As the 2012 presidential campaign kicks off with the run up to the Republican primaries, it is becoming clear that red and green interests are anything but complementary.
Candidates from the red states vying for a spot on the Republican ballot have taken opposition to green, environmental initiatives to a new extreme. Bringing down the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is quickly becoming a clear objective for those hoping to represent the G.O.P. in elections next year.
Representative Michele Bachmann actually called the E.P.A. the “job-killing organization of America,” and other candidates like former Speaker Newt Gingrich have pledged to close the agency if elected.
In an effort to win the favoritism of their core constituency for the primary elections, Republican candidates are feeding into the anti-environmental tide stemming from a poor economy and rising fuel costs.
As John Broder of the New York Times explained: “Opposition to regulation and skepticism about climate change have become tenets of Republican orthodoxy, but they are embraced with extraordinary intensity this year because of the faltering economy, high fuel prices, the Tea Party passion for smaller government and an activist Republican base that insists on strict adherence to the party’s central agenda.”
Candidates are incorporating environmental deregulation of industry as integral parts of their platforms because they say it will create jobs and bolster corporate profits – alluring notions to the millions of Americans suffering from unemployment, a volatile stock market, and conservative consumer spending.
Gov. Rick Perry, a leading candidate in the primary race, advocates an immediate moratorium on environmental regulation. Rep. Ron Paul wants states or courts to rule on environmental disputes, while still others have proposed independent commissions to oversee regulations.
With the E.P.A.’s active track record under the Obama administration, the agency is a popular target among conservatives advocating for smaller government.
“Right now for House Republicans one of their important rally cries is that EPA regulations are excessive and even abusive,” said Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.
Fortunately, polls indicate that such extreme political tenets are not viable through the general elections, as they do not appease the broader, moderate American constituency.
Broder reported that national surveys show the majority of Americans are significantly concerned about air and water pollution, and thus, would be unlikely to support a candidate seeking to backtrack environmental policy in a significant way.
He quoted David Jenkins of the Republicans for Environmental Protection, saying: “Not only are these positions irresponsible, they’re politically problematic. The whole idea that you have to bash the E.P.A. and run away from climate change to win a Republican primary has never been borne out. Where’s the evidence?”
Such ideas may prove to be unpopular down the road, however, in the race to the primaries, anti-environmental rhetoric has come to be expected from candidates financed by oil and gas industry representatives.
Most of these candidates are public skeptics of climate change theory. Mrs. Bachmann has called the science a hoax. Mr. Perry wrote in his book that global warming is “one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight.”
One libertarian researcher from the Competitive Enterprise Institute told Broder of the NYT that “Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Huntsman, who have all said that global warming is real and at least tentatively attributed it to human actions, would suffer for it in the Republican primaries.”
While the espousal of environmental deregulation and climate change skepticism may be partly attributed to early efforts to secure the right-wing base, the weight of high gas prices and a suffering economy are conspiring to lend support to conservatives’ calls.
Moderate America will have to hold fast to its green values in order to preserve the integrity of its air and water. To be an informed voter on election day, you can stay abreast of campaign developments through the 2012 Presidential Candidates website.
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