By James Thindwa
Imagine if you will, an alternative universe, in which the GOP believes in climate change, and the Democrats
are the naysayers? How would a climate crusading Republican Party
approach this most consequential issue?
In their customary hard-nosed fashion, the GOP would no doubt have made more progress on climate change—replete with tough regulations and high-minded international treaties—than we have seen so far. GOP politicians and talking heads would be making hay from all the horrible weather, beating the drums about the grave danger to our “national security” and way of life posed by climate change. They would be warning of gloom and doom and calling for—to hell with cap-and-trade—new legislation with stricter timetables for cutting greenhouse emissions, higher carbon taxes and stiffer penalties for polluters. And they would dare the president to veto it!
Republican politicians would be talking about climate change in town hall meetings, with obligatory reference to the increasingly ferocious tornadoes and hurricanes. “Climate change” and “green jobs” would become synonymous—a mantra seared into GOP political lexicon as Republicans declare that their legislation simultaneously creates jobs, limits greenhouse gases and stimulates the economy. Yes, Republicans would be ready to steamroll Democrats on this one.
For GOP leaders, Irene would be an opportunity to stoke the passions of environmentalists. They would urge activists to hold rallies in Washington and across the country. The GOP media machine—led by Roger Ailes
at Fox—would parade environmental leaders on television and talk radio pontificating about local struggles to shut down polluting coal-fired plants, the imperative to raise CAFE standards for autos, insulate buildings and retrofit solar panels—the whole kitchen sink. Rightwing talking heads would be in full swing, prodding activists to hunt down “Democrat” lawmakers at “town halls” to demand they stop protecting Big Oil’s profits at the expense of our country’s future.
For GOP lighting rods like Michelle Bachmann
and Sara Palin
, climate change would be manna from heaven—red meat for the party faithful. They would be browbeating Democrats for standing in the way of strong regulations and shilling for corporate polluters (yes, they’d say it despite both parties’ footsy-playing with industry—they don’t care about the hypocrisy). Palin and Bachmann would be mocking Democrats for aligning themselves with a fringe element that hates science and would endanger our national security and the planet. Of course, GOP candidates would already have made climate change a central issue in the presidential election, and aiming to place it high up on the 2012 party platform.
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As expected, GOP strategists would have learned how to capitalize on disasters from their successful experiment in New Orleans, where they quickly moved in after Katrina and expanded charter schools. Thus, a salivating GOP would seize this moment to remind all Americans
affected by Irene that climate change is real and urge them to demand immediate congressional action.
For maximum impact, rightwing pundits would cite the Pentagon’s finding that climate change constitutes “a grave national security threat” and the military’s plans to cope. On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol would advise that invoking the military in this debate “is strategically brilliant” because Democratic are vulnerable on anything to do with “our men and women in uniform.”
On the O’Reilly Factor, Ann Coulter would taunt President Obama
for lacking “the kahunas” to take on corporate polluters. She would point to Obama’s cozy relationship with the likes of Exelon, and his silence on the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline. Sean Hannity would harangue the “liberal media” for ignoring the words “climate change” in their coverage of Hurricane Irene. Rightwing hothead and former UN ambassador John Bolton would announce on Fox his new campaign for a new international climate treaty. It would carry heavy sanctions—even military action—against countries that did not sign on.
Finally, GOP leaders would be all over the hypocrisy of Democratic governors for stoking hatred of government even as they, in this crisis moment, expect emergency relief from the federal government. On the campaign trail and in presidential debates, GOP candidates would use Irene to highlight the indispensable role of government not just in public safety, but in healthcare access, infrastructure investment, helping foreclosure victims and reining in predatory banks, and alleviating poverty—that silent but ongoing emergency for millions of women, men and children. They would forcefully explain to voters that paying taxes is not a subversive notion, but an act of patriotism.
(Are you listening, Democrats?)