Friends Don’t Let Friends…

In his follow-up to a March 2 piece about the notorious fossil-fuel lobbyist Richard Berman, Grist’s David Roberts makes another point that’s impossible to logically dispute:

It’s a mistake to ask whether [climate-change denial] is [about] wealthy people defending their financial interests or wealthy people expressing their ideology, or which motivation is really in the driver’s seat. The triumph of modern conservatism is that it has collapsed the distinction. The interests of the wealthy are the ideology. Fossil fuels are the ideology. They’re bubbling in the same ethno-nationalist stew as anti-immigrant sentiment, hawkish foreign policy, hostility toward the social safety net, and fetishism of guns, suburbs, and small towns. It’s all one identity now. The Kochs (and their peers) are convinced that their unfettered freedom is in the best interests of the country. There’s no tension.

Concentrated wealth wants political results congenial to concentrated wealth. It has shaped an entire movement to that end, and the movement has absorbed all ancillary institutions, including supposedly independent, knowledge-producing institutions like academia and think tanks and supposedly public-interest-serving institutions like NGOs. The money flows from the wealthy and their corporations to PACs and foundations, to nonprofits and advocacy groups, to PR firms and activists. It’s like an electric charge going through a field of iron shavings, orienting them all in the same direction.

Roberts skillfully articulates why I remain so skeptical of various efforts to move the Republican Party, and the broader conservative movement, away from the Al-Gore-is-a-filthy-Commie-liar worldview on climate. This story in particular is hard to take seriously:

As Jeb Bush wins support from donors who favor moderate positions on social issues such as gay marriage, the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate is also getting pushed on the environment and climate change.

At least one wealthy Republican donor who supports Mr. Bush, Andrew Sabin, aims to push the former Florida governor to adopt a platform that would take steps to combat climate change and environmental degradation if elected president.

“I want him to be the next Teddy Roosevelt,” said Mr. Sabin, who has given millions of dollars to environmental causes and backed Mitt Romney in 2012. “We want to show that conservation is conservative and get Republicans back to their environmental roots without hurting jobs.”

As if to underscore the fundamental silliness of this effort, the Wall Street Journal notes:

Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bush, said that he isn’t a declared candidate, so it would be “premature” to speculate on his policy platforms. Still, Ms. Campbell said that Mr. Bush is reaching out to experts on a variety of issues, and has stated his position on climate change previously.

“He believes the climate is changing but research is less conclusive on the extent to which humans contribute,” Ms. Campbell said. “He does not believe alarmist, far left environmental policies are the answer.”

Well, there you go.

Here’s what scares me: there are plenty of Republican voters out there who have to know their party is crazed when it comes to climate, and have to know that if carbon pollution is not reduced, the worldwide death toll from extreme weather events will only increase. Yet these folks seemingly can’t bring themselves to stop voting for the GOP. Something keeps them hanging on. An obsession with overturning Roe v. Wade. A fixation on the idea that only the GOP’s foreign-policy measures will stop so-called Islamofascism. An emotional bond with Ronald Reagan. Something keeps that fatal connection going.

Do you know people like this in your personal life–people who know full well that the Republican Party is going down an immoral and illogical path, but who cannot sever their ties to the GOP? Have you tried to convince them of the error of their ways? Have you abandoned hope, concluding that Republicanism is simply their drug of choice? Consider this an open thread–I want to hear you stories about dealing with friends and family members who know the GOP is wrong, but who can’t bring themselves to do the right thing and leave.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.