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Romney and the Republicans aren't ignoring climate change (technically)

RNC delegates cheered in Tampa as Romney laid out the Republican Party climate position.  Romney set them up with his version of a line in Obama’s St. Paul 2008 Nomination Victory speech where Obama declared that the Democratic Party believed climate change is serious.  The Republican delegates were proud to be seen laughing and celebrating their conviction that their Democratic Party opponents, Democratic Party supporters, and anyone else who takes climate change seriously are fools.   

Grist reports that this one minute climate section of Romney’s speech was one of the few released to the media prior to delivery, so the setup and punch line would have its best chance to make it into the national consciousness via news reports.  

  

If Romney’s joke and its reception by the Republican delegates in Tampa aren’t enough for you, consider the GOP 2012 Platform.  The only explicit mention of climate in the entire document is a paragraph that attacks Obama for giving any attention to the issue at all.  The way the platform deals with climate mirrors what Romney did with the issue in his speech.  

That climate has been elevated as an issue by Obama to the same level as national security in certain documents, readers are told,”reflects the extreme elements of [ the Democratic Party’s ] liberal domestic coalition“. 

In one version of the GOP 2012 platform there is a thinly veiled threat put there by those in the party who believe climate scientists should be charged with fraud.  

We must restore scientific integrity to our public research institutions and remove political incentives from publicly funded research”.1

Some Republican Party “leaders” are distancing themselves from the platform in its entirety.  But because of Romney’s speech and its reception, we can be certain that this distancing has nothing to do with climate.  RNC Chairman Reince Priebus says this: “This is the platform of the Republican Party. It’s not the platform of Mitt Romney”.  

Platforms are significant, even though anything and almost everything in them can be forgotten once the party gets into office.  The best way I’ve found to understand what a party platform is and what it means for something to be in one was to participate in platform debate over the years as a member of a political party.   I also used to study them in my attempts to assess what other parties might do if they got into office.  As I searched for a way to explain how it is, I ran across a Dean Clancy of FreedomWorks quote, from this article:

“It’s a symbol. It’s a source of scripture if you will, in policy-making. It’s a guide for voters. Platforms are a window into the deeper principles and values of a party coalition” 

Andrew Rosenthal of the NYTimes wrote this

“Since the 1980s, the Republican platform has been a test of how far the mainstream of the party is willing to move toward the right-wing fringe. Judging from the draft circulating this week, the answer is, pretty much all the way over”. 

The 2012 platform has no special section on climate.  There was one in 2008.  

You have to search for the few statements on climate policy that are very lightly sprinkled through the 2012 document.  The EPA is to be “prohibited” from doing anything about greenhouse gases.  Congress is ordered not to adopt “any and all cap and trade legislation”.  There is the attack on Obama for saying he’s taking climate as seriously as national security, and there is the thinly veiled threat aimed at climate scientists.  That’s it.  But it is enough to make the position crystal clear.  

This brings to mind an editorial published a year and a half ago in Nature, one of the leading scientific journals that exists.  Entitled “Into Ignorance” it deplored how Republicans who control the House Energy and Commerce Committee acted when they approved a bill intended to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.  

One lawmaker… described scientists as ‘elitist’ and ‘arrogant’ creatures who hide behind ‘discredited’ institutions”.  

Nature editors noted that Democratic Party committee members brought several scientists in to answer questions and clear things up, “but many lawmakers weren’t interested in answers, only in prejudice”.  

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the US Congress has entered the intellectual wilderness, a sad state of affairs in a country that has led the world in many scientific arenas for so long.”  

The editors were disturbed:  “That this legislation is unlikely to become law doesn’t make it any less dangerous.  It is the attitude and ideas behind the bill that are troublesome, and they seem to be spreading….” 

As Nature editors commented a year and a half ago:  “It has been an embarrassing display”.  

Last week, Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney proudly put his party’s ignorance on this issue on display in the biggest spotlight the Republicans have had this year.  No one has to speculate about what this party is going to do about climate if it ends up controlling enough of the US government to enact legislation at will.  

History will not absolve this.  

1.  To view this version of the 2012 GOP Platform, go to the GOP Platform homepage and click on the subhead link “America’s Natural Resources“.  Under the title “Our Republican Party’s Commitment to Conservation” look at the last sentence.  The threat does not appear in the only other version of the 2012 GOP Platform I know about, i.e. this 62 page .pdf file which is also called “We Believe in America”.

David Lewis's picture

Thank David for the Post!

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Edward Kerr's picture
Edward Kerr on Sep 6, 2012 1:50 pm GMT

David,

Great post. After years of belonging to the Republican Party I fled in disgust and anger at what was done by Missa Bush. Now Governor Romney only confirm that I was right to become an Independent.

For their stance on the energy-environmental issues alone I don't see how any thinking person will vote Republican in November. Even if the issues of altering the atmosphere and the oceans did not exist the issue of sustainable energy is enough to make me aver that the politicians are the ones who should be charged with, at the least, fraud. (in my mind it's more akin to "crimes against humanity" some might say 'harsh' but what else could it be called?)

[was just thinking about some breakfast but this has ruined my appetite}

Ed

David Lewis's picture
David Lewis on Sep 6, 2012 4:23 pm GMT

I tend to agree with the analysis of Thomas Mann, who works at the bipartisan Brookings Institute, and Norman Ornstein from the conservative American Enterprise Institute.  A quote from their book "It's Even Worse Than It Looks":

"One of our two major parties, the Republicans, has become an insurgent outlier—ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science, and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

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