

“Republican orthodoxy is changing,” Mr. Flint said. “You’re safe saying you acknowledge climate change.” 

He said climate change is hardly a top-tier topic among even moderate Republicans. But he noted it is a key differential issue in swing districts that can either help a candidate win young, college educated and female voters, or lose them.

“It’s a matter of honesty,” he said. “Voters believe it is happening, at the very least, they want their politicians to acknowledge reality.”

Scott Jennings, a Republican consultant and a former campaign adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said 2020 candidates in different states would take various approaches to climate change, but he predicted that most would focus on simply attacking Democrats and the Green New Deal.

Still, he said, “Someday Republicans are going to have to come up with some proposals that are responsive to these issues and, frankly, be more reasonable and more thoughtful.”

The Hill:

A top climate scientist is quitting the Department of Agriculture (USDA), accusing the Trump administration of attempting to bury a report he authored about rising carbon dioxide levels affecting rice yields, Politico reported Monday. 

Lewis Ziska, a 62-year-old plant physiologist who has worked at the USDA for over 20 years, told the outlet that department officials not only questioned the findings of the study but also tried to suppress press coverage of it.

“You get the sense that things have changed, that this is not a place for you to be exploring things that don’t agree with someone’s political views,” he said in an interview. “That’s so sad. I can’t even begin to tell you how sad that is.”

Ziska is not the first administration official to resign over concerns about the administration’s alleged censorship of climate science.

Last week, an intelligence analyst at the State Department said he left his post after officials blocked his Congressional testimony about the national security implications of climate change.

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10 Responses to “Is Climate an “Electoral Time Bomb”?”

  1. jimbills Says:

    What if ‘bi-partisan solution’ in the case of climate change is an oxymoron?

    We’re talking about finding a path with a party where just acknowledging that climate change is real is some sort of groundbreaking revolution. Any kind of even slightly effective policy will be watered down so much by these people that it will be rendered completely toothless – and they’ll call it ‘more reasonable’.

    Until a Republican starts placing environmental issues ahead of all the other issues, they just don’t understand the scale of the problem. It’s like they aren’t worried about the state of the planet in 50 years so much as they are worried about voting trends 10 years from now.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      Yes, like Frank Luntz suddenly “changing his mind”, younger Republicans are apparently coming around on keeping the far right half of the corporate duopoly lumbering along so it can keep passing other laws exploiting people and the rest of nature. These people are not abandoning the party to help with sensible solutions to all of society’s problems; all this is for the sake of the far right’s malignant narcissism-propelled dominance.

      Far better to remove the party from power than try to reach through or around its officials to people who so far have no influence on the party’s policies or rulers, and are not likely to just because they’ve recognized reality on one issue. In fact, isn’t it more likely they’ll have less influence now?

      Just like the large progressive majority in the US has no effect on policies and rulers.

      Bipartisan solutions (“innovation”, pitifully weak carbon prices with poison pill deals included) do indeed mean nothing. When Republicans start insisting their representatives support a comprehensive emergency Green New Deal AND have money and power to enforce their wishes, all this hand-wringing will mean something.

  2. rsmurf Says:

    The entire republican machine is designed to deny climate change, hopefully it will be its downfall.

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    Let’s hope there’s an electoral time bomb ticking away. and that it goes off in 2020. The lying asshole-in-chief can’t get away with it forever, and as his older “base” dies off, the younger conservatives may begin to understand what the word really means and abandon Trump and his lies. A more appealing analogy would be an electoral minefield that blows up various Republicans between now and 2020—-might make the others tread a bit more “smartly” as they trample the truth of climate change.

    PS Has anyone else been struck by the appearance of the Trump supporters that are lined up behind him on the stage at rallies or otherwise seen on TV? I try not to be biased, but IMO, they are a type—-vacant stares and smiles, you can see right through their eyes to the back of their skulls, certain inbred “sameness”—-reminds me of the Tea Party “morans” of the past.

  4. Don Osborn Says:

    So when, Scott Jennings, a Republican consultant and a former campaign adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said
    “Someday Republicans are going to have to come up with some proposals that are responsive to these issues and, frankly, be more reasonable and more thoughtful.”

    He was saying. in fact, that TODAY Repubs have NOT been responsive and have NOT been reasonable and thoughtful. First Truth to came out of a Repub mouth in a long time. The Repubs (Trumpites) have long since driven away any Repub who would have considered addressing Climate Change in any meaningful way.

  5. Earl Mardle Says:

    Interesting. No sign of the deniers yet.

  6. neilrieck Says:

    Food-for-thought: Some people are always banging on about second amendment rights. Those people should be informed that the common man did not have the right to vote at that time.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_voting_rights_in_the_United_States

    Why? The founding fathers thought that the common man wasn’t educated enough, or knowledgeable enough (via the press) to cast an informed vote. When you hear people from any political persuasion claim to get their facts from one TV channel, you realize that Washington and Adams were 100% correct about their views of the common American man. Back in 1970, I attended a mandatory college elective titled “Effective Communications” were the instructor one said “in order to truly know what is going on, a citizen should read 5-newspapers a day”. Think about that the next time you watch a political rally on TV. The view is not much different than what you see when watching WWF/WWE wrestling. USA! USA! USA! The founding fathers would have puked!

  7. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    “This spells certain doom in the long term if there isn’t a plan to admit reality and have legislative prescriptions for it.”

    A plan to admit reality? How bizarre!


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