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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dawn of the Deniers

This item by J.P. Green was originally published on September 5, 2011.
It’s not fun, but it is time to wrap your head around the fact that the presidential nomination front-runner of one of America’s leading political parties is also its most rabid climate-change denier. As the lead editorial in today’s New York Times reflects:

The Republican presidential contenders regard global warming as a hoax or, at best, underplay its importance. The most vocal denier is Rick Perry, the Texas governor and longtime friend of the oil industry, who insists that climate change is an unproven theory created by “a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.”
Never mind that nearly all the world’s scientists regard global warming as a serious threat to the planet, with human activities like the burning of fossil fuels a major cause. Never mind that multiple investigations have found no evidence of scientific manipulation. Never mind that America needs a national policy. Mr. Perry has a big soapbox, and what he says, however fallacious, reaches a bigger audience than any scientist can command.

The editorial goes on to point out that the rest of the GOP presidential aspirants, save the Hapless Huntsman, have also voiced considerable skepticism about climate change as a major problem. When pressed, Romney goes all mush-mouth, suggesting that he probably knows better. Newt has done a 180 towards denial, but integrity was never his thing.
I know Republicans who are neither climate-change skeptics nor evolution-deniers, but they don’t have much to say about it. I guess they are either intimidated by the tea party fanatics, or maybe they believe, wink wink, that their candidate is just making appropriate noises to get through the primaries and will heed the top scientists once elected. It’s a risky proposition with candidates like Perry and Paul, who would have an awful lot to repudiate.
Conservatives like Huntsman won’t find much support for their concerns about global warming from the intellectual right. Organs like the National Review address pollution-related issues with bland paeans to ‘market-based’ solutions as the panacea or articles ridiculing bizarre examples of environmentalism, such as “Gaia vs. the Big Death” in the current on-line issue.
If the GOP deniers win the presidency and congress, breathing organisms could be screwed for generations. But cheer up, at least it will provide a promising premise for a sci-fi flick: What would happen if a cult of science-denying ignoramuses achieve global domination? Dawn of the Deniers, maybe.
Cynicism aside, Democrats do have an opportunity here. Asked “Do you think the federal government should or should not regulate the release of greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories in an effort to reduce global warming?,” 71 percent of respondents in a Washington Post/ABC News poll taken in June last year supported regulation. The same percentage responded affirmatively to a question about supporting funding to continue enforcing greenhouse gas regulation in a CNN/Opinion Research Poll taken in April of this year.
Thus far, however, no Democratic presidential candidate has taken full advantage of the Republicans’ bull-headed stupidity on this issue. President Obama’s strategists should prepare a debate module, punctuated with a memorable one-liner to expose the dangerous idiocy of the climate-change deniers. The Democratic echo-chamber, such as it is, should parrot the one-liner ad nauseum until most reasonable voters are embarrassed to vote for the Republican.
Progressive writers have been very good on exposing Republicans pandering to ignorance about global warming and climate change. For our political leaders, however, it’s been limited to occasional jabs in speeches. But the time is now ripe to do more. We can’t give the Republicans another pass on this one. Too much is at stake.

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