Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Former Guardian climate columnist Dana Nuccitelli has inadvertently provided a good reason for politically flexible Republicans to stop pretending to be Climate Change Democrats.
What are the climate change consequences of the midterm elections?
By Dana Nuccitelli, November 9, 2018
Over the past two years, the Trump administration, aided by the Republican-controlled Congress, has eroded the Obama administration’s policy efforts to curb global warming. Climate activists had hoped to reverse some of those losses in this year’s midterm elections, but the results were a mixed bag. Here is the rundown of where we stand.
Climate Solutions Caucus shrinks. The Climate Solutions Caucus was a bipartisan group of 45 Republicans and 45 Democrats whose goal was to explore climate policy solutions. However, the Caucus was heavily criticized for its lack of action, and its members were labeled ‘Climate Peacocks.’ For example, in a purely symbolic vote, only four of the Republican Caucus members voted against condemning carbon taxes. Republican leader Carlos Curbelo introduced a carbon tax bill of his own, but only two fellow Republican Caucus members were willing to co-sponsor it.
It was a rough night for Republican Climate Solutions Caucus members. Curbelo lost his election, along with a dozen of his cohorts. Eight more Republican members retired from Congress. That leaves about 24 of the 45 Caucus conservatives in office starting in 2019, having lost their leader.
This was an expected outcome – the moderate Republicans who are more likely to be relatively realistic about climate change also tended to be the most vulnerable in a wave election. Democrats can now control the legislative agenda in the House, but there are fewer moderate Republicans left in office who might work with them on climate bills. On the one hand, that means climate legislation won’t be watered down by compromise; on the other hand, even fewer Republicans will sign on.
For once Dana and I agree on something. Political cross dressing no longer protects vulnerable candidates. In the internet age, everyone rapidly learns where politicians really stand on issues they care about. The attempt by soft Republicans to pretend to support climate action by joining the do nothing citizens climate lobby climate solutions caucus was a total failure.
Why vote for the counterfeit when you can vote for the real thing?
If the soft Republicans who lost had shown some guts, had stood up for what they were supposed to believe in, some of them would still have lost. But I suspect some of those who lost might have retained their seats.
Soft centrist crowd pleasing on climate change, on a whole range of issues, no longer works. In this age of unprecedented distrust of politicians and the political process, voters are desperate to find politicians who keep their faith. Showing a bit of backbone and principle, risking criticism, demanding reporters consider alternative viewpoints, inviting controversy rather than avoiding upset, is one way to win that trust.