It may seem hard to believe now, but in the not-too-distant past, support for environmental protections and conservation efforts was bipartisan. Among Republicans, Teddy Roosevelt was a pioneer on the environment; Dwight Eisenhower established the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; Richard Nixon created the EPA; and George H.W. Bush adopted an ambitious cap-and-trade policy to combat acid raid.
But as the GOP has shifted to the far-right, Republican hostility towards the environment has grown. It's reached the point at which, this week, Republicans for Environmental Protection has decided to change its name -- dropping the party label altogether.
The group is now ConservAmerica. One of its top officials, David Jenkins, said the changes are largely related to branding -- the group is even keeping the green elephant mascot -- explaining that this is simply about "putting the emphasis more on connecting conservation and conservative." He also rejected the notion that his party is anti-environment.
...Republicans have declared war on the EPA, with top GOP presidential candidates at odds even with the Tea Party in their promises to strip the agency of federal funding. After examining more than 150 votes aimed at stripping environmental protections last year, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, declared, "This is, without doubt, the most anti-environmental Congress in history."
Yet, to hear Jenkins speak, the party hasn't changed all that much. He blames talk radio and "the left" for mischaracterizing his party.
Hmm. GOP lawmakers and presidential candidates reject climate science, intend to gut EPA funding, characterize the cap-and-trade plan they came up with as a radical socialist plot, want to weaken clean air and clean water laws, and a group called Republicans for Environmental Protection feels compelled to remove the word "Republican" from its name ... but talk radio and "the left" are giving people the wrong idea about the contemporary GOP?
To be sure, the problem is not with ConservAmerica, which is led by credible officials who clearly want to do the right thing. Rather, the problem is with those officials' party, which insists on ignoring sensible voices like ConservAmerica's.
As Daniel Weiss, director of climate strategy for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, told Politico, "Under either name ... they face a fundamental challenge that the pro-conservation party of Roosevelt, Nixon, Schwarzenegger and McCain has become the climate science denial party of Romney, Santorum and Limbaugh."