The Campaign Spot

How Skeptical on Climate Change Can the GOP Be In 2008?

One of the arguments being deployed against McCain is that he’s unrepresentative of the party on climate change and global warming. Robert Tracinski argues:

But the biggest problem for Republicans with McCain’s candidacy is his stance on global warming. McCain has been an active promoter of the global warming hysteria–for which he has been lauded by radical environmentalists–and he is a co-sponsor of a leftist scheme for energy rationing. The McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act would impose an arbitrary cap on America’s main sources of energy production, to be enforced by a huge network of federal taxes and regulations.

Indeed, it irked me greatly when on a recent conference call, McCain spoke as if there was no difference in drilling in ANWR and drilling in the Grand Canyon.
I don’t buy into the global warming hype. But that doesn’t mean I want Republican candidates fighting an uphill battle, trying to convince the public that it’s all a hoax. I like a lot of what Jim Manzi says – get past the argument of whether it’s happening, and get into the debate over what to do with it, and put GOP support for innovation up against Democratic carbon taxes. (And throw in some mockery of prominent Democrats’ blatant hypocrisy on the issue.)
Rush Limbaugh is the King Leonidas of the conservative movement, but I’m struck by how regularly he jokes about the concept of global warming. A lot of his radio talk show brethren are in the same boat, saying day after day, “hey, cold weather today. So much for global warming.”
The problem is, they’re only preaching skepticism to the converted. The independents and the centrists and the soccer moms and everybody whose vote is needed in the general election is already convinced that it’s happening. Whenever there’s a big storm or unusual weather, they buy into it. If you put the finest skeptical scientists and researchers from the Competitive Enterprise Institute and American Enterprise Institute into a room with a couple hundred Americans, and let them talk until they’re blue in the face, I’m not sure how much you would move the dials.
In an era where Wal-Mart puts enormous efforts into making the case that it is green, that British Petroleum runs ads about how they’re developing alternative fuels, General Electric touts its eco-magination… All of these companies know where public opinion is, and where its customers are. They’re all moving as fast as they can, and applying tremendous resources to prove, “we’re not part of the problem, we’re part of the solution.”
Of course there’s a thuggishness to the other side of this debate – as usual, really – but when Ellen Goodman compares global warming skeptics to Holocaust deniers, is anyone really moved by her? Isn’t this just another case of a lefty declaring those who disagree with her Nazis?
Why are Republicans taking a more skeptical line on global warming than corporate America? And even if we don’t like McCain’s stands, can a straight up “it’s not happening” stand be viable in the general election?
UPDATE: The response in the e-mailbag is pretty much what I expected: “you big squishy sellout.”
The Republicans can win on “our solutions are better than theirs.” I’m unclear if the Republicans can win on, “global warming is a media-hyped hoax.”
To paraphrase Rumsfeld, you go into an election with the electorate you have, not the electorate you would like to have. It would be great if Rush listeners were, by themselves, a winning majority in presidential politics. But they’re not; there are a lot of soccer moms and moderates and squishes and independents and barely-engaged voters who don’t do their homework on the issues, so to speak. They don’t think a great deal about them; they feel. Yes, this Oprah-fication of politics is a bad trend for the Republic. But we’re not going to fix it between now and Election Day 2008.
You can either try to win over the feelers, the emotion-centric folks who make up their minds in the final days before Election Day. Or you can concede them, by refusing to play that game, and by holding fast to principle and making your arguments in a manner that these voters tune out.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Soren Dayton notes that each of the Big Five Republican candidates were asked if global warming is manmade or if humans contribute to it. There were four “yes” answers and one “maybe.” The “maybe” left the race yesterday.

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