From the Seattle Times, a fascinating story of an earnest young man who has received a very rude political awakening.
Kevin Croswhite once appeared to have a promising future in Wisconsin Republican politics.
At 22, his résumé included work on several political campaigns and as a party field director during the 2012 presidential election.
Then last year, Croswhite made a perilous career move.
He went to work for the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, which proposes a carbon tax as a Republican prescription for combating climate change driven by the combustion of fossil fuels.
Since then, he has been tarred by some state Republican activists as a fake conservative for advocating a carbon tax. And, earlier this year, the Wisconsin Federation of Young Republicans, a statewide college group, pulled out of sponsoring the Energy and Enterprise group on campuses.
See, Croswhite committed a capital political offense these days–advocating policy while Republican.
Climate change once was shunned by Bob Inglis, Croswhite’s boss at the Energy and Enterprise Initiative. As a Republican congressman from South Carolina, Inglis dismissed climate science as “a bunch of nonsense.”
He changed his views in 2004 after his wife and five kids said they wouldn’t vote for him unless he “cleaned up his act on the environment.” He studied the science, concluding that climate change was a serious threat and that the proper Republican response was a carbon tax. That position was a political liability in 2010, when he was defeated in the GOP primary.
“My most enduring heresy was to say climate change is real — let’s do something about it,” Inglis said…
Croswhite was an early Inglis recruit in Wisconsin, helping arrange the former congressman’s visits to state college campuses and hiring on as the initiative’s state director.
Inglis tapped Wisconsin as one of the first states where he would try to rally conservative support for a carbon tax, hoping this would spur the state’s Republican leaders to address climate change.
All this activity stirred a backlash from Republicans opposed to the tax, who showed up at some of Inglis’ talks to challenge his views and took to social media and the air waves to attack Croswhite. Republican radio talk-show host Vicki McKenna lambasted Inglis, saying he was promoting a left-wing agenda, and accused his recruits of selling their souls for pizza and barely minimum-wage jobs. ‘They are young and they are dumb,’ she declared on a show earlier this year.
And as the fall election season heats up, Republicans in Wisconsin are not rallying around the carbon tax.
As Grist’s David Roberts explained recently, there’s a reason why, Inglis and Croswhite notwithstanding, most Republicans and conservatives are so viciously hostile to climate science:
The current system is not going to survive. There is simply no prospect of it, no honest promise that can be made. We may take no strong action to reduce emissions. But if so, in 20 or 30 years we will be experiencing regular upheavals that will leave no country or people unscathed. Or we may do in earnest what we all claim to agree is necessary, putting ourselves on a course to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees C or less. But if we do that, it will involve something like wartime mobilization, a radical reshaping of economic and political power dynamics. Either way, or whatever mix of the two, the current energy-profligate, hyperconsumerist, hyperwasteful, cheap-global-trading, happy-motoring suburban dream is over. Conservatives will have to wake up like everybody else.
Dealing with climate change will also involve big government. It will involve international cooperation, maybe even muscular international governance. It will involve redistribution of wealth to address historic responsibility, long-term planning, and large-scale public investment (with concomitant higher taxes). All of that is going to trample on the rigid, narrow set of catechisms that define today’s conservative movement.
There’s a message on climate change that appeals to conservatives: We can confine ourselves to market mechanisms, we don’t need to raise taxes or regulate anything or redistribute any wealth, we can all make money. If we act on climate change, the socioeconomic and cultural systems you know can be preserved. There’s a message that works, but it is a lie.
Rather than climate hawks twisting themselves in knots trying package things in the least threatening way for conservatives, perhaps it is conservatives who ought to change, to open their eyes, to let go of a world they think they’re defending but which is, in reality, already gone.
I know some folks still cling to the dream of Republicans and conservatives waking up to climate reality–but don’t we know by now what happens to a dream deferred?